Music – the Online Way

Have you ever wondered what happens with a choir who function online? Well, one thing that doesn’t happen is group singing. I know, you are probably shocked but all of those lovely virtual choir videos from the Pitch Perfect crew, Gareth Malone, Eric Whiteacre, Couch Choir and many other virtual choirs that have released performances in 2020… they don’t actually record… or even rehearse these together. I KNOW! I was shocked too. But we’ll talk about that one more later. 

Here!  Have some science!

Singing via the internet causes an audio lag – by the time your voice reaches that of the other singers, there is a good half a second delay… to which they will sing along to… and you hear the result of that half a second later. The result? Musical chaos! Everywhere. We know, we tried it out. 

It was rather amusing though, worth the 5 minute cacophony though definitely won’t be trying that one again. 

How to Rehearse in a Group Without Being in a Group

In reality, most virtual choirs are faced with individuals at home with the mute button on, rehearsing in a room (sound proofing/or not depending on how happy your neighbours are with your singing practice) alone with a backing track and a supportive Musical Director. Some choirs don’t rehearse together in a live session, rather there are pre recorded tracks provided to work from. One Canadian choir is using FM to transmit voices live as a fun form of innovation!

Luminous Voices, Photograph by Kenton Smith

This means normal interactions pre-pandemic have fundamentally changed – at best, you might have an MD on a virtual call watching you silently sing, or have no two way communication at all. 

At Take Note we host live rehearsals weekly, with our MD at the helm. But this is a Musical Director that can’t hear what you are doing, doesn’t know whether you are singing in tune, or even singing the right words, if you are pitching at the right level or with the right level of musicality needed – although he does his level best to glean what he can from video calling.

Body Language

A Musical Director can only pick up on some of your body cues (when they are present during your rehearsal) – in the main, from the head and shoulders. If someone is struggling, MDs will often rely on the person to speak up, as some of the signs that may be spotted in a live rehearsal have been lost over the digital airwaves. It means we have to work harder at our communication with each other. 

It’s not all bad though. Take Note has always had a portfolio of digital tools to support rehearsals at home (or in the car) that allow members to access warm up and rehearsal tracks with an offline suggested rehearsal plan to help keep focus. We host live rehearsals on a weekly basis where we can interact with other members of the choir, as well as raise anything we are struggling with to our MD through a variety of digital channels open to us. 

Zoom Fatigue

Zoom also comes with additional challenges in rehearsing – many of us are now spending long periods of time in front of screens that mean that come a choir rehearsal in the evening, we’ve already hit zoom fatigue. It’s a real thing – tiredness, worry or burnout through the use of virtual platforms of communication. Despite all the mental health benefits group singing offers, we all need a break sometimes. 

Zoom (other video calling platforms are available!)

Take Note recognises this challenge; and we have tried to make our rehearsals as flexible as possible. While we’d love our members to come along each week; it allows us to check in with each other, make sure we are all ok, and gives structure to endless days at home…. We’re not going to force you if you are tired and need to have downtime

Continual Improvement

We have also reduced our rehearsal time – our normal 2 hourly rehearsal session has been trimmed back to around an hour – anything longer we have found simply exacerbates zoom fatigue. Rehearsals are interspersed with social events and piano bar style singalongs to provide some light relief. There is an online diary so if choir members need a break, they will know what has been missed and can catch up ahead of the next rehearsal as they wish. We also have messaging groups where top tips for relaxation are shared.

Lastly – those virtual tools we mentioned earlier? They will be there tomorrow if you can’t attend the live rehearsal today. We’ll see you next week instead.