Thursday, May 2, 2013

Learning how to hear choir parts

This is a question that I get asked from time to time -- "How can I learn to pick out the soprano, alto, and tenor parts to choir songs?"

It takes practice, practice, and practice.  And then practice.  The more time you spend at it the more clear it becomes.

People who have been singing harmonies in choirs for a long time start to develop an understanding of how the harmonies work.  Some altos and tenors can get a feeling for what their part will be as soon as they hear a song.  But that is after lots of time spent singing lots of other songs.

I would suggest that people try listening to recordings repeatedly and trying to sing along with the different parts -- sing the soprano part, then the alto, then the tenor.  You may need to listen to one song over and over and over until you can differentiate and sing all the parts.  Doing this with several songs will help you get better at hearing the parts in other songs as well.

Remember that when the different vocal parts sing together, they are making a chord.  If you're a musician, or if you're friends with a musician, you can look at the chord structure of the song and get some idea of what each of the vocal parts should be doing.  The chords that the voices are making may not always be exactly the same as the chords the instruments are playing, but it's a good start.

If you're really serious about learning this skill, something else that could help a lot is going to rehearsals where a director is teaching who knows choir parts really well.  Listen to them teach lots of songs and sing along with each part when they're teaching each one.  The more you do it, the more you'll develop an instinct for hearing the harmonies in other songs.

Does anyone else have suggestions?  How did you learn how to pick out choir parts?

1 comment:

  1. Usually the melody goes to the Sopranos - this is the part that most people hear first, and are most likely to sing. If someone can play chords, the Alto part is usually the next "level" under that, and the Tenor the next down.

    For instance, in a Bb chord with the Bb for melody, that would be -

    Sop - Bb
    Alto - F
    Tenor - D