International Choir Festival InCanto Mediterraneo

5 ways to keep things fresh when you’re being taught a song you already know

  • [A version of this article first appeared as a post on my blog From the Front of the Choir]

    At any singing workshop I run there will probably be someone who already knows one of the songs I’m teaching.


    photo by Sludge G


    If that is you, what are your options for staying interested?

    I try very hard to make sure that I teach different songs at each of my singing workshops, but inevitably some people will already have learnt some of the songs I’ll be teaching.

    One option is to just zone out and stop paying attention because the song is so familiar to you (and maybe you’re even a bit bored by it because you’ve sung it so many times).

    If you choose that option, you’re not going to have much fun!

    Here are some better alternatives:

    1. have a good sing – I’ve written before that people come to choirs and workshops to sing and not to learn, so this is a great chance to have a good old sing of something that you know really well.
       
    2. finally nail the song – you may have learnt the song before, and think you know it well, but there’s always scope for being more accurate. You can listen closely as the other parts are being taught and sing your part along in your head to feel how the harmonies work. You can use the opportunity to double-check that you’ve really remembered your part accurately.
       
    3. learn a different part – if you’re very familiar with a song, you can always try one of the other parts and learn something new. When you go back to the part you usually sing later on, you will have a deeper understanding of how the harmonies work.
       
    4. it’s probably not the same version – even if it’s the same arrangement of the song you know, it will almost certainly be taught differently. More often it will be a slightly different arrangement. Use this as a challenge to really be in the moment and embrace the differences rather than slipping back into the habit of singing it the way you’ve always done. See Stop me if you’ve sung this before: learning different versions of songs you know already.
       
    5. step outside and listen – it’s not often that choir members stand outside and listen to their choir singing (see Singers should spend more time in the audience). Singers in large choirs are usually most aware of the singers around them and don’t get the full effect of all the harmonies working together. If you know a song really well then take the opportunity to sit out and listen to the song being put together and listen carefully to how all the harmonies work.
       

    I hope these ideas help you to get the most out of a singing workshop if you’re being taught a song you already know. Do let me know if you’ve had this experience and how you’ve dealt with it.

     

     

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    Chris Rowbury

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