Here are 10 ways to break the monotony of singing rehearsals, many of which can be implemented without prior preparation.
1. Change Seating Orientation
This can mean any number of things. Below are some examples:
- Face different side of the room
- Sit it in a circle
- Sit in two rows
- Intermix parts (i.e. sopranos sit by non sopranos)
- Have parts face each other
2. Change Location
If you normally practice indoors, try practicing outside on a nice day. Have rehearsal at someone’s home. Change rooms. This will not only break the monotony but has the benefit of exposing the choir different acoustic settings too.
3. Change Instrumentation
Do you normally direct with a keyboard? Why not use a different instrument like a recorder or a guitar? How about just using a pitch-pipe? That’ll add some challenge.
4. Sing in Quartets
What I mean by that is sing one person on a part. (SATB would be a quartet; SSATB a quintent… etc.) This can be useful for testing how well the singers actually know their parts. The only drawback is that it can be a bit nerve-wracking for the singers since they’re being put on the spot. Bring it up with your singers to see if they’d be interested in trying such an arrangement. (If they’re a bit hesitant you could first try part intermixing mentioned above. Your singers will still have to sing by themselves but at least they aren’t put on the spot quite as much.)
5. Change the Order of the Rehearsal Schedule
Do you normally start sight-singing and then work on perfecting old music? Why not do it the other way around? Obviously don’t go overboard and sing the most straining song before doing any warm-ups, but where it doesn’t explicitly matter make a change.
6. Sing Songs with a Specific Theme
You can have a day of singing songs by one composer or one era, and give a little historical background on what you’re singing. It could be all sight-singing or a mix of sight-singing and review. You could also have a day dedicated to singing a certain type of piece, like all rounds, or all bawdy love madrigals, or all chants. Or how about singing everything on solfege syllables? Any of these will add some spice to the rehearsal. (Of course it could also annoy your choir so play it by ear.)
7. Bring in a Guest
By bringing in a guest, I mean bring in an expert of some kind, be it another choir director or a performer or whatever, to listen to and give advice to you and to the choir. Undoubtedly the choir will pay more attention to the new person than it does to you, and all of you will probably get a lot out of the advice. You could also bring in a non-expert to act as an audeince, but while it would probably increase the attentiveness of the choir, you’re more likely to learn a lot more from an expert.
8. Use Alternate Lyrics
Have your choir members make up new lyrics to some of the songs you sing, and then sing some of them at practice. This is bound to lighten things up.
9. Have a Choir member Co-direct
This depends on how formal your choir is and whether or not you’re getting paid to direct. Assuming that it’s a volunteer gig, inviting choir members to take major artistic direction on certain songs can be an empowering thing for both you and the singers. It invites them to do research, think critically about the music, and figure out how to verbalize their ideas. While being a passive singer can be nice and relaxing, there’s something really cool about getting a chance to do more once in a while. It’s empowering for you too because you get to know more about your singers and about the music. Not to mention that since your singers will be more knowledgeable, they will probably expect more of you, which while more difficult is ultimately a good thing.
10. Go Caroling
This is similar to the changing environment suggestion, except that in this case you’re performing not practicing. Caroling doesn’t have to be limited to Christmas-time either. There’s nothing wrong with going out on a street corner and singing with all or a subset of your choir in the middle of June. What’s nice is that caroling isn’t nearly as formal as an official performance, so prep work is minimal. Just go out and sing!
I’ve tested out a lot of these techniques on my choir and they do tend to have a positive impact on rehearsals. So, if you’re finding your rehearsals to be a bit of drag try one of them out.