Magic Choral Trick #20 Taking a Breath With the Choir

This one is for the directors – and I realize is often considered so basic that nobody mentions it. So new directors, and directors who have always been mainly instrumentalists – this is a tip for you.

I have often seen choral conductors giving a very clear beat – after having told the choir exactly when to come in. Then the choir doesn’t, and everyone wonders why.

The easiest fix for this is for the director to breathe exactly when, and at the tempo that he or she wants the choir to take the breath.

There’s vowel bonus here too. If the choir gets used to watching your mouth – they’ll also know to look for what target vowel you are using for the in breath.

I’ve been experimenting recently with using my hands very sparingly – because generally everyone’s eyes are already glued to my face (especially in the Barbershop choruses where all songs are memorized.) Sometimes I use my hands to remind the singers to extend a phrase, to clarify the target vowel or to show a precise cut off. Once in a while I give them the beat, but most of the time – after rehearsing the tempo I want – I show them the body language and the facial expressions. Seems to be working pretty well!


About janetkidd

I've been waving my arms in front of choirs now for more than 35 years - and these are descriptions of all the very best things I've learned. I direct a Women's Competitive Barbershop Chorus, a Men's Competitive Barbershop Chorus, a Med School choir, and for a few weeks each year - Big Choir (about 100 voices) - which performs at an annual fundraising concert. Hope at least some of these Choral Magic Tricks will be useful to you - and thanks for reading. Janet

Posted on December 7, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Similarly, I’ve known some non-wind jazz instrumentalists to teach themselves how to phrase more organically by only permitting themselves to play each phrase over the duration of their own exhalation.

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