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Author Topic: Great tips on how to effectively direct a choir/choir rehearsal  (Read 40484 times)

Offline vtguy84

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In the years of being on this board, I have written some tips on how to be an effective choir director, from teaching how to direct, to effectively running a rehearsal.  I'm making this thread and making it a sticky for any choir director looking for tips.

Any comments or suggestions are welcomed!
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Offline vtguy84

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The Art of Choir Directing
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2011, 11:31:53 AM »
Choir directing is no different than playing an instrument.  You will not be a Ricky Dillard or a Hezekiah Walker overnight.  It takes practice, work, and experience.  The reason I say that is because I have seen many beginning directors try to do the Ricky Dillard moves and literally fall flat on their face.  Start off simple. 

Here are some notes:
  • While directing, make sure that you are fully knowledgeable of the song.  You are the one in control of the song and must make sure that you have a lock on the song in order to lead the Levites. 
  • Your hands need to tell the story.  The way you direct is vitally important.  If the song is supposed to be quiet, your hands should show it (directing very small) and if loud, hands should be outstretched.
  • Timing is key.  You must have excellent communication with your band and choir.  Hand movements have to be done for everyone to see.  You have to learn to do a move in time for the choir and band to make adjustments, however not too early where the gun is jumped.

Now with actual directing moves, here are a list of moves that I use.  Use these as suggestions….you may find a better move.
  • To repeat a move/phrase – Both hands moving in a circular motion
  • To move to another phrase – Hitchhiker sign going towards your back
  • To go back to the top - Tap top of head
  • To modulate keys – Thumbs up sign towards the band
  • To invert choir parts – Point up to the ceiling1 (You should have a different sign for modulations and inversions)
  • To break the music – Cross hands to make an X towards the band
  • To end the song – The number one waved in a circle followed by a hand up to signify the end2

This is a video of me directing at our 10 year anniversary concert: 
EGC Fall Concert 2005--Shekinah Glory Intro


1 – shown at 6:24
2 – shown at 6:39 

Remember the movements that I have stated are just suggestions.  You need to learn what works for you.  If you do a YouTube search, you will see several choirs and directors.  If you like a move, use it.  If you don’t, don’t.

Here is another clip of my friend Markise Hicks directing ‘The Blood’ by James Hall.  This video is pretty stationary, so you can see more hand movements: 
Angelic Voices cover James Hall's "The Blood"


Each song will use different moves.  Like I said, start simple.  It takes practice along with devotion. 
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Offline vtguy84

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How to Better Your Choir
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2011, 11:37:36 AM »
Let me start off by saying this: I think a lot of people are missing the fact that it takes way more than just prayer and anointing for something to work out.

If prayer and anointing did it, we would all not need to work 40-50 hours a week because we would have way more than enough to supply our needs.  Same with the choir.  It takes more than just the anointing.  Let me do a quick lesson.

From the spiritual side, I think most choirs are hitting it very well: prayer and anointing.  Let's look at the natural side of where we are missing the mark: musicianship and showmanship.  Let's start off with a few definitions

musicianship n : artistry in performing music

showmanship n : the ability to present something  in an attractive manner

Let's start with musicianship:  It takes time away from a 1-2 hour rehearsal to get things prepared on both ends.  From musicians, it means having music ready BEFORE rehearsal time so that time isn't wasted figuring out notes.  From the singers view, it means grabbing a copy of the song and learning lyrics and trying to figure out your notes.  It also means enunciation, proper breathing, etc.

Now showmanship:  Christians act like this is a bad word to use in the church, however it is well needed to perform (or minister) effectively.  Musicianship is very important, but if I'm in the audience and you are singing well but you don't have the look on your face or the vivacious behavior over in the music corner, I'm going to have a hard time getting with you.  There have been many choirs that I've seen where they sing awesome according to musicianship but did not look like they wanted to be there.....other times, choirs who may have not mastered musicianship definitely had the showmanship, and people in the congregation are looking more for showmanship.

From a showman himself (choir director), I tell people plenty of times that I could direct that song a different way and the choir will probably sound the same, but it's something about my live character that causes excitement in the choir members, which ultimately makes the congregation get with the choir.  No I'm not being fake and trying to conjure up something, however if you know me, you know music is my passion....so I just put my all in directing.
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Offline vtguy84

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Running an effective rehearsal
« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2011, 11:43:44 AM »
Running an effective choir rehearsal

A choir rehearsal is extremely important to the choir’s function.  A rehearsal can make the choir better or ultimately weaken the choir.  Here are some things you may want to consider when it comes to rehearsal.

Before Rehearsal
A rehearsal is something not to be taken lightly.  When working with a choir, it is easy to lose focus if there is no control in the rehearsal.  There must be a clear cut plan of what will be executed in the rehearsal so things will run smoothly.  Here are some things you want to do before your scheduled choir rehearsal:

  • The choir director should meet with the head musician at least 24 hours before rehearsal to discuss the flow of rehearsal, including which songs will be rehearsed.
  • Lyrics should be emailed at least 24 hours before rehearsal or printed off and brought to rehearsal.
  • If possible, bring a copy of the songs to rehearsal.

At Rehearsal

This is where your preparation gets executed.  If you have prepared well, rehearsal should go very smoothly.  Be confident in your administration.  Here is how a typical practice should start:

  • Make sure all the leaders are ON TIME!  If possible, have a small leadership prayer before the choir gets there.  If you show up late, the choir will feel that it’s not required for them to show up on time.
  • START ON TIME!  Whether there are three people or 30, make sure that you get the ball rolling on time to show members that you will not wait for anyone.
  • Start with breathing exercises to get the members prepared for the rehearsal.

Make sure that you change the format of rehearsals weekly to make things different.  If people know that you are going to have a 10 minute Bible study at the beginning of each rehearsal, people won’t come on time because they feel like they won’t miss anything. 

Execute the plan that you have come up with in an orderly, but fun manner.  One thing you must remember is that being in the choir is extracurricular and if people don’t feel their time is being used effectively, they will not feel a need to come to rehearsal.  Make rehearsal important.

Executing the Plan

The plan that you come up with in rehearsal is important to a successful and productive rehearsal.  Here is a sample of a plan that I have used in my choir rehearsal:

Thursday’s Rehearsal (Seitz 313)
Set Up @ 5:30 p.m.
Prayer @ 6:00 p.m.
Word: ______________________

Warm-ups: ________________________________
Ice breaker: _______________________________
Song 1:  __________________________________
Song 2:  __________________________________
Water Break
Announcements/Upcoming Engagements
Song 3:  __________________________________

Closing Prayer



In this particular rehearsal…
  • We had the Word given at the beginning of rehearsal. 
  • We had an icebreaker because it was an interest meeting.  Try to limit these to 5 minutes to keep rehearsal fun, but not lose track of why we’re here.
  • Song #1 was ‘All Hail King Jesus (Sing the Praises to the King)’, a song that most people, even if it were their first rehearsal, are able to sing with ease.

With this plan, you have a clear idea of what songs will be done and how much time you should spend on each thing. 

A different way to run rehearsal

If you are looking for a different way to run rehearsal, here is something that I have done and works well.  This may or may not work based on the resources that your choir obtains:

As far as learning songs:

I have 1 section leader for each section.  The three are responsible for learning the songs ahead of time.  We get together two days before rehearsal and go over parts to make sure that parts are successful.  Once we have mastered this, we go to rehearsal.

At rehearsal when I introduce a song, I let the choir listen to the whole song in its entirety.  Afterwards, there are three separate rooms where the different section leaders take their section and work on their parts; each room has a CD and a boombox.  While this is going on, the musicians are in the main room fixing last minute stuff to make sure that the music flows effectively. This way all people are working at the same time. A normal song takes about 10-15 minutes to work on.  After that time, we come together and put it all together.


Summarized Points

Here are the points summarized:

  • Prepare for rehearsals in advanced, giving songs to the musicians and writing out a plan.
  • Show up to rehearsals on time and start rehearsals on time.
  • Make rehearsal fun.  When the choir feels a family atmosphere, they will feel more welcomed to showing up and being faithful.
  • Change the layout of rehearsals to keep people intrigued.

Hope this helps. :)

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Offline betnich

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Re: Great tips on how to effectively direct a choir/choir rehearsal
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2011, 06:50:28 PM »
Good posts! Hope this stays as a 'sticky'!

:)

Offline vtguy84

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Re: Great tips on how to effectively direct a choir/choir rehearsal
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2011, 12:22:36 PM »
Good posts! Hope this stays as a 'sticky'!

:)

Thanks! I plan to keep this up indefinitely. :)
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Japicaii

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Re: Great tips on how to effectively direct a choir/choir rehearsal
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2011, 02:36:15 PM »
Hey, Mr. vtguy84, I'm a director and I've been trying to find like someone to help me out, and make me better. I am good, but there is always room to advance in your knowledge of directing! I would really like if you had the time to post other things on choir directors, or you at a rehersal video, or even you showing me some things on a little short video. Id appreciate it. Need anything message me!

Offline vtguy84

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Re: Great tips on how to effectively direct a choir/choir rehearsal
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2011, 08:24:15 AM »
Hey, Mr. vtguy84, I'm a director and I've been trying to find like someone to help me out, and make me better. I am good, but there is always room to advance in your knowledge of directing! I would really like if you had the time to post other things on choir directors, or you at a rehersal video, or even you showing me some things on a little short video. Id appreciate it. Need anything message me!

I have been asked to do videos for over 10 years and the main reason I have not done it is simply because of time.  With new functions like Ustream that allow me to broadcast and then save as video, I may do a couple of live Ustreams of my choir rehearsals to just give you a gauge of how I run a rehearsal.  My choir rehearsals are only an hour and we get to the point.  (Warning: when I stream them, be prepared to laugh as I like to crack jokes)  Now I don't do much directing in my rehearsals, but I do a lot of teaching so hopefully that will help.
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Japicaii

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Re: Great tips on how to effectively direct a choir/choir rehearsal
« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2011, 07:15:54 PM »
I'm not the director to waste time either, we try to start promptly. I don't direct at all really at rehersals! Last week, we were all singing and doing the electric slide! And Yes, I'm a pretty funny guy myself!

Offline musallio

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Re: Great tips on how to effectively direct a choir/choir rehearsal
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2011, 04:36:20 PM »
vt,

Thanks a zillion for your very hot tips. I'm just learning about this art.
 Keep the hot tips coming sir.

ta
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Offline Lildrummaboy66

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Re: Great tips on how to effectively direct a choir/choir rehearsal
« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2011, 08:05:02 PM »
Excellent post bruh. Our choir director follows a very similar schedule! You get the most out of it in the least amount of time!!
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Offline vtguy84

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Re: Great tips on how to effectively direct a choir/choir rehearsal
« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2011, 10:31:27 AM »
vt,

Thanks a zillion for your very hot tips. I'm just learning about this art.
 Keep the hot tips coming sir.

ta
Excellent post bruh. Our choir director follows a very similar schedule! You get the most out of it in the least amount of time!!

Thanks guys!
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Offline PhillyMOM/Director

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Re: Great tips on how to effectively direct a choir/choir rehearsal
« Reply #12 on: May 31, 2011, 03:21:21 PM »
i have been directing for over a decade and im only 18 years of age..everything you said at the beginning of this post is accurate and IMPORTANT information that Choir Directors & Masters need to know...you have to be able to completely execute the song while directing and accommodating not only the choir but the band as well ..AWESOME JOB

Offline amstudiosproducer

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Re: Great tips on how to effectively direct a choir/choir rehearsal
« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2011, 09:42:21 AM »
As a Minister of Music,

                 This post has been very helpful and I will try some of these techniques in my choir rehearsal this week.


Thanks my fellow brother in christ
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newnew123

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Re: Great tips on how to effectively direct a choir/choir rehearsal
« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2011, 10:36:09 AM »
Hi My name is Larry Seals.. I have been choir directing for some years now, yet I have dull music experiences!! I am pretty good at putting voices together as equally as possible, and also splitting up 3 parts tenor, alto, saprano into parts if possible so..  My piano at my church plays the same noice in every song, and the meaning of the song just do not sound the same!! I know a little bit about my notes on a piano, but i want to get better so bad!!  I am happy where I am now, but i just want to get better at choir directing!! If you guys have any tips for me, please give it to me as effectively as possible! You do not how much your answers will make my day!! Another thing! Since I am young, people run over me so much because they are much older than me! how can i make a close perfect choir?? Is it okay to use one hand to direct a choir or both???

Offline betnich

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Re: Great tips on how to effectively direct a choir/choir rehearsal
« Reply #15 on: September 01, 2011, 10:39:37 AM »
Nice graphic, newnew!  Welcome to LGM!

:)

newnew123

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Re: Great tips on how to effectively direct a choir/choir rehearsal
« Reply #16 on: September 01, 2011, 11:01:19 AM »
thank you!!!

Offline phbrown

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Re: Running an effective rehearsal
« Reply #17 on: September 15, 2011, 04:25:08 AM »
Running an effective choir rehearsal



....   wow ....

blessinme

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Re: Great tips on how to effectively direct a choir/choir rehearsal
« Reply #18 on: September 15, 2011, 06:23:39 PM »
WONDERFUL POST !! I'M DEFINITELY GOING TO USE ALL OF THIS !! GOD BLESS YOU :) !!

Offline vtguy84

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Re: Great tips on how to effectively direct a choir/choir rehearsal
« Reply #19 on: September 15, 2011, 07:03:00 PM »
....   wow ....
What?
WONDERFUL POST !! I'M DEFINITELY GOING TO USE ALL OF THIS !! GOD BLESS YOU :) !!

God Bless You and Welcome to LGM!
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