virtual choir Eric Whitacre

How to Sing in a Choir? The Future of Virtual Singing.

You don’t need to be a professional singer to sing in a choir. Of course, working on your vocal technique and basic knowledge of music theory is a plus.

In my opinion, the key success to be part of a choir is simply dedication. A choir is a group of singers who work under the direction of a conductor or choir leader, with or without musical accompaniment.

There are different kinds of singing groups, from traditional church worship choirs, classical, gospel, children’s choir, to contemporary entertaining choirs where the advanced groups are called a-cappella.

Joining a choir is a great way to improve your voice, your knowledge of music, and your performance skills.

HOW TO JOIN A CHOIR?

Consider the type of choir you want to be part of, depending on your age, level of experience, type of music you listen to, how much free time you have to commit and stay consistent.

Each style chooses certain arrangements and tones; so make sure to love the style you will be asked to sing.

meme choir spongebob voice types

The director will test your vocal range. Voice types are usually divided into 4 basic parts: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass. More categories in the classical voice types include mezzo-soprano, contralto, and baritone.

For some choirs, you can join right away, but for other advanced ones, you will need to audition (live or virtual). Either the director gives you a piece to audition with, so you find your part and practice on it. Or you can choose your own piece of choice, here the best tip for you is to find one song that suits your vocal range, you have been practicing and excelling, a song within the genre of the choir that you wish to join.

The audition might include some vocal exercises or scales to test your vocal range and ability, pitch memory, singing on tune and rhythm as well as sightreading skills.

Most choirs require membership fees to cover the cost of rehearsals, music sheets, events accommodation, and uniforms.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

Always arrive on time or before the session starts. Avoid skipping rehearsals, be prepared, and don’t forget your music sheets!

Follow the conductor’s instructions: he or she is here to lead the ensemble and help you improve as an individual and as a member of the group. If you’re allowed to take notes on the score, mark your music, use a pencil to highlight dynamics, write some vocal technique remarks.

Some choirs directly start with the songs list, so make sure to warm-up gently, safely within your range, watch out not to shout, strain, or tire your vocal cords. Humming, lip roll, sirens, and straw exercises can be helpful for a short-time vocal warm-up for singers.

Having a basic understanding of how to read music helps to memorize and sight read in a short time.

Nowadays, directors allow to record on your phone device or they simply send tracks simplifying your home practice. After attending rehearsals, you should regularly practice on your own. You can also ask your voice teacher to help you with a melody.

Remember that in a group choir, the director does not have time to work one-on-one with every one of you. So you might sing with a bad technique which makes vocal strain. This is where your voice teacher can work in parallel, without interfering with the guidelines of the director.

proper posture and breathing in singing warmups choir

PROPER BREATHING & CORRECT POSTURE

Remember that the breath is the fuel for sound we produce. The more control you have over the air flow, the better is your singing tone.

Controlling the breath allows you to hold notes longer, increase your volume, make your voice strongly connected with your base (diaphragmatic breathing).

In rehearsals, depending on your director’s choice, you may be sitting or standing; so let’s learn the correct posture for both.

What is good posture? While you’re reading the article, can you answer the following?

  • Are you standing with an opened chest and tilted pelvis? Are you sitting straight with your body relaxed on the chair/floor/bed?
  • Are your feet shoulder-width apart?
  • How about your knee joints, do they hurt?
  • Your body weight: is it slightly bent forward? or you’re collapsing the chest and curving the back?
  • Are you raising your shoulders and tightening them?
  • Is your neck comfortable letting the oxygen pass?
  • How about your eyebrows and forehead? Do you have a surprising tensed face appeal? or a comfortable neutral mode?

For a standing position, the better your posture, the better the sound you will produce:

  • Keep your chin and forehead parallel to the floor
  • Relax your hands at your sides if you’re not holding sheets
  • Don’t lock the knees, keep them loose and flexible.
  • Even if you’re standing, always keep your body up, and slightly bent forward.

RESEARCH, INTERPRETATION, EMOTION BEHIND THE STORYLINE

Dive deeper and put some effort to learn about the story behind every song, who wrote it? How much time did it take to be composed, revised, and re-arranged?

Although it is teamwork, every voice matters, and be ready to add your taste to the music scores.

By learning about the storyline, you will connect more to the songs, and approach them with genuine emotion instead of simply singing what is written.

Remember that music is intended to be enjoyed by both listener and the performer. And like any solo singer, you intend to touch your audience with your empowering message and sincere interpretation.

PROTECT YOUR VOICE

Singing in a choir is not like a one-on-one individual lesson. Two weeks before the show, additional long practice hours take place without breaks, and for consecutive days.

Some beginner singers try to imitate the timbre or mimic the sound of the choir members, especially the soloist. Remember that each one of us is born with a unique voice.

Here comes the challenge of either being an amateur or a trained singer in a choir.

Even if you’re aware of correct singing, long rehearsal times and frequent performances can tire the voice because simply you are overusing it.

Do not yell just to be heard. In breaks, take silent moments and do not even talk.

Drink room temperature water, some herbal teas, do not forget your scarf when you go out to your car or walking home.

During the pandemic, wearing a mask is beneficial to singers because we protect our mouth and nose from cold air.

If you feel tightness in your body for long sitting or stiffness while standing up, practice some yoga stretching basics or foam roll.

Use essential oils in your diffuser or the flower remedy in your bath.

Lastly, find a voice teacher who will choose the songs and proper exercises for you and follow up on your progress. Here, I insist on avoiding the ‘ready to sing’ video exercises.

FIND YOURSELF THE RIGHT VOICE TEACHER

“Choirs and vocal groups are a great way for beginners to improve their singing voice without needing a voice teacher”

This is completely dangerous and wrong, especially for children and teens!

A singing teacher trains your voice and teaches you how to control your instrument’s bad habits, improve your breathing, and help you with the choir repertoire.

The question is: where do you find a good voice teacher?

Well, thanks to technology and virtual video calls, online singing lessons are easily available, at your own pace, comfort place, wherever you are in the world. You only need a fair internet connection; the rest is an accessory.

online singing lessons rita hokayem voice teacher

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A SINGING CHOIR?

Being part of a choir is an awesome way to meet new friends and socializing, connecting with colleagues in the music industry, developing a team player spirit, sharing the choral experience of getting on stage and singing together.

At the start, you might be shy, singing sotto voce (intentionally lowering your voice) without any self-confidence, especially when you hear the soloist hitting those high notes flawlessly.

Singing as a choir member, you might feel safer and less anxious about going live on stage.

After training and practice, you will notice improvements in your speaking and singing voice, and this is where I’d like to highlight the overall psychological, mental, and physical health benefits.

Choir singing improves your body posture, strengthens your breathing muscles, calm your blood pressure, and heartbeats. It can even help patients with lung disease or Parkinson’s for faster recovery.

Singing uses a lot of deep breathing and concentration which is a similar form to meditation. Many singers confirm that after a group or individual rehearsals, they feel less stress and more engagement with their bodies.

The choir experience introduces you to a great bulk of masterworks and styles and lets you improve your musicianship, as reading music scores, sight-singing, and harmonizing become easier for you as a solo singer.

Every successful performance adds confidence, positive vibes, and pleasure to your daily life.

Worship choirs allow singing sacred music as prayers connecting you to the Divine and bringing inner peace. Some professional choirs give you a chance to travel and tour the world!

LEARN TO SING HARMONIES IN A CHOIR

Singing in harmony is king!

While you could work on harmonies with your voice teacher, a choir is where you can master it, especially with A cappella groups.

Listen to the singers around you. Pay attention to blend your tone and volume with the rest of the choir members. Memorize your melody very well, try practicing with a pre-recorded track of all the complex harmonies.

Do not upstage the lead singer. You might have a better voice technique and musicality, however, know your place, be humble, support the lead vocalist, blend in, and enjoy the adventure.

Are choirs ‘super spreaders’? What is the future of singing choirs?

Someone tested positive for COVID-19 can spread coronavirus by coughing, sneezing, singing, or talking loudly.

WHO advisors cannot estimate how far singing projects aerosol particles, especially on explosive consonants like ‘p’ and ‘b which produce a large puff of air.

Safe practice is possible by wearing protective masks, with a fewer number of singers, and bigger ventilated spaces.

Is there a way to make singing together safe again?

Well, having a face shield is quite disturbing you cannot deny it. For me, it took away the joy and freedom of music – that is why I shifted to online.

While teaching singing lessons is becoming virtually accepted, the 2020 pandemic inspired a large number of choirs to shift to virtual practices and performances.


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About the author

Rita Hokayem

I am a soprano opera singer, voice teacher with over 13 years of experience, and digital marketer.
I teach online singing lessons for beginners and professional singers in pop, rock, R&B, country, oriental Arabic music, and pop opera.
My blog contains a series of interviews and articles about interesting topics related to the life of a musician and singer.
I am currently based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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