5 ways to keep your singers focused in choir rehearsals

An important part of running a successful choir is getting the right balance in rehearsals. You want the choir to bond as a team and make friendships but you don’t want to be teaching over chatter – even if it’s singers discussing the music! As irritating as chatter can be to you as the choir leader, if the room was completely silent all of the time it would be a bit un-nerving and you’d be convinced no-one was having a good time! Striking the correct balance is therefore vital to the choir’s health. Here are five tried and tested strategies to keep well paced and ordered rehearsals and in turn everyone’s attention without losing the fun.


Make sure you have a well structured rehearsal plan created in advance so that you know what you want to achieve in that session. Create a good balance of new and current repertoire so that the session’s not all new learning which can lead to a lack of concentration if singers become overwhelmed. Similarly, if you are just working on songs the choir know well, attention spans may wane. Try and vary the structure of rehearsals week by week so that it’s not always the same formula. If people expect the unexpected they will probably give you more attention and their anticipation will also lead to better attendance.

Divert if necessary

Don’t be scared to divert from your plan if you sense something is not going well. For example, if there is a section of a new piece which the choir are struggling with, of course it needs to be worked on but don’t let it take up too much rehearsal time, return to it the following week perhaps asking people to work on it in the meantime using your rehearsal tracks. If you keep at it people will start getting fidgety and de-motivated particularly if they feel it’s difficult. Instead sing through something which they know or are more confident with for a while.

Create social opportunity

Make sure your singers have plenty of opportunity to socialise. Consider a refreshment break during rehearsal or invite members to join you for a drink in the local pub or bar afterwards. This way when you need them to be quiet and concentrate on the music in rehearsal, they will know that there is plenty of opportunity to catch up with friends later. In addition to this arranging social events for your choir is a good way to further the bond between members. We hold events twice a year for our choirs at which they can be as noisy as they like!

Don’t forget to laugh

Good interaction with your choir will probably involve some humour and this is a really important element of the choir bonding as a team with you their leader. However when funny moments occur quickly quieten things down again diverting focus back to the music to avoid noise levels rising. It is much easier to control the noise level before it gets too elevated. If you’re regularly having to stop to quieten a noisy room you may feel exhausted and unfulfilled after the rehearsal.

Have some re-focusing tools

If you feel people are restless and chatty quickly re-gain their attention by having a handful of fun, quirky exercises up your sleeve. These are particularly useful to re-energise your singers perhaps after the break or as it gets later into the evening. Team-building exercises work best here, such as simple songs or rounds with actions. When doing exercises like this they require so much focus that it’s impossible to think about anything else let alone chatting!

Comments on 5 ways to keep your singers focused in choir rehearsals

  1. Avatar LaTasha says:

    Thank you so much for your tips! As a music leader at church, your articles are helping me to grow and explore more options to get the choirs to another level. I love the balance! Thanks again, very appreciated.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi LaTasha,

      Thanks for your message, so pleased to hear you’re finding the articles helpful. Good luck with developing your choirs.

  2. Avatar Michael A. Suah says:

    hello christine, I want to highly appreciate you for your efforts towards the growth and development of choir music..I needed those tips and they came right on time…I am a Liberian, music Director and Conductor, I have huge passion for developing local churches choirs and music directors in my country…i’ve established a network for choir and directors….i’ll like to get to know you and your team better to as to partner with you for our choir network here in Liberia. thanks Michael A. suah

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Michael. Congratulations on your work with choirs and choir directors in Liberia. We hope you’ll find lots of useful resources on this website and, if you want to take things to the next level, you could check out Community Choir Professionals, our membership for community choir leaders who want to build a career and a business.

  3. Avatar Harrington says:

    Wonderful lesson

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Harrington

    2. Avatar Jamesrek says:

      The less talk and more movement a conductor has in rehearsal, the more retention will take place with singers. Once movement has been used to establish a connection with a certain sound or musical concept, a simple movement from the conductor can be used to remind students of the work of previous rehearsals instead of explaining repeatedly what needs to be improved.

      1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

        Thanks for your message James, great advice which also saves the conductor’s voice from getting over-used and tired!

  4. Avatar Valerie says:

    Thank you so much for a brilliant article as usual. All your tips always help.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Valerie.

  5. Avatar Jeanette says:

    We are in the process of learning a new programme for our Dec 2 concert. With a couple of pieces still being analysed, learning parts etc. I always include a couple of songs the choir knows really well, during the rehearsal time, to break it up. I, quite often, unintentionally, have the group laughing, when something I say, or demonstrate, doesn’t come out quite as intended. I’m lucky my group has a great sense of humour. I like the idea of Grand Old Duke of York to refocus people after the break. Thank you for that suggestion.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Jeanette,

      Your message made me chuckle, I too often end up unintentionally giving my choir a giggle! Have fun with The Grand Old Duke exercise.

  6. Avatar Peter says:

    You are always helpful. Consider a scenario where you have barely 2 hours to rehearse and 30 minutes is wasted chattering. How can one handle that? Personally, I detest distractions and anything that could hinder the flow of the rehearsal because of limited time and the volume of repertoires we have to cover. However, I try to make the rehearsal less stiff.

  7. Avatar Chris says:

    Thank you for this. I’ll admit I was afraid it would be somewhat glib and cliched as many such lists are these days, but I found it thoughtful and helpful. I especially like the Grand Old Duke of York idea!

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Chris,

      Glad you liked the article. We always aim to give well thought out tried and tested methods in our articles. Have fun with The Grand Old Duke!

  8. Avatar Cecilia Simmons says:

    I’m always looking for movement songs to use with my choir. Thanks for giving me another one to add to the arsenal.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      You’re very welcome Cecilia.

  9. Thanks Christine, agree with all those tips, very helpful. I agree it’s all about getting a balance as dialogue is good – just at the right time and in the right place.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Maddie, great to know you share similar thoughts.

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