5 important vocal habits to encourage in your choir

Part of your job as a choir leader is to give your singers the tools they need to learn and perform to the best of their ability. Here are five great habits to encourage in your singers.

1. Stand

Never underestimate the importance of good posture for choral singing. Good posture shows that a singer is prepared to sing, it allows them to maximise their breath support and it makes them feel confident. Slouching will not only prevent good breathing and encourage tension in the neck and shoulders, it also looks terrible to an audience.

2. Listen

Encouraging your singers to listen will stand them in good stead, both in the learning and performing of repertoire. Listening is not only about their own part but also about hearing the other parts around them and how these work together to create a complete piece of music. By listening, your singers will undertsand and engage with the music more readily. They will also start to understand the layers and blend of a piece so that they can sing it sympathetically, rather than each part competing with the others.

3. Brighten

Good pitch and tuning is essential to your choir. Showing your singers how to adopt great posture, breath support and brightness in their facial expressions can make all a difference. These techniques will also greatly increase your choir's confidence because they will feel more alert and in control.

4. Learn

By encouraging your singers to start learning their pieces early on in the rehearsal process, you can take away much of their anxiety further down the line as they worry whether or not they know their part well enough for a performance. If you leave memorising music or lyrics to the last minute, it can mean you spend all your time in rehearsal trying to cover parts rather than working on polishing the performance. The earlier you can get your singers to learn their parts (and that applies even if they'll have scores in performance), the more they will be able to focus on performing the song and connecting to the piece as a whole.

5. Watch

If you've ever experienced your choir not watching your conducting signals then you'll know how frustrating this can be. Encouraging your singers to watch you and to learn how to respond to the signals you're giving them is key to the sucess of the choir as a single, harmonious unit. Don't be afraid to say if you're not feeling the choir is with you. Teaching your singers how to understand your signals means they will start to anticipate them more readily. Rehearse entries, endings and pauses in isolation before going through longer sections.

If you're worried your choir may have fallen into some bad habits or would like to get ahead with some great tips on common choir problems and how to fix them before they happen, then our eBook Choir Tweaks is for you. This handy companion takes you through a range of problems with tried and tested ideas and exercises for your choir.
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Victoria Hopkins Staff

Hi Karen. When you're dealing with this kind of issue, I think 'softly, softly' is often the best approach. I would start by asking everyone to put down their scores occasionally in rehearsal, stressing that it's not a test, it's a way of learning. Then, I would probably try to include one piece or song in the next performance that they could do from memory - something not too challenging. Tell everyone a long time in advance that they'll be performing this from memory and, again, keep putting down the scores in rehearsal during the learning process. We all tend to underestimate how much we remember of things, so when we put down our scores, it shows us how much we've actually retained. My mantra in rehearsals when I ask my choir to put down their scores is 'if you forget the words, sing 'la'; if you forget the notes, make something up'.
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Victoria Hopkins Staff

Good for you Mariza. We wish you and your students every success.
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