So you want to join the choir? Know what? The Bible verse which says,”…many are called, but few are chosen” certainly applies to this ministry. Through the years people have come and gone; joined but eventually left. I have been thinking they have realized it is not fun nor cool at all, but later I realized that maybe, this ministry is not really for them. And just as I thought, many of them are in fact, serving fruitfully in other church ministries.
Conversely, a handful have thought otherwise; they stayed. Before you hop in, consider the following things and see if you are one most likely to enjoy and linger through the years. And yes, spare the man who sweat it out to bring the group to greater heights. Relieve him from the heartaches and disappointment of having to make do with the listlessness and halfhearted participation of anyone looking out for all the wrong things in the choir ministry.
1. First of all, before joining the choir, do some self-appraisal. Are you genuinely interested to be a full-time choral singer? Can you allot that particular time every week for the rehearsals? I mean, what if the regular rehearsal fall on a Saturday afternoon where many off-choir events occur simultaneously. Are you willing to let go of your regular gimmicks with friends or family, or at least shorten or reschedule it to make it to the practices regularly? Note: many parties occur on Saturdays. If you cannot answer these affirmatively, then reconsider. Don’t give your choir director tough time and expect him to be patient with your tardiness and absences. Join only if you have considered these things. ‘Gotta have time’. Good news is, we have a Choir Weekend Off; every third weekend that is, where we can go out with our family or friends. So we are not social outcasts after all.
2. Can you really sing? Surprisingly, there’s one too many “tone-deaf” choral singers. Personally, I am not closing the door to these persons, (I still believe in miracles) but they have to realize that they have to have a lot more dedication than the average singer if they so desire to be part of any chorale ever. If he has, like some, not much time for the choir, then it is better for him not to join and spare the man less crosses to bear. The hard fact is, singing in the choir is not for everybody. Ask a brutally frank friend if you have what it takes. Then request the director to give you a subjective analysis via an audition. I am more lenient than others in admitting people in. But they undergo a month of training before singing with the group. And all my singers pass through a screening process before every concert performance. Yes, at times, some peeps are not allowed to join the performance.
3. Make singing your lifestyle. Do not confine your singing in the choir room. Sing through the week. And please choose music conducive to your choral career. Bring home the music pieces and do self-study. If you’re bringing home some pieces, by all means be sure you study it so there will be less-stressful rehearsals later. Continue correcting your faulty singing habits. Review terms you vaguely understood, e.g., Vertical Vowels, Diaphragmatic Singing, Chest Voice, Head Voice, Nonsense Syllables and the like. Develop your musical vocabulary. Ask about things you vaguely understand. You will notice that the more you dwell on these things, the clearer they are driven home.
4. Come to rehearsal ready to practice. Several people come to practice to socialize; with a mindset of “hanging out” with friends. It’s a No-no! After the opening prayer, drop any conversation and give the leader your undivided attention. Remember, the last time everyone did that, the rehearsal went smoothly and wrapped up quickly. And everyone was happy. Then, you socialize.
5. Be ready to submit yourself to your mentor. No student is above his teacher. Otherwise, you can organize a group of your own and be the teacher 🙂 The Choir director surely burned enough of his eye brows to learn his craft. And he surely have developed his own formula for delivering a good performance. Every choir director has got unique approach to his choir. And should you think you have more brilliant wisdom concerning certain “choir” matters (this happens), deal with it later out of respect for his leadership. You are certainly not in there to undermine his capabilities in front of his other students. Share it with him (or correct him, if you must) one-on-one. He might appreciate you for doing so.
6. Show him you are accumulating his singing techniques. Before attempting to sing, consider his past lectures pertaining to vocal production and techniques. Make him feel that you are truly learning his methods. Do not start the singing like you forgot all the ‘singing doctrines’ in his many ‘homilies’. Pause for a while and as you breathe in, review those routines in your mind. This is how you show him you appreciate his efforts. Show him he is not wasting his time on you.
7. He is your coach, and you are his player. The choir is a team. He calls the shots and you synch with him, and so does everybody else, and hit your goals together. Everyone is, in a way “subservient” to his “whims” as he beats through the song. He hastens, you run, he slows down, you float with him. You dance with the music, his . Afterwards, you may slap his shoulder if you must, for all the hard things he asked you to do.
The most emulated Filipino Choir, The Philippine Madrigal Singers, a.k.a. The Madz. You haven’t heard the best if you haven’t experienced them. My dream chorale. World-class par excellence.
When you sing, DROP THE JAW! This is one “good habit” worth acquiring. (Unlearn faulty habits, kids.) Let your jaw unhinge quietly as you open the mouth. The action is similar to yawning.
Some people may sing the right notes but do not always possess the beauty of the full, ringing tone in the voice because they have not developed the VERTICAL sound. Yes, many singers today fall short. Sadly, even the fans have accepted the mediocrity of their “idols” and emulate these poor role models.
Many people have said Josh Groban has an angelic voice. This is very true. If you will listen as he sings the likes of “You’re Still You” and “Always” you will momentarily fall into a state of trance, to say the least especially if it is your first time to listen to him. Why is that? He captivates your ears with that pure, clean, and ringing voice so beautiful your eyes start to moisten. Look at the way he opens his mouth. That’s the way to do it. Let us take a moment to talk about it.
When we yawn, our mouths naturally open downward. This is our body’s natural (instinctive) way of opening wide our oral cavity to facilitate a wide room and passageway for the large amount of air we take in and eventually breathe out. Now, let’s learn from it. If we are to produce good sound, we must open our mouth vertically. It also provides an arch at the roof of our mouth which serve as a natural sounding board. Take a look at these images.
If I may say so (without hearing any one of their voices), these people are singing properly; at least in this one area of singing. I extensively coach my singers to sing this way. The resultant sound is a whole lot better than when singers sing otherwise-i.e., horizontally. The voice is fuller, richer, and robust.
The reason I brought this topic is I observe many chorale directors forsaking this very important element in singing. Surely, we are already so familiar with the use of the diaphragm, the correct posture, the enunciation of the lyrics, et. al, thus I prioritized the “vertical sound” here given that it is always neglected by the very people who should have known. But of course, time will be given for those other equally important facets of singing.
Suffice it to say that we produce better tone when we sing vertically. Conversely, singing horizontally will tighten the throat and facial muscles which could result in a strained and less full voice. Or worse, this faulty singing habit could lead to vocal problems and even to serious medical conditions. This is how a singer looks like singing horizontally. It is straining to the vocal chords.
Many singers develop nodules due to the punishment they unconsciously inflict their vocal chords. So, be warned.
Practice Makes Permanent
I remember a voice coach repeatedly remind singers and say PMP. Make it a habit to sing vertically until it becomes second nature. Even in public speaking, it is being taught, if one wants to project a commanding voice and presence. As a matter of fact, we started out speaking this way. Did you guys notice the babies/kids on the singing images? Do you think somebody taught them to sing that way? It is in fact, innate in them. As people grow, they imbibe and absorb the faulty speaking and singing styles so prevalent in today’s music industry. These need to be unlearned if one aspires to sing correctly.
So, there. My initial tips on good singing. “Vertical vowels” and “Practice Makes Permanent”.