Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Easy choir songs: How to choose them and when to use them

 As a choir director, you want to have lots of different types of songs in your teaching repertoire. The more songs you know, the more you will be able to choose just the right one for a particular choir or a particular event.

One category of songs that you need to have at the ready are easy pieces, because there will definitely be times when you need to be able to present an easy song in a rehearsal.

There are two types of easy songs that are good for different situations.
  • Some songs are easy in the sense that they are good for singers who have limited skills. If you are working with a choir of young people or inexperienced singers, you want songs with the following characteristics:
    • Lots of unison. It takes time for people to develop their skills in harmony singing, so look for songs that are mostly in unison. And sometimes songs that are usually done in parts will still sound good in unison if they have a good melody and strong lyrics.
    • An easy melody that doesn't have a lot of jumps or high notes.
    • Simple rhythms. Nothing super fast and nothing with tricky syncopation.
    Now, for this type of easy song it's OK if the song has a lot of words. If you start teaching the song far enough in advance, your choir will be able to get plenty of practice and learn the words. In fact, having a lot of interesting and inspiring lyrics is a good way that a choir can bring a powerful presentation even if they are not ready for a lot of fancy harmonies.
    Teaching the right kind of easy music to a beginning choir can help build their confidence and provide them with positive singing experiences that will encourage them to continue on in choir ministry.
    Also, if you're working with a choir that is new to you and you're not sure what their skill level is, you can start of with an easy song or two and then you can see if they are ready for more complex material.
  • Other songs are easy in the sense that they can be memorized quickly. You may be working with an experienced and talented choir, but you have limited rehearsal time (this often happens with mass choirs at conferences and workshops). Or if you're selecting new music for a concert and you have chosen some songs that will be very challenging for your choir, you will also want to choose some easy songs to bring balance and not overwhelm the choir. The kind of songs that will be quick to learn are songs like these:
    • A “catchy” melody. You know how some popular music gets stuck in your head after you hear it just a little bit of it? That's the kind of tune to teach to a choir if you want them to learn a song in just one rehearsal. Usually, a catchy tune will have short musical phrases that get repeated a lot. Those are the easiest kind of tunes to remember.
    • Call-and-response songs. These are songs where the lead singer sings a line and then the choir either repeats the same line or sings something that answers back to whatever the leader said. With call-and-response songs, as long as the leader remembers what to do next, everybody else can just follow along.
    • Songs with few words. There are some beautiful choir songs where the choir only has to sing five or six words. The rest of the message of the song is covered by the lead verses.
    • Songs with words that are familiar to everyone. If the lyrics to the song are taken from an old hymn or a well-known passage of scripture, the choir members will already have the words memorized.
    Another way that these “quick to memorize” songs can be useful is when you want to encourage the congregation/audience to participate. After a hearing a couple of repetitions, everyone in the room will be able to sing along.
    For examples of songs that are quick to learn, check out this web page: Best one-rehearsal songs for gospel choir.
    Music doesn't always have to be complicated to be good.  Simple but beautiful music can be an important part of your choir's repertoire.

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