Rehearsal Procedures

 

There are two basic aspects that a Director must work on with his/her chorus members.

  1. 1.Teaching the Craft of Singing

  2. 2.Teaching Songs


TEACHING THE CRAFT OF SINGING

In this “Craft” of Singing, I believe we should cover 2 areas: 1) Singing Better and 2) Learning Music.  We have dealt quite thoroughly with these 2 areas In my full website under those Major Headings, with several Topics in each.  Thus we won’t amplify on what is to be taught in these “Crafts” but we suggest you go to my Heading Page to see them listed and study them as needed.

 

Developing both of these Craft areas should be a part of each rehearsal and probably be given a specific “Craft Time” for development.  But beyond this “Craft Time: it’s most important to apply the specific aspect worked on in the “Craft Time” to the music being sung. 


WARM-UP

Goals for Warm-ups

Before serious singing is done, a “Warm-up Time” is probably necessary - unless the members have used their voices a great deal previously.  Thus a Warm-up is particularly important in the morning.  Warm-up is helpful in 3 areas: 1) Vocal Flexibility,  2) Physical Loosening  &   3) Mental Alertness.  They may be combined together but you may want to work on one of the aspects separately.


A Warning

Warm-ups can easily become so routine that they are meaningless.  It’s an easy trap to fall into.  Attention always need to be given to Singing Well and Improving, even in the Warm-Up.  There needs to be a focus to the Warm-Up so that people are always trying to improve.


Range should be a serious consideration in “Warm-ups” as frequently Unison Exercises are used.  The important thing is to avoid undue tension in the vocal mechanism.


See my Topic on “Vocal Health, Warm-Ups and Singing Crafts” for further Craft & Warm-Up ideas.


TEACHING A SONG

Problem Sections

“Let’s run this piece thru and see how we do”.  Usually this is a waste of time, as the problems should be predictable.  The director should already know from the previous rehearsal, where the problems are.  By zeroing in on the problems first or at least bringing them to the attention of the chorus, the rehearsal procedures will be more efficient until the problem has almost been solved.  Then is the time to check whether they really remember the corrections to the problems by  “running it thru”.


Practice Makes Perfect?

Not really!  Practice should be perfect.  But perfection is impossible in this life.  We should not practice until we get it right,  instead, we should practice until we hardly every get it wrong.  But how can we do this in this imperfect world?  Mainly by going slower so we can be accurate.  Also be aware that some areas need much more practice than other areas.  Zero in on them.


How Many Times?

Frequently Directors do not work on a problem thoroughly enough for the members to feel secure about it.  It’s common for Directors to feel that once they have “corrected a problem”, that it’s done.  Not true!  How many times do you have sing a passage correctly for errors to be solved?  The key is, to do it more times right than you have ever done it wrong.  In another Topic on my website “Memorizing Music”, I present a “game” called “3 Times and Out” which if followed, will force you to sing it more times right than wrong.  Go to that page and apply the principle.  It’s very important!  We are creatures of habit, and if wrong habits have snuck in, it will take a while to change those habit.


Sequence for Teaching a Song

Here is our suggested procedure for working on a Song.

STEP 1: General Overview

  1. We need to get a general idea of the WHOLE piece first.  This can be done by playing a good recording of the piece thru maybe 3 times.  Or if the group has good sight readers, to sing it thru ALL THE WAY a time or two.  It’s good for the Director to point out the various sections of the piece and particularly the sections that are identical or have slight variations.  This is also the time to give an understanding of what the piece is saying and of it’s emotional content.

STEP 2: Learning the Words/Notes and Rhythms.

  1. Now come the time to work on details.  You should have analyzed the piece so you know the sections and work on a section at a time.  If there is a fairly well known chorus, it might be best to work on that section first.  Since “Practice SHOULD be perfect”, go slowly so that they are accurate.  Maybe work on only a phrase at a time, but try to avoid learning mistakes.  It’s much harder to correct ingrained mistakes than to learn it right the first time.


  2. Be aware of “Traps”.  I sometimes refer to them as the “Y’s in the road”  Music is put together in a certain “Form” such as A,A,B,A.  (“A” stands for all the musical parts that are the same, and “B” is a contrastive part).  But USUALLY there are slight variations between each one of the “A” sections.  These are the “Traps” that mix people up, as they are so similar that the variations are confused.  “Similar” is much harder that even “Different” because of this confusion.  Frequently it is good rehearsal procedure to sing the “original phrase” and then follow it with its “variation”.  Mix it up until people thoroughly know the difference and know which one comes where.

  3. Next integrate the “Traps” in with the flow of it’s section or the full piece.


STEP 3: Teach the Interpretation

Directors disagree as to whether Interpretation should be taught simultaneously with learning the notes/words or whether the notes/words need to be settled first before we get into the interpretation.  I believe both are right.  The sooner we get after interp. the better, yet serious work on interp. can’t really be done until the notes are secure.  You can’t do everything at the same time.  People can only focus on one thing at a time.  Probably the best approach is to put MAJOR INTERP. FEATURES in right at the beginning and then follow that up with the more subtle interp. features later - such as Word Emphasis and Dynamics..


As we said in “Step 1”, “Step 1” is where the initial thoughts about “The Message & General Mood” are presented but then worked out in detail in Interpretation.


STEP 4: Work on Memorization

The 4th Step is working on Memorization and as you work on it, give particular emphasis to the “Y’s in the Road”.  For further information on Memorization see my Topic “Memorizing Music”.


STEP ?  Work on Sound  (Ringing Chords)

Though we list “Work on Sound” here, it actually needs to be worked on all along the line, (so we didn’t give this paragraph a number).  Nevertheless, these aspects must be seriously worked on especially in “Craft” and “Warm-Ups” and then applied to the repertoire:

  1. a. Tone Quality (See my “Better Singing’ Topics)

  2. b. Intonation (See my “Intonation” Topic)

  3.          1. Holding the Pitch Level

  4.          2. In Tune Chords


STEP 5: Work on the Visual

As with Interpretation, some Directors like to work on the “Visual”,  very early while learning the notes but more commonly the Visual is added as a Step 5.   It is true that frequently visual aspects help to learn the notes and words (thus the rationale for doing it early.  Visual aspects are especially helpful for distinguishing between “Similar” phrases.

Here are the aspects of the Visual to be covered:

  1. a. Facial Communication

  2. b. Choreography

  3. c. Stage Decorum

  4.         1. Entrances & Exits

  5.         2. Posture

Of them all, “Facial communication” is the most important.  We deal more extensively with the Visual in our website Topic “Beyond the Fundamentals


STEP 6: Review

Review is important as new members may have joined.  Also the fact is. we often forget.  This is especially true if a detail has not been locked in.  It’s not uncommon for directors to assume the chorus remembers an old song well enough to sing in a performance.  That’s not usually true.  Review is very important.


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                                    I would love to hear from you. 

                          I appreciate any comments or suggestions.

                                    tednorton@roadrunner.com


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