The easiest way to run an online singing group is through Zoom. All you need to do is sign up for an account, and then you can schedule a meeting/choir session and circulate individual email or calendar invites through the system or circulate/post the link that the system generates. It only takes a few minutes to set this up. Participants then just click on the link to be let into the meeting at the scheduled time.
If you have a free account, you are restricted to 40-minute sessions. You can of course arrange 2 or more of these back-to-back, although this can make the session feel disjointed. Paid accounts offer much more flexibility.
If participants are not used to using Zoom, you may find these instructions useful to pass on – Zoom top tips. Please note that this will download as a Word document and that you can personalise it yourself with your choir details, etc. Some groups have also set up WhatsApp groups to share sound files so that people can practise at home; of course this can also be done through a choir website.
Intentions and Benefits
You need to be aware that running an online choir is not about re-creating your previous choir, and that it’s a different way of running a choir with its own challenges. You may want to spend some time considering your intention for the online group – for example:
- Do you mainly want to provide social continuity for members?
- Do you want people to practise songs that you’re already learning, so that you’ll be able to pick them up when you can meet again in person?
- Do you want to open your online group to new participants who may live anywhere in the world, or do you want it to be just for your existing choir members?
- How important is the singing in relation to the social aspect?
- Do you want to sing simple repetitive songs that everybody can easily join in with in their own homes?
Running a choir online does confer some benefits to meeting and singing in the same room:
- It’s an opportunity to become intimate with one’s own voice. Singers are not distracted by what the person next to them is singing, and this can really benefit them on their own musical journey and make them feel more confident.
- It gives people an opportunity to sing at home, which integrates their sense of themselves as a singer with themselves in the rest of their life, meaning that they may then be more confident to sing in other situations in future.
- It’s a great way to experiment with improvisation without anyone feeling self-conscious.
- It encourages and reinforces a sense of community.
Resources from the NVN
Beginners’ guide to Zoom for choir sessions – PowerPoint download
Ideas for running successful online singing sessions – PowerPoint download
Optimising sound for online choir sessions – PowerPoint download
Suggested kit list for optimising your sound
- As organiser, you will be hosting the meeting and you need to set the controls. You will often have to mute everybody except yourself, so ensure you know how to do this easily.
- It is important that you are organised, and it helps if people know what to expect in advance. Some examples of possible structured sessions are here.
- You may need to run a Zoom tutorial session first, particularly with older people who are unfamiliar with the technology.
- t’s definitely a good idea to buddy up with a NVN colleague to get things working before you start offering sessions, taking it in turns to test the line and feed back on what works and what doesn’t, and helping each other to dive into the different settings. It’s much easier working things out with another brain, getting Original Sound working, for example.
- If the group is too large, they can’t all see each other on the screen at the same time – so you may want to split the group and have smaller sessions, although then of course members of the different groups can’t see each other at all!
- You can continue with warm-ups, including body percussion. Many people will really benefit from a physical warm-up (even if they generally arrive late to avoid these!) because they’re more sedentary than usual, and don’t forget eye exercises for people who’ve been staring at screens for too long. You can even un-mute everyone for singing warm-ups, because the collective sound may not be important.
- Encourage people to stand while singing if possible, if that’s your normal practice.
- It’s possible to share the screen so that you can show lyrics – although this is confusing for some – or you can email these to members beforehand or have them on the choir website.
- Backing tracks can be really helpful, even if this is something you’d never considered before.
- Online singing can work particularly well with songs that the singers already know. It is possible to introduce new music, but this is more of a challenge, depending on the confidence of the singers. Shorter songs or songs taught in short chunks are most rewarding.
- It might be worth building in a session for chat, announcements, news, etc. As you know, the social side of singing together as very important to many people, and the tea breaks can be just as important as the singing! You could ask for a volunteer to create a weekly newsletter, that people contribute to with news, recipes, poems, photos…..
- Don’t expect to be perfect the first time you try – you’ll soon pick things up and it will start to feel less weird than it does at first!
NVN members’ experiences and tips:
Fran Andre ran her first Zoom session on 17th March 2020. Here’s her report on this.
Katie Rose has written suggestions for running Zoom choirs.
Fran Andre has recorded a Zoom session on how to make a choir video, along with an audio version and a PowerPoint presentation. You can access all of these via a Dropbox link.