We tend not to spend much time learning notes in rehearsals, and move quickly on to singing technique, dynamics and interpretation. However, ‘note bashing’ at home, either using a piano or a rehearsal track, makes for rapid progress and ensures that all members of the chorus can sing with confidence and begin to address the more technical aspects of singing to the very high standard we expect.
- Get to know the score. Are there solo parts, does a particular voice part stop at any point, does the music divide at any point? Go through and make sure you know exactly which line you should be on, and mark where it isn’t clear.
- Clearly mark repeats and where they go back to a previous page; use a tab to easily find it.
- Have a look at where your note comes from for a new entry and join it to yours.
- Put tabs in for different sections of the piece to make them easier to find.
- Use paper clips to close off any sections that are going to be missed out.
- Always bring a pencil. It is important to mark your score during a rehearsal, and especially to record all the points provided by the Music Director.
- Mark all breaths.
- For staggered breathing take a whole beat out to take a proper breath. Mark where you are going to take it so you do it in the same place each time. This will help with learning.
- Make a note of any section that needs a little more work. Don’t rely on your memory.
- Focus on the sections that you find difficult. Don’t try and get through it all every time, focus on small chunks and learn them well.
- Use rehearsal tracks (see below), a piano, or even your old descant recorder for the sections that need extra work.
- Read through the text in rhythm, especially for fast sections and when singing in a foreign language. This is just as important as learning the notes.
- It is very important to listen to a recording of the work; it will give you a good idea of the piece as a whole. You can use your score to help you sing along, or just listen to it as frequently as you can. You will find recordings of most classical works on YouTube or try the music streaming service Spotify.
Rehearsal tracks are designed to help you learn your voice part by listening to it in isolation and/or with the other voice parts in the background. Some are based on recorded singers and therefore include the words, while others feature the voice parts played on an instrument, so of course there are no words.
- You can purchase rehearsal tracks from Choraline, at choraline.com. These are great if you prefer to hear a recording of your voice part but they aren’t free. It costs £8.99 for a download, or £12.99 for a CD. The Chorus has a discount that you can take advantage of once you become a member.
- For just notes (no words) you could try:
- Choralia, for listening to, or downloading, mp3 files of your voice part; http://www.choralia.net/mp3catalogue.htm.
- John Fletcher’s site, which uses a clarinet to emphasis the voice part you select. Registration is free for works that are out of copyright; https://johnfletchermusic.org.
- Cyberbass, which has a huge catalogue and is free to use online; http://www.cyberbass.com.
- Learn Choral Music, which provides free Midi files; http://www.learnchoralmusic.co.uk.