When singing in a choir it is important to realise that the one voice that truly counts is the voice of the choir. The collective voice created by everyone taking part. However, this voice is the finished product. To create a truly beautiful choir performance every member of the group must work on their own contribution. You must take responsibility for your voice.
This is tricky for many reasons. If you are in a mixed ability community choir like the Love2sing Choir there will be different voices, accents, genders and styles within the choir. Some people will be experienced and some people will not be. My aim with this Blog is to give you some hints and tips as to how you can make a difference with your voice in your choir.
Lead - When it comes to singing in a choir often people are waiting for everyone else to do things before they join in. If a neighbour has brilliant posture then every time you start to sing and they lift their neck and lower their shoulders it may prompt you to do the same. Why not be the example? Be the singer who checks their posture before they sing. When your conductor asks you to crescendo don't be half hearted. Go for it. Worst case scenario you go over the top and then you realise you shouldn't give it quite so much welly.....adjust and carry on. So what if you get the odd look from other singers. At least you are trying to do what you are told. Be the example.
Articulate - in my mind there is nothing more depressing and boring (well maybe Eastenders) than watching a choir (or any singer for that matter) when I can't work out what they are singing. A performance that you cannot understand is pointless. Harsh but true. Listen to Julie Andrews. You will hear EVERY SINGLE WORD. You will find yourself feeling emotion and being drawn into the songs she sings. I am not saying that you should sound like Julie I am saying articulate like her. Do not shy away from consonants they are not the devil. Well, not in my choir...
Start AND end words - simple trick but makes a massive difference to a performance.
Think happy thoughts - if your mind is unhappy then so is your face and your body. Positive and effective body language in a choir is crucial to a good performance. Without it the audience will feel uncomfortable and negative. You do not have to perform with a grin across your face but your eyes should be alive and your face should be engaged.
Read and digest the lyrics that you are performing - Look up the piece in google. What is it about? Who wrote it? Why was it written? Can you relate? If not you need to act. If you are a singer in a choir then you can act. You can pretend you don't want to be you are fibbing.
Perform the piece as if it were your own creation - You wrote it. It is your baby and you want people to understand and love it.
What if you don't like a piece? - Good. A piece you don't enjoy is a gift. It is a challenge. Accept the challenge. Learn the piece. Perfect it and perform it so that the audience believe that you love this piece. There is no better practice. If you can do this with a piece you don't enjoy imagine how easy it will be to perform a piece you do. Often pieces we dislike take us out of our comfort zone. This is a good thing whether you like it or not. For a singer and a choir to grow they must perform pieces that they are uncomfortable with. Otherwise you will reach a plateau and you will forever sound and look the same. You will create and deliver the same performance at each concert and people will become bored.
Sustain pitch and intensity - unless told otherwise when you sing a note that lasts four beats then you should sing it with energy from start to finish. You do not trail off at the end dancing between other notes and creating an odd unplanned harmony. You do not lose energy and get quieter - when fifty people do this what do you think the effect is? It is a muddle of terrible breathy incorrect pitches. No one can tell what word you have sung let alone what note you were supposed to be singing.
Think! Where is your voice in the mix - Are you too loud or too quiet? If you are louder than EVERYONE then maybe you are too loud. If you can't hear yourself then you are too quiet. Talk to your choir leader about this.
Your tone - When singing loudly you should still be able to maintain the integrity of the note you are singing. By integrity I mean you should stay in tune. If you are not in tune then you are too loud. If you are consistently singing out of tune and you are aware of it then you should book a singing lesson and try to find out what you need to be doing. However, you may find the more you sing the better you get.
Be positive - Talk to other singers and make them feel good. If you are in a choir you are learning and you are singing with people of differing abilities. Talk to each other. Swap tips and be friends.
Practice - If you have the time then practice, practice and practice some more. Here is a link to a previous post I created with regards the effective practice: How to become a better singer: Effective Practice
In conclusion, to make your voice count in a choir then you have to start to take the lead. Listen to your conductor and take notes. Put directions that you are given into practice. Go for it. Don't wait for everyone else. Make mistakes and be proud that you have the courage to try. Keep trying.