Magic Choral Trick #231 Choreography – Pitfalls of Rehearsing While Speaking the Words

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, singing and speaking seem to access different parts of the brain. When we sing we forget about the natural flow of speech sounds, and when we speak, we don’t luxuriate in the vowels for maximum emotional effect (which I grant, might come across as a bit weird.)

When we speak lyrics in rhythm, it’s as if both the singing and speaking parts of the brain just shut down. No thoughts of any kind seem to happen. No artistry.

Which might be a good thing if what you really need to be thinking about is the choreography and need a clean mental slate.

But here’s the main pitfall. Most of the people in choruses are singers first and dancers second (or seventh.)

Picture this – you’ve rehearsed a phrase 20 times to get the tuning, balance, blend and synchronization just right, and now you’re ready to add the next layer – the choreography.

If you speak the lyrics while rehearsing the choreography, all those singers’ brains will go into choreography mode, and forget about things like vowel and diphthong synchronization. While it’s true that they’re freed from having to think about balance, tuning and blend – which is why we do the speaking thing – the net result may not be what we want.

We’ve rehearsed the singing of the phrase 20 times.

Most singers will need at least 40 times through the choreography in order to feel comfortable with it.

If we’ve been speaking the text in rhythm, we have rehearsed the vowel and diphthong synchronization wrong twice as many times as we’ve done it correctly – and now we have deeply ingrained bad habits to fix.

My women’s chorus has tried rehearsing choreography while just mouthing the words, but I’ve watched this, and still seen mouths closing early – so that the unwanted verbal association with the body movements is still getting strengthened.

I think the best way around all of this is to:

Record the chorus singing the song as cleanly as possible.

Learn the choreography with this recording – without singing along – until all the movements become locked into body memory.

Then put singing and choreography together.

I know that there are some proponents of learning the whole thing all at once, but in order for this to work the group needs to have deeply ingrained, excellent singing habits already in place. This is rare.

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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 February 19, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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