What Can We Do With A Group Of Singers Online? - part 1
Updated: Apr 21, 2020
Regardless of many apps and programs promising otherwise, singing simultaneously in a way that makes musically sense (or: has any rhythmic structure) is not yet possible by the technology accessible to the lay-man. However, there are ways to go around this.
The one exception to the claim above that I have come across is the low latency av streaming system that is being developed in Italy. It requires specific soft- and hardware of high capacity (more of this on their webpage), which are out of reach for the ordinary music teacher and student alike. In other words, this is more of an fascinating future possibility and something that your local music university or venue could explore on a longer time span, rather than an option to solve your every-day-livelihood-problem at hand.
So how do my groups sing and rehearse online?
Firstly, by having everyone muted except for the facilitator, who provides a reference/guideline to the singers by:
playing the piano and/or singing and/or conducting (this is also how I do our “traditional warmups”, where I direct & play the piano)
sharing an audio track (rehearsal track / recording / whatnot); while sharing an audio track, you could also share a pdf file with the sheet music, scrolling along the music
sharing an audio track with visual ques (I don’t have my notation software on the computer I do video meeting calls with, so I’ve used score exports that combine the visuals of the sheet music with the midi audio to enable this)
Check out this tutorial for an introduction to the sharing functions described above. Below, you see two examples of material shared.
Advanced tip: I’ve used the Amazing Slow Downer to create real-time audio loops (as well as adjusting different rehearsal tempi), that I then share by the share computer audio -feature. Great for rehearsing difficult passages, and repeating a passage in a musical flow (ie. preparing for the session by taking a few minutes to refine the planned loops) gives the slower-paced learners an opportunity to miss the first couple of repeats and still have time to chime in when they’re ready
Benefits and challenges
Benefits: The singers can hear themselves clearly when they sing on their own, and they get an excellent opportunity to see where they are on track, and where they've been relying on someone else to do the heavy lifting. Responsibility of learning & self-awareness increases, as your communication is relying on the singers being able to ask questions and share, what part was most difficult (or most pleasant / well-rehearsed). Sharing sheet music synced with audio (as depicted above on the right) has been eye-opening for some of the singers with less experience in sight-reading.
Challenges: The facilitator doesn’t hear the participants voices in real time, and operating with no instant feedback takes some getting use to. For the participants, singing on their own can feel lonely. When sharing visuals and audio, the visuals can be grainy / laggy, and not synch up with the audio. Having the whole choir in the same space, going through details of different parts and encouraging people to ask about details can be challenging and even more time-consuming than face-to-face.
Tips to improve the experience
Some singers might find singing with headphones more pleasant by (partially) removing one of the headphones from their ears. That way they’ll hear themselves also acoustically.
Having all the participants visible in gallery view strengthens the impression of doing this together. Teach the group where to find the option! While sharing audio tracks, don’t share the interface of the audio player if it doesn’t add something essential to the experience of the participants.
When sharing visuals and video especially, guide your singers to pt their video off for the time being. That’ll free up space for the video to run smoother.
In the next post, I will present ideas regarding how to give feedback on the singing in real time and how I've utilized dividing the group into smaller groups for parts of the time.