Let's talk about tackling a new tune. It sounds fairly obvious, but you'd be surprised how easy it is to over-complicate the process!
Often I work as a clinician for national choir workshops and festivals. Groups are given limited time to learn a new piece in my clinics. Over the years I have found that a song is more easily learned by dissecting it.
How to dissect a new song
Introducing a new tune to your group is always exciting and at the same time filled with trepidation. Here are a couple of basic techniques that may help make the task less daunting:
- Play a recording: Firstly, If there is a recording of the piece, play it for your students. A recording will give them a clear idea of where they are going. (For this reason, all songs available in the ChoirMix online store feature MP3 recordings!)
- Point out repeated sections: Secondly, I always point out any repeated sections or sections that are similar in notation or rhythms. This makes the new piece less imposing and easier to understand.
- Work on transitions: It is helpful to work one section at a time and then rehearse the “transitions” between sections. This is important for developing the continuity within the piece.
- Focus on the beginning and ending notes: Always pay a great deal of attention to the beginning note and the ending note. This seems way too simplistic but, what is more important than the beginning and the ending? Incidentally, the notes that lie in between are far less noticeable.
- Work in sections first and entirety second: During the early rehearsals, it’s more important to spend time going over sections and transitions than it is to sing through the entire piece from beginning to end. After the entire piece is learned, then the importance of the beginning to end rehearsal comes into play.
- Control the energy needed for the piece: If it’s a very demanding or long piece, then energy and endurance will need attention. If it’s a shorter or less demanding piece then the challenge will be attention and focus.
Remember to enjoy the process as much as the end product!Think back to when you first started to sight-read or when you began your career as a musician. Having a good time will get them through the frustrating bits and make the journey more fun!