5 Ways Choir & Ensemble Singing Makes You A Better Musician

Female choir
From a small a cappella group to a thunderous Gospel choir, industry pros are convinced that that there are solid musical benefits.

We learn about 5 musical benefits from 8 professionals who have extensive experience leading choirs and singing in groups:

1. It Improves Your Blending Abilities

Choirs usually present a unified and harmonic sound, meaning that no individual singer stands out. Learning to blend requires a singer to explore their tonal palette, from warm depths to rapturous highs, and many other timbres using a combination of laryngeal postures and mouth shapes.

Joe B from the renowned group ‘Sons of Pitches’ explains:
“You notice so much if someone is not blending or is slightly out of key. We all have to breathe in the same way, create the same vowel shapes, create the same brightness or darkness for a polished vocal performance. It’s not about singing the biggest and best you can, it’s about balancing out the group and doing what’s right for the song.”

Craig Anthony Lees, director of Leeds Contemporary Singers, stresses the importance of vowel shapes:
“When singing in harmony it is really important to consider the vowel shapes you are using. As a group, we can all be singing the right notes and the right lyrics, but if someone’s vowel shapes are slightly darker or brighter than the rest of the group, it can really throw the blend and the pitching.”

2. It Allows You to Explore Your Range

In addition to (or occasionally instead of) blend, singing in a choir may encourage you to explore the extremes of your range and sing outside of your comfort zone for sustained periods.

Anil Sebastian, co-founder of London Contemporary Voices, says:
“I love the sound of voices when they are at the extremes of their range – high voices singing low, low voices singing high. I love the textures that creates, but it requires singers with incredible control. It’s also incredible to experiment with unusual combinations of voice types.”

Vocal coach David Combes describes the voice types required for gospel:
“The male voices need to be confident and bold, and the female voices tend to have a section with very strong chest voices who are happy to mix and belt.”

3. You’ll Strengthen Your Music Theory

Choirs learn repertoire in a variety of ways – some by ear, and others from music notation. The aural method allows you to learn the nuances of harmony, and the reading keeps your theory knowledge sharp.

Professional vocal coach and session singer Jaime Babbitt says:
“Sometimes you’ll be… wait for it… reading music! Some choirs even create mp3s of the parts and practice at home. Take this opportunity to train your ear [and] learn how to sing a harmony part (and hold on to it).”

Bob Stoloff, world-renowned clinician and teacher, outlines the benefits of a cappella singing in a small group:
In addition to nurturing intuition, circle songs encourage singers to take more risks, build self-esteem and confidence, develop leadership skills and more than anything, to just have fun with music! Participants can casually learn about tonality, dynamics, rhythm, meter, “Instru-Vocal” articulation, harmony, counterpoint and many other essential musical concepts.

4. It Increases Your Stamina


Choir repertoire can often be demanding, expecting singers to repeat sections and sustain notes. This can certainly be a work out for the voice! However, this can help you tune into your voice’s capabilities, strengths and limits.

Jaime Babbitt explains:
“There’s an old adage, “Use it or lose it”. If you don’t keep your instrument in tip-top running order, you run the risk of having it bottom out. So, join a choir. Audition for community theater. Take some lessons. Do it. You deserve it.”

However, Trey McLaughlin, director of Sounds of Zamar warns to not over-do it:
“A guy told me when you go hoarse, it makes your voice stronger and builds up endurance! I was like, “Dude! When you are hoarse your vocal cords are so swollen that extra air is coming through because they can’t completely close!” I thought, wow, I hope this guy isn’t going around telling singers to sing hard because it’ll make their voices better!”

5. You’ll Find New Creativity

There are various types of group singing that give rise to creativity, such as circle songs or A Cappella. Rather than sticking to ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ or simple 3-part harmonies, you may have the opportunity to find new ways of using your voice, and by doing so, learn more about the structures of music.

Mark De-Lisser, director of ACM Gospel Choir, says:
“You can be so creative when singing A Cappella because you are not restricted by a backing track or score. It is important for singers to understand what role a drummer or bass player has. A Cappella singers listen and develop an appreciation for the music and the musicians.”

Joe B from “Sons of Pitches” adds:
“We like to do circle songs where we start improvising. The idea is to create a sound-scape. We are not ‘singing’, we’re just making sounds. We recommend something we call ‘filtering’, which is all the different sounds that can be created by changing the shape and size of our mouth and position of our tongue and lips. There are never ending combinations.”

There are many ways your singing can be improved by joining a choir or jamming with friends, A Cappella style. So, venture into these musical spaces and reap the many benefits!

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