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ChoralTech: The 60 Second, In Rehearsal, Temperature Check

In the middle of a rehearsal, it's useful to be able to stop and get some feedback from the ensemble. Gauging the ensemble's comfort level with a particular section, understanding of text, or even asking about the internal sound of a section from the singer's perspective can lead to interesting and targeted rehearsal strategies. This is easy to do with small ensembles, but hard to manage with large groups. How can we quickly get feedback from our singers in a usable format without disrupting the rehearsal for an extended period of time? For this quick temperature check, you'll need a couple of ingredients in advance, and they'll need a phone or tablet.

Step 1: The Google Form

Creating a Google Form is an easy way to build a simple survey. When the form is published, you can watch responses stream in in real-time, making it a great way to collect and act on feedback quickly. For our purposes, scales (1-5) and T/F are probably faster and easier than checkboxes and text. If the goal is to ask the altos to reflect on their sense of forward motion during an excerpt, for example, a 1-5 scale will show us immediately how they are viewing their performance.

Google Forms send their results to a new spreadsheet, which will capture all responses and display them to you. Again, if you have a numbered system like the scale, a lot of information can fit on a tablet or laptop screen that you have at the front of the rehearsal area (or up on a projector?). A text question will take up more room on the screen, making it harder to watch information "roll in." 

Once you're used to setting up Google Forms, they can be built in five minutes or fewer before rehearsal. Surely you have at least one question that you'd like to ask each member of your ensemble?

Step 2: The QR Code

I've written about QR codes before (Never Hand Out Anything Again), but as a refresher: a QR Code is a visual barcode that sends phones, tablets and computers to online resources. You create a QR code for free using a link, in this case the link from your Google Form. Users then scan the link and are taken to the desired destination. For more information on how to create them, see Never Hand Out Anything Again from this spring.

The key is that your singers have to have a device, and a QR app (they're free!) already installed. Also, they have to be either on a cell network (smartphones), or wi-fi (tablets). Obviously, this limits where and how this can be used. School environments should probably be able to handle this, but church groups may not unless members have smartphones throughout the group.

The Workflow!

Here's what it looks like:

Before Rehearsal:
     Create Google Form
     Create QR Link

During Rehearsal:
     Ask question to group/section
     Display QR code on projector in front of room
     Musicians scan QR code with devices
     Answer quick questions (1-5, T/F) and submit answers
     Data appears on laptop for conductor
How About You?
What kinds of questions could you ask your ensemble during the rehearsal process? What information would you like to gather? How could you use it? In large ensembles, how do you get feedback from your musicians-- or is it valuable or worthwhile to even try and do so?