A new policy is needed when planning and implementing online choir training. This is because the most important part of the choir work, singing together, is not possible online. Thus doing the usual rehearsal maneuvers via video connection does not work.
Online rehearsals through web connection however help to keep up with
- singing routine
- collaborating between the singers
- strenghthening the choir community
- improving interpretation and performance skills
- learning new things
This series of articles presents some ideas to improve online choir training.
Practising Parts Online
A smaller or a bigger portion of a choir rehearsal is used for practicing parts, depending on singers’ skills in reading music and sight singing. Especially those choirs that need more time to practice parts benefit from online practicing after the social isolation caused by pandemic is over:
- It’s easier to find time to practice together as singers can participate even when they are away but within a web connection.
- Practicing session can be recorded as video or audio (for example with Zoom) and share to those who couldn’t attend. The recordings help to practice independently.
- Learning parts take less time in the rehearsal when all the singers are present. Thus there is more singing for everyone and less waiting time.
- Singers that sing other parts can participate too and sing their own part at the same time they can hear another part being sung. This works for singers who are ready for more challenges.
- It’s more fun and motivating to practice together online than alone.
A video connection is needed for an online practice session. Skype, Teams and Facebook Live are few of the most widely used applications for this. The participants just need a computer or a smart phone, WI-FI or other web connection and a quiet room for singing.
It is worth checking the microphone and settings before starting. Sometimes the best sound is found through a smart phone, some other times by using a microphone. As video conference programs are mainly used for talking, their settings are adjusted to that. That’s why they might try to fade out the sound of a piano or play back music – or transform it into unpleasant noise.
One Part Or Several Parts At The Same Time?
An online practice session can be carried out with one part or with several parts. Even the entire choir can practice their own parts at the same time with different groups. For example, in Zoom it can be done by dividing singers into Breakout Rooms. As the conductor can be present in one group at the time there has to be a leader for the practice in every group.
Practical Tips For Practicing Parts Online
The person who leads the practice session can sing and/or play the piano or other instrument or use choral rehearsal tracks. Other singers sing at the same time but with muted microphones. Otherwise the result is cacophony.
Online practice session is an interactive event: participants can ask questions and ask for repetitions, or comment. That’s why it is important to create an atmosphere in which singers feel safe and confident, even to sing alone while others are listening, if needed.
It is also possible for the choir conductor to share their thoughts on what kind of phrasing or dynamics they are looking for in a particular song, and their artistic views. Also tips on singing technique can be given out during online practice sessions. These aspects are recommended to be highlighted in order to avoid the practice session from being only a sing-through of the song.
An online practice session can be an eye- (and ear) opening experience for many choristers! Since one does not get the usual live aural support from other singers, responsibility is needed to be taken in terms of knowing one’s own part. Some people may feel shocked because singing my own part doesn’t feel as easy as during live choir rehearsal. Other singers, especially those singing lower parts, find it pleasing because they can hear themselves better as other singer’s parts are not covering their voices.
Challenges Of Online Group Practicing
Some things can be a challenge online. Informing choristers about them beforehand helps them to create best possible circumctances to join online and also prevents from disappointments.
- Bad internet connection cuts the sound and video. It is important that the choir conductor has a sufficient connection; otherwise it has an impact on everyone’s experience.
- If the audio settings are in favor for speech they might deteriorate the sound of piano or other music. For example with Zoom it’s good to enable the automatic voice adjustment and use the Original Sound.
- Old computers and phones don’t support video conferencing
- Even the most enthusiastic singers are discouraged if they can’t find a peaceful place to sing and practice at home. Family members and neighbors must be taken into account too. Can you brainstorm together what kind of places can be used to join to an online rehearsal?
- Spending a day with video conferencing for work or studies reduces the eagerness to join to an online choir rehearsal even for most passioned choristers. Therefore shorter rehearsals are a good choice and they are often enough to motivate.
Other articles of this series: