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What do you use to make voice part practice samples for your Choir?

In the past, I used to go to the Internet, find a choir piece sample, such as the ones at J W Pepper's website, and right click and save the music file to my PC and then burn a CD of a group of these samples as a hand out at choir practice. These days copyright laws and the websites themselves block trying to make a copy for such an event as these. Of course there is still the old tape cassette possibility. I have even looked at Voice recorders such as College students use to record class lectures, but those only seem best for spoken voice. I believe recording SATB samples require a bit more high definition. Garage Band software is good only if you have a MacIntosh, but if you have a PC I am not sure what is available these days, so I wondered what some of you may do besides emailing links for YouTube samples to choral members. (YouTube usually does not have samples on new compositions, just older ones). What do you do these days with all the new technology available?
Replies (17): Threaded | Chronological
on February 26, 2014 6:20am
Have you tried audacity?  it is available for all computers for free.  You also need the lame.dll file the audacity website will have instuctions where to find that.  You can then play any file and record it at the same time.  I use it alot!  It works better than garage band.  I have used both and like audacity better.  good luck!
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on February 26, 2014 8:25am
I use Audacity with a Blue Microphone - Snowball. We usually record using the grand piano at the church. Sometimes we do individual notes and sing. other times we sing the part with the accompaniment and also an accompaniment recording with no voices.  This seems to work for what we need.
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on February 27, 2014 3:42am
Audacity is great.  I've used various recording tools depending on what was available (Zoom and Olympus digital recorders, iPhone, mics and recording system in my classroom).  Once I discovered audacity it was MUCH easier to edit out that one wrong note, etc. that I had played and then corrected.  I play the parts on the piano and can even layer them to make a multi-part rehearsal track.  Right now I have a digital piano and can record the audio file to USB, then edit in audacity and export as an mp3.  I think it's important for the students to hear a good performance of the entire piece as well, so I often post youtube links to performances I recommend.  The students appreciate the mp3 files and youtube links because they can often play them on their phone or iPod which is far more portable than a CD.  I like the fact that I'm not wasting, I mean using, so many CDs anymore!
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on February 27, 2014 1:10pm
Lisa, my chancel choir is mostly older folks, (some who do not even have email......really), so I have to think of ways to make samples for them.
on March 4, 2014 6:57am
I have directed groups like that recently.  I wonder if their needs, (indeed, perhaps some of why they join choir) are  social as well as musical.  
Perhaps you can use the simplest method for you (be that audacity-to-cd, cassette tape, 4 iPads w/ garage band, whatever works), and get a part-prominent track recorded for each (SATB).  (Unless your falsetto has a very authentic resonance-mix, you may wish to get a woman to record the sop and alto.)
Set a time for all to come- add snacks and games- make it a "part"-y! ( We are told that this is how folks entertained themselves, and others , in the renaissance period.  ;).
Plan to have 4 cd-tape players, or computers if there's someone to operate them- or a device for each group that matches their ability - that work well.  Assign a "sound engineer" (whoever knows how to push the buttons) for each group.  Place them in different rooms.  Be sure all have a clear, well-marked copy [large print where necessary] and let them rehearse!   If you can be there, circulate to see/monitor how they're doing.   If you cannot be there, the choir president/most competent singer-leader can monitor.  After about 10 -15 minutes on 2 or 3 songs, gather and enjoy!
on February 27, 2014 5:20am
I still do what you used to do.  It has changed a little bit, but basically the same.  At they have a listening lab.  There you can find music, hopefully what you want and many are full recordings if octavo length.  Then you save it to their jukebox.  Now here's where it can be a time saver.  For my kids, who use computers or smartphones all the time, I just send them the Link that Stanton's site creates for me, and I'm done.  Even half of my adults like it that way because they can hook it up in their car and play it.  I don't really recommend the car with the jukebox because you have to play pieces individually.  My kids love it though.
on February 27, 2014 6:22am
We use an Olympus mp3 recorder to record pieces with all parts together. I actually use the WMA format because it's a lot smaller than mp3s. WMAs can be converted in iTunes.
When we're teaching someone a new part, we use iPhones. Everyone sings, but the person who already sings the part holds the iPhone closer to her mouth so that line is prominent but can still be heard in the context of the rest of the piece. It's just a simple recording in Voice Memos. You can name the file and email it immediately. I have a master page where I keep all reference recordings (part pieces like the Voice Memo recordings) and we have a private Facebook page where we post YouTube links so everyone can comment on them.
Sing on!
on February 27, 2014 6:31am
Thanks, I just downloaded the program. Are you able to save the files in a format to burn to CD?
on February 27, 2014 8:01am
Never Mind, the manual explains all that. Thanks, very much !!!
on February 28, 2014 3:06am
I use Garage Band. It's great. It is so easy to use and so easlly integrated.
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on February 28, 2014 9:18am
The problem of creating rehearsal tracks/CDs/Cassettes is shared by many choirs, and one of the goals of my web site is to make it easy and profitable for choirs to assist each other by making their aids available to all. My site, has a recording module which makes it easy to produce part-predominant tracks in our unique format. Also, through an exclusive license we have with Naxos of America, singers can produce very high quality tracks by singing along with a professional recording. The catalogue of CDs pre-approved for this purpose can be found at
May I encourage all of you who are dealing with the same challenge to help each other by making and sharing part-predominant tracks of music your choir has mastered. If you record your performances and then have your best singers for each voice individually sing along with those recordings, you will be able to produce high-quality rehearsal aids that will be much appreciated by other choirs wanting to learn that repertoire. You may also raise funds for your choir in the process.
Jim Taylor, President
SingHarmony®.com Inc.
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on March 1, 2014 9:27am
If I can get a midi, (which can come from the internet or by scanning the music) I set the voices to soprano = piccolo, alto = clarinet, tenor = french horn, and bass = bassoon, and export each voice on its own and also the accompaniment. I then read the 5 files into a mixing program and, in turn, set the dominant voice in the left channel and the other voices in the right channel at a lower level and save the result as an mp3 (evidence for the supperiority of WMA is questionable at best -- see Wikipedia). Normally I use these instruments rather than piano so things like suspensions show up. Where rhythm is the dominant factor, I do use piano.
on March 2, 2014 7:26am
I have a program on my computer called Sound Tap Streaming Audio Recorder from NCH. I press record and then play whatever it is that I'm listening to, from a website, Youtube, etc. and get an audio recording that I can use as a teaching example. I also have a BOSS BR900CD Digital Multitrack Recorder which allows me to sing off individual parts and mix them. This is an older model so there are probably newer ones out there. If the piece is acap, I score it into Finale and then playback using the different saxaphones for the voices (sop, alto, etc.) and piano for all non voice specific parts. I'm learning how to scan the music into Finale and then set it up the same way. This technique is still in progress. This is what I do in a basic nutshell. I'd have to write a book to be more specific in my descriptions and actions.

on March 2, 2014 8:35am
The Mendelssohn Glee Club of NYC (TTBB, founded 1866) uses two learning tools.
1 - We get a pianist, a tenor and a bass/baritone to record a master of T1, then T2, then B1, then B2, of all the numbers in our upcoming program.  From the master, we create CDs for each of the 4 voice parts.  We total the costs and divide by the number of singers in our Club, and this usually comes to about $20pp.  We collect that $20 from each of our members as we give the the CD.  The members love it.
2 - We use Noteworthy Composer to create song files for each of the songs in our upcoming program.  In our 10th year of doing this, we are able to use previous song files in putting together the music for the program.  We then email these song files to our members who have already loaded the Noteworthy Composer program in their PC.  The members also love this.  To date, I have about 150 NC song files that I use not only to practice, but to have fun.
Marty Edelman
MGC Past President (1991-2003)
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on March 3, 2014 4:17pm
As I do many arrangements for our mixed choir myself, i use Sibelius (now version 7, next week the coming upgrade 7.5) for making the complete score. Other arrangements I often change in varying degrees. Only a part of our songs are "imported originals", but as I can get the MIDIs of all parts of a song in Sibelius in practically NO TIME, I also copy these "imported originals" into my notation program. The MIDI sounds I use are of the category VOICE, offered in FEMALE and MALE voices, and both groups containing SOPRANO and ALTO resp. TENOR and BASS. Practically all computers feature an integrated SYNTHESIZER with a standardized set of MIDI voices, so the MIDI voices I use in my MAC, will normally be reproduced with the same sound on a PC. MIDIs have the advantage of being very small - only some Kilobytes - whereas even the relatively small MP3s need about 50 times the space of a MIDI (and an AIFF needs 10 times the space of an MP3). The disadvantage of MIDIs is that they can be played only on a computer, because they don't transfer sounds but only the number code of a sound. (A MIDI can also be reproduced on a DIGITAL Musical Instrument, but that's practized normally only by professionals.)
As I said before, I use Sibelius to generate MIDIs of all the choir parts. This can be done "bunchwise", that means I could put several scores in a folder and then let Sibelius generate the MIDIs of all parts. The time used for one song measures only in some seconds. Of course it's necessary NOT TO MIX parts in one line as is often done in Hymns or Chorals, where the upper line combines Sopranos with Altos and the Tenor voice appears together with the Bass voice in the lower line.
Apart from the correct interpretations of varying tempi (ritardandos, accelerandos etc.) or different expressions (staccato, legato, portato etc.) or volume variations (pp, p, mp, mf, f etc. or crescendos resp. decrescendos), Sibelius lets you program the correct interpretation of melody aberrations, that happen sometimes when in one of the verses there is one sillable of text more than in another.
Those who don't want to spend much money on a notation program, but nevertheless are looking for high quality should visit one of the sites of Myriad-online: or - they offer two notation programs: Melody Assistant and Harmony Assistant. Both can be downloaded and tested indefinitely for free - the (one-time only - all updates free) price for a Serial for Melody Assistant is 37 US $, for Harmony Assistant it's 85 US $. The manual is in HTML format. (Beginning with Melody Assistant, I worked a year with Harmony Assistant, before I changed to Sibelius.)
on March 4, 2014 5:10am
This is an interesting thread! We are going thru this same issue, how to get rehearsal tracks to our members. Often we use Sibelius to create the parts etc, I have also used Garageband as I am a Mac person. And of course distrubution comes into play as to how to get them out. Ultimately the bigger question is how can we ensure the members use these tools!
on March 4, 2014 3:59pm
To distribute the MIDIs to our choir members, I founded a group in Yahoo. The group is not public - to get access one needs an invitation, that only the founder can give, and I do invite only members of our choir. The group isn't "listed", so it's "invisible" to outsiders. After a choir member gets an invitation, (s)he has to register with Yahoo, and the chosen identity will be her/his new Yahoo Mail Address. I always recommend them to enter their "normal" Mail Address into their Yahoo profile and list it there as the "primary" one, to which will be sent the automatic informations of newly entered MIDIs (or scores).
MIDIs are not only good to give the singers the correct voice parts, but they may also help with problems of pronunciation. We are a choir of Germans - most of us retired - who live in the Mediterrane (on Mallorca). Our repertoire consists not only of songs in German, but also in English, Spanish, Catalan, Italian, Latin, French, Portuguese and Russian. Because I lost to much time during rehearsals with explaining or correcting pronunciations, I began last year to make "Pronunciation MIDIs" of songs with words in a "foreign" (not German) language. I don't sing the words, but speak them in the exact rhythm of the related melody, also stretching the sounds of longer held notes. Practically it's the same I did (and sometimes still do) in rehearsals, but now it's "on tape" for all those of our members who got problems with one or the other language .......
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