Mastering the basics of singing is just one of the many steps you’ll need to take when training your voice. You may think that once you’ve tackled the various exercises needed to improve agility, tone, and technique, and learned the basics of good posture and support, that you’re winning the battle and well on the way to being a good singer. The truth is, you may have mastered the basics of singing on an individual level, but if you want to eventually sing with others, there are many other skills that you need to learn to make you a both a good colleague and a useful member of any ensemble – and many of them have nothing to do with your voice!
Here are some of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to singing as part of a choir:
Be Businesslike – If you’re just singing for fun, this may seem like a strange thing to master. However, your choir leaders are most likely renting out their rehearsal venue and keeping a careful eye on costs. If members are late and waste rehearsal time, it’s also wasting money for the choir; when it comes to re-auditioning, the perpetual absentee or member who always shows up late may find that their vocal services are no longer required. Don’t be that person!
Learn Your Music – On some songs, depending on your vocal range, you may be assigned to the harmony line. This is quite different from singing the melody, which comes naturally to most singers. Knowing how to read music is one of the basics of singing that will help immensely – work with a vocal teacher to help you with this, and you’ll go much further than your fellow singers who need extra time because they need to hear the tune several times or play it on the piano before being able to sing it.
Don’t be a “Wrecker” – Those of us that have attended the concerts of friends and family members that already sing in choirs are probably familiar with the concept of “The Wrecker.” The Wrecker is usually brimming with confidence for all the wrong reasons, incapable of watching the conductor, sings off key or out of time loudly, and doesn’t come in and come off notes at the same time as their colleagues. One of the worst things about a Wrecker is that they are usually completely unaware of what they’re doing. Watch the conductor, count carefully, and be aware of what’s going on around you – don’t be a Wrecker!
Listen to Your Colleagues – Knowing your music isn’t enough; to be a really good choral singer you have to know the other parts fairly well too, and be able to listen to others at the same time. It’s important to work on blending with the other voices; make sure that you aren’t singing louder or softer than your section colleagues, and listen carefully so that you start and end phrases as a section, or in unison passages, as a choir.
Work With a Vocal Coach – Whether you’re a hobby singer or have professional aspirations, you’ve probably considered studying with a teacher one-on-one to get beyond the basics of singing (if you aren’t already!). A singing teacher will train your voice as an individual and teach you how to control your instrument, including how to manage pitch problems, improve your breathing, and develop your natural skills as a musician. These are all invaluable traits for any vocalist, whether you’re singing solo or as part of a group!
Of course, group singing isn’t limited to choirs; you can improve your musicianship and vocal skills by seeking out ensembles of varying size to sing with, even if it’s just singing duets with a friend at a similar stage of study, or a casual a cappella group. You may be surprised how much your abilities as a solo singer improve by listening to and singing with others!
Photo by Erik bij de Vaate