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4 Tips for Singing with Others

May 6, 2024


Whether you’re in choir or singing harmony in a band, here are 4 tips for singing with others. 


1. Listen louder than you sing, in general

I heard this instruction over and over in my college choirs. It doesn’t mean “be quiet” - not at all! It means: listen at all times. Sing as a member of the group, not as a soloist. There are certainly times when your choir director will tell you to all let loose, or to all be leaders and sing with soloistic expression and volume. But group singing requires a sensitivity that solo singing does not. Some might say it requires humility, because you put your wants and needs below that of the group. What are you supposed to listen for? Listen for the group’s dynamic or volume, their cutoffs, their vibrato usage, their vowels, their tone quality, their level of breathiness, their balance. Follow your music director’s instructions, because there may be times they want everyone to sing out, and you have a shy section but need to lead and sing out anyways. It’s all a balance, but the overall theme is: keep your ears open.


2. Be mindful of your vibrato usage

There are some styles where all vibrato is welcome all the time. But in general, group singing requires some reservation with your vibrato. That’s because vibrato is an oscillation in pitch [demonstrate], as opposed to “straight tone”, where there’s very little pitch variation [demonstrate]. Different singers have differing rates of vibrato, meaning some are faster or slower, and different widths of vibrato, meaning some are close to that central pitch and some are going further up and down. For that reason, when you have two or more singers with different vibrato styles, it can easily start to sound out of tune. The general advice is to reserve your vibrato for long sustains, toward the end of the note. So instead of singing [constant vibrato], you might sing [minimal vibrato]. Of course, defer to your music director or band leader. And if you’re the one making those kinds of decisions, trust your ears! Practice sections a capella and decide what sounds good to you. If vibrato isn’t causing tuning issues, let it ring!


3. Use your eyes (not just your ears)

If you’re in a choir, this means you’ve got to look up from your music often. Your choir director is giving you so many visual cues that you don’t want to miss. If you’re in a more casual setting - something like an a capella group or a band, then you can communicate more with your fellow singers. Timing, breaths, emphasis, cutoffs - all of this can be improved and unified when you’re looking at each other. I know it might feel a little weird at first if you’re not used to it, but give it a try! You might also denote one singer as the “leader” so there aren’t too many cooks in the kitchen. 


4. Understand your role in the music 

This goes back to the concept of sensitivity and humility. Beyond just listening to the group and trying to create a cohesive sound together, we also want to understand how our vocal part fits into the music. Are you singing lead? Harmony? How does your part interact with the others? Are there lines or sections that should be brought out? Should your part be minimized to let another part shine? Within a choral piece, this is likely to ebb and flow, and you can rely on your director or conductor to help guide you. 

Thank you so much for watching this video, and I hope these tips help you have even more fun singing with others. 

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