With routine rehearsals on hold during the Covid-19 outbreak, we present some tried and tested ideas to make sure your members keep practising, being inspired and staying engaged with your group.
The speed and enthusiasm with which many of our member have moved their musical activity online is hugely impressive.
With uncertainty over when things might get back to ‘normal’ the next challenge for groups is to keep that initial momentum going with interesting and relevant online activity, and thinking about how to keep members engaged and practicing outside of rehearsal time.
This kind of remote activity can never replace the musical experience of an in person rehearsal, there are some opportunities to use this as a learning time to help people develop their skills and technique, whilst using repertoire that everyone enjoys.
This resource presents a list of ideas you could have a go at, all of which have been tried and suggested to us by our member groups. You can use the ideas to create longer term, more structured rehearsal schedules and of course you don’t have to try everything, it’s about finding what works for you group.
You could consider surveying your members to see which of these options they’d be up for trying – or ask them if they have some ideas of their own!
Implementing some of these ideas will involve time and effort and it is likely your music director will need to play a role. However, some things can be implemented by different people or by the MD with support of others, so try and share the workload round as much as possible. If your MD is putting in work, don’t forget to pay them appropriately.
If capacity will be an issue for your current committee, consider asking for help from the wider membership - there may be people with time of their hands and who have useful digital skills.
Remember that anyone in your group, including your MD, can register on our website and access all our resources. You just need to invite them via the ‘Manage my Group’ icon in your Dashboard.
The ideas below are generated by members for members. To contribute a new idea, add more detail or feedback on those listed please get in touch.
Music preparation and rehearsal
Tips for creating engaging online rehearsals, and how to help members prepare and practise for them.
- Consider keeping your rehearsals at the same time as usual, but making them shorter – rehearsing in an online environment can be more tiring than in the physical environment
- Use warm ups each week. Invite a guest or group member to lead the warm up, perhaps twin with another group and share personnel/expertise? Or use videos from other groups on YouTube. Leave microphones on during the warm ups as these can be very funny!
- Mix the familiar with the new – people will appreciate being familiar with the music if they are unfamiliar with the online environment, but don’t be afraid to introduce your members to something new.
- Think about how to provide music for your members to access. Using a free online database such as IMSLP or CDPL is a good way to get some free, non-copyright music. See our staying connected resource for more suggestions of where to source free or discounted music during the lockdown period
- If you are providing your own copies or scans of music, think about different options to make sure everyone can access these. Eg Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Microsoft SharePoint.
- Set a weekly challenge for the members to help them prepare for the next rehearsal. For example learn a section, learn the words by heart, get up to X speed (ABRSM’s Speedshifter app is useful for adjusting the speed of a piece without altering the pitch.)
- Invite the group to send questions about the music to the MD in advance – the MD can answer a selection of these as part of the rehearsal process
- Add actions to your performance – for singers, adding actions makes it more fun and gets everyone involved on screen
- If you have an appropriate instrument, one person could play through a particular section or part, perhaps at a slower tempo, for others to listen to in more detail
- If no instruments are available, plenty of backing tracks are available on YouTube, or you could play or sing along with a recorded performance – play with the Berlin Philharmonic!
- Divide the group into sections – use the breakout rooms feature to create smaller groups where people can discuss the technical intricacies of their particular part, or have different sections join the rehearsal at different times or on different days, before bringing everyone together in one big meeting
- Prepare some background information on the music being rehearsed – the MD or a member can give a short 5 minute presentation with some background info and interesting facts about the music or its creator
- Provide a session on developing technical skills such as bowing technique or breathing. You could invite a specialist to lead this session, or find an appropriate video on YouTube if there is no-one in your group with the relevant knowledge
- Experiment with improvising. Teach a simple song and then suggest ways people might want to improvise - e.g. putting in a drone, copying the overall pattern but a 3rd above, echoing in between phrases etc. It’s a really nice opportunity to explore being a bit more creative in a safe environment and comfort of your mute button. Afterwards you can ask if anyone found any interesting harmonies or different parts, and whether they want to share them with the group.
- Go through your back catalogue and run a “tidy up clinic”. You could split the group into parts, and use the opportunity to identify sections of music that tend to be a bit more problematic and spend some time working through these. Not all parts might be working on the same song necessarily – for example, tenors might have a particularly tricky section in one song that other voice parts don’t have a problem with. You could let parts identify sections they want to work on for themselves, or a section lead or MD might lead on this.
- Record the rehearsal sessions and make them available online or in a private facebook group for members who could not attend to view later
- Encourage people to dress up in concert clothes for the final rehearsal in the schedule and ‘perform’ – you can snapshot the video for social media and it adds a sense of occasion and completeness to the rehearsal process.
Music inspiration for rehearsals
Some ideas to take to rehearsal and spark discussion, learning – or just for fun!
- ‘Listen with mother’ - the MD or another member chooses a piece of music (their favourite or something that the group won’t necessarily know), talks about it then plays it (either live or a recording)
- Star of the Week - one member is invited to perform a song for the other members. Good idea to set up a rehearsal with them beforehand to check the audio and everything is ok. The rehearsal doesn’t have to be with the MD – it can be with someone who knows about the technical side of things who can give advice on audio and visual settings.
- Celebrity SingAlong - use a celebrity video to sing along to (eg. Neil Diamond singing Sweet Caroline (hand washing version), Muppets singing Bohemian Rhapsody, This is Me from the Greatest Showman, Gary Barlow Crooner Sessions, Victoria Wood)
- Teach new skills – percussion for non-percussionists is one suggestion, which could also be used to improve people’s rhythm. This could be fun to do with microphones on for a change!
Music for members who are not attending rehearsals
Activities and ideas for those who aren’t meeting online
- Set a weekly challenge for members to complete in the privacy of their own home, e.g. learn a section, get the music up to x speed. Members don’t have to submit anything or be assessed in any way – it’s just a target for them to aim for and to help guide their practice
- Suggest videos for members to listen to which will inform their practice. Choose a performance that most closely represents what you want the group to achieve in terms of tempo and style
- Record or find on YouTube short videos with technical guidance or going into detail about a specific section of the music, highlighting the points to focus on in practice
- Make recordings of rehearsals available to those who are unable to attend so they don’t feel they have missed out
- Encourage members to make and share videos of themselves – either a solo performance, or a multitrack performance using a tool such as Acappella, or they could just record themselves dressed in their concert clothes clapping for the NHS! This is connecting and uplifting for members and will strike a chord with your group’s supporters
- Encourage people to dress up to make their recordings – either in concert clothes or in themed fancy dress
- Encourage members to contribute to a blog about how they are finding rehearsing during lockdown
We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.