Tempo problems are not tough to fix if you can figure out exactly which issues are plaguing your chorus.
Rushing happens mostly in uptempo songs for a few basic reasons:
Excitement – a song with a previously rock steady tempo can just up and gallop away from you on the contest stage. Once the race for the barn has really taken hold, the only thing you can do is watch in amazement and dismay.
Being unaware of exactly when each phrase should end
Forgetting about target vowels and diphthong resolution (because it’s hard to think that fast)
Being unaccustomed to thinking of subdividing a beat – so the eighth notes rush
Here’s what has helped my groups:
1. Have everyone do their homework – singing through the song at the tempo that has been decided – along with a metronome. You don’t have to buy a pricey one. Some phones can now get a metronome app, and there’s always the free http://www.metronomeonline.com
2. Make sure everyone in the chorus knows exactly how many beats the last notes in each phrase should last – especially in the spots where the song’s tempo like to race. Then directors – have a specific signal for reminding the singers to focus carefully on the number of beats. (I use a counting fingers signal – right in front of my chest, so the audience can’t see it. Also, I find that actually beating time all the way through an uptempo tune deadens a group’s awareness. They stop really seeing me – which makes it difficult to haul them back from the brink if things start to get a little nuts.)
3. The work on Target Vowels and Diphthong Resolution never ever stops.
Keeping my singers’ awareness focused on these two related things has made more of a difference to every facet of choral singing than anything else in my now almost 40 (Aaarrgghh) years as a choral director.
Because these concepts are so important it’s a great idea to incorporate Target Vowel and Diphthong Resolution exercises into the warm up as a way of entrenching the Target Vowel habit.
If singers are chewing off the ends of each word instead of keeping the target vowel open and ringing for as long as possible, the song will rush. Synchronization will be affected, and the chords won’t ring.
4. It’s also useful to incorporate a beat subdividing exercise into every warm up – especially alternating between quarter notes and eighth notes. If you use some sort of physical movement in time to the beat, it helps to lock these rhythm patterns into the body – which frees up the mind to think of things like dynamics, emotion, target vowels, synchronized diphthongs, choreography, tuning, vocal placement, whose fifth you need to be locking in to, laser eyes on the director……….