A new policy is needed when planning and implementing online choir rehearsals. That’s 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
- strenghtening the choir community
- improving interpretation and performance skills
- learning new things
This series of articles presents some ideas to improve online choir training.
Online Choir Rehearsal Motivates And Unites
Online choir rehearsals are needed when the singers can’t get together to sing regularly. The mission of online choir training is to keep up the practicing routine, to motivate and to empower singers, to strengthen the choir community and to be an interactive meeting point. Seeing other singers in the video gallery increases the sense of collaboration.
A video connection is needed for an online choir rehearsal. 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 to sing.
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.
Prefer Short And Intensive Rehearsals
It is difficult to say how long an ideal online rehearsal should last but usually 60-90 minutes sessions are good. It’s recommendable to concentrate on musical and performance aspects and, if needed, on singing technique as improving choral sound and singing together is not an option. This is also a great opportunity to improve self monitoring skills for everyone.
Learning one’s parts is better to do in small online groups instead of the whole choir’s rehearsal. Different parts can have their own session other time or, if you are using Zoom, you can divide singers into Breakout Rooms to practice their parts. In that case every group must have a practice leader as the choir director can only be in one place at the time. After small group practicing the choir can get back together and continue the rehearsal together.
Choral Rehearsal Tracks Are Useful Also In The Online Rehearsals
Even though a choir can sing at the same time in an online choir rehearsal the singers can’t sing together so that they hear each other. Therefore choral rehearsal tracks are very useful. In an online rehearsal a singer hears only his or her voice and sounds from one other participant, usually the choir conductor’s (singing, piano, recording).
Recorded parts make it possible for the director to conduct singing instead of playing the piano or singing one part. Choral rehearsal tracks also help to practice alone between rehearsals.
The Content Of An Online Choir Rehearsal
Remember to ask singers to mute their microphones when starting. Otherwise it is going to be a cacophony. Singers sing alone without hearing others but they can see each other through the video connection. The only sounds that they can adjust their voices to come from the choir conductor (singing, piano, recording). During conversations and questions mics are unmuted.
Starting With A Warm-Up
This is a part that can be done almost as usual. The only difference is that the conductor can’t hear singers and thus cannot give feedback or advise. Therefore it is recommendable to make exercises more interesting by adding some “extra tasks” like singing louder or softer, making a crescendo or diminuendo, sing with different voice qualities, use different emotions and so on.
Concentrate On Pieces Of Which Singers Know Their Parts
It’s easier to sing songs that singers are familiar with. When they know their parts well enought you can concentrate on things that can be worked with online. This is important particularly with singers who need more help to learn their parts. Singing new parts together work well only with singers that read sheet music well and are good at sight singing.
Combining Conducting With Recordings
One of the most efficient ways to rehearse online is to use choral rehearsal tracks and combine them with conducting. Music is needed so that singers can hear harmonies and other parts. Seeing the conducter (and other singers) online gives a connection to communicate while singing.
If the Wi-Fi or the web connection is unstable music and conductor’s gestures may become unsynchronized. With a good internet connection they can be sufficiently synchronized. Remember to play the recordings from the loudspeakers and via the conductor’s microphone even though the sound would be better if the recording was played directly from the computer. The latter makes it impossible to synchronize gestures with music.
Concentrate on music and interpretation in an online choir rehearsal: phrasing, accents, dynamics, analyzing the words and music, emotions, character and so on.
Challenges Of Online Choir Rehearsals
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: