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Singer behavior: Keeping your choir busy while drilling notes

This is a compilation of responses to my query about keeping my choir busy during note-drilling sessions. Rather than paste in everyone's responses, the answers were repetitive enough (in a nice way) that I can just sum them up. Thank you to the 39 great people who responded to my quest for rehearsal perfection. :-)

Things I have already been doing include a number of these, along with the creation of MIDI files through either Cakewalk or Finale (Cakewalk is quicker to play in parts on top of each other) and post them on the choir's website. Check out to see the simple layout I've done there.

List responses, in no particular order; add this to your "bag of tricks":

1. Sectional rehearsals; many said with the strong singers leading them.
2. Altos sing bass line with them and vice versa; same with soprano/tenor
3. All singers sing every part.
4. Give other sections something to focus on while drilling one part.
5. Have others clap or tap or count the rhythm or beat.
6. Slower learners come early or dismiss the others early.
7. Have the others evaluate the singing section: diction, rhythm, intonation, etc.
8. Others hum their own parts.
9. Make the drill more fun: assign silly syllables, sing it in hocket, stand up, sit down [fight, fight, fight... -ed.] or shift around.
10. Use the strong singers as models and mentors.
11. Sing some easier music, to give musical satisfaction to slower singers.
12. Check out > Rehearsal > General Rehearsal Techniques > How to make choir fun
13. Active listening [audiation]: mentally review the part they hear, then mentally think their own part against it.
14. MIDI files, part CDs/tapes [one of our Australian listers said their web-based MIDI shows the score and they can click on any section of the music, and I'd love to know how that works!]
15. Insist on home practice - with practice CDs/tapes and MIDI, they are without excuse
16. Practice groups. [I utilize quartet checks 2 weeks before the main concert]
17. Have them write in solfege for their part during down times.
18. Have a theory worksheet for them to work on.
19. Use choir buddies: pair up strong with weak singers.
20. Spend a little time each rehearsal on sight-singing, particularly with solfege.
21. Avoid rehearsing only one part at a time, and switch up the pairings.
22. Send strong singers to work on a chamber choir piece and drill notes with the others.
23. Have the drilling include phrasing, articulation, dynamics, etc., to engage all those at various levels.
24. Randomly ask people in other sections to constructively comment on what they heard; keeps everyone attentive.
25. When introducing a piece, write the scale on the board, and vocalize in that key; then point out the pitches as they are found in the piece.
26. Schedule a rehearsal for just the needy sections.
27. Pass out hard candy during announcements.
28. Have section leaders work quietly with their sections on rhythms while rehearsing another part.
29. Have them memorizing their words or notes while drilling others.
30. Have singers bring in tape recorders and record rehearsal for later review and practice.
31. Add something new - phrasing, articulation, dynamics, etc. - each repetition so it seems less like repetition.

Robert G. Boer
Assistant Professor of Music
Montreat College
P.O. Box 1267
Montreat, NC 28757
(828) 669-8012 x3774

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