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Practicing for Choir Rehearsal

To compliment the previous article on designing a weekly rehearsal agenda, here’s a list of things you can do to prepare yourself for directing your next rehearsal.

Practice the Music

The number one thing I do before rehearsal is make sure I know how to play the individual parts on the keyboard. Chances are high I’ll be expected to play the different voice parts on the piano, so knowing them beforehand reduces the likelihood that I’ll screw up playing them at rehearsal. Also, getting the parts in my head makes it that much easier to tell which parts are on or off pitch. If I don’t have that much time to prepare, I’ll use what prep time I have to do this.

If you already how to play and/or sing all of the parts, try practicing two or more parts together. This is useful because it gives you a better idea of how the parts fit together, and playing multiple parts at a time at rehearsal can help your choir out tremendously.

Practice Conducting

As I’ve said before, conducting is both important and nontrivial, so practicing it home is a very good thing to do since it’s so important. I’ve certainly found doing so to be helpful for me. I’ve been able to work out tricky areas in music pre-rehearsal and determine an appropriate tempo. I’ve also used that time to overcome my self-consciousness with regard to conducting. Conducting in front of a mirror and realizing that I don’t look like a total idiot is actually really helpful.

Practice the Vocalizes

This is something I know I have to do more of because by not practicing them beforehand I’m limited in the number of exercises I can have the choir sing. Trickier exercise for intonation are right out since if I can’t play them accurately on the keyboard, the singers can’t trust me for their intonation. So I’d definitely suggest you take a little bit of time to play the exercises you want to have your choir do beforehand.

Visualize the end Result

What I mean by this is that you should visualize what you want to get out of the rehearsal and what you want to accomplish with each song. By visualizing the end result you get an idea of what to look for with each song and can come up in advance with ways to describe what you’re want from your choir. The few rehearsals in which I employed this technique have been really successful.

How much time should I spend preparing for rehearsal?

There are several answers to this question. If it’s a run of the mill rehearsal I give myself about an hour. That gives me time to go over the parts, practice conducting, practice the vocalizes, and think about what I want to get out of the rehearsal. I tend to rehearse a few hours before the choir rehearsal so everything is fresh in my mind.

If I have a lot of new music to learn a may take an afternoon to plow through it all. If I’m preparing for a performance I may take some time to determine a plan of attack for mastering everything in the weeks leading up to the performance.

By taking some time to practice for rehearsals I’ve found that I’ve had much more fun and effective rehearsals than when I made it up as I went along. I’m also a lot less stressed out because I feel prepared and I know what I want to do next. I can spend more time reacting to the choir and less time worrying about executing parts, conducting, and figuring out what I want to do with any given song. As a side effect the choir also has more confidence in me too.

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