Singing in the Choir versus Going Solo - dummies

Singing in the Choir versus Going Solo

By Pamelia S. Phillips

Depending on how you want to explore your own singing voice, singing with a choir may or may not be for you. The choral singer has different needs, so before you join a choir, you may want to explore the differences between training with a choir and going solo:

  • You may frequently be asked to sing without vibrato when singing with a choir; going solo, you often sing with vibrato. If you can make the change in the sound without pressure, singing without vibrato need not a problem. The sound without vibrato can be free and loose and supported.

  • You need to find a part that works for your voice and for the choir director; going solo, you can sing songs within your range. The notes may stay pretty high or low when you sing certain parts in the choir.

    If you’re a low female voice, you may even be asked to sing with the tenors. You can agree to sing tenor once in a while, but the part was designed for the male voice, not the female voice.

    Good musicians who sight read well may also be asked to sing a particular part to help the choir even though it may not be appropriate for their voice. If you feel tired after singing, you may want to ask whether you can switch to a different part or ask the director for advice on how to prevent fatigue.

  • You may be asked to sing quite loudly in the choir if few people are on your part. Use this opportunity to rely on your knowledge of resonance so that you don’t push too hard.

    If you find yourself tired after singing loudly, you need to take it easy for a while during the rehearsal so you can rest up a bit, or talk with the choir director about how your voice feels after rehearsal. Singing alone means that you can work at any volume, without worrying about having to lead others with your voice.

  • You may be asked to stand for long periods of time when singing in a choir; while rehearsing by yourself, you can rest whenever you need to and give your legs a break. Having to stand for a rehearsal can provide a good opportunity to practice standing with your weight evenly distributed on both legs. If you find this tiring, explore your options with the director.

  • You need to be aware of your facial expressions when moving back and forth from choir to soloist. Sometimes choir directors tell you to raise your eyebrows or smile to keep the pitch steady. You can do this as long as you know that, when you sing alone, you need to put your eyebrows back down.

    You can keep the pitch steady by keeping your breath consistent and by making sure that your vowels are precise. Keeping your breath moving at a steady rate and singing precise vowel sounds is easier than trying to move each pitch up or down. The smile can also be deadly to a soloist: Smiles don’t work for sad songs when you’re a soloist.

    The smile also can cause tension inside your mouth when you try to open the back space (the space in the back of your mouth and throat). Find enjoyment in singing from the joy inside your body, and let it reflect on your face without the tension of a frozen smile.