Get rid of out of tune Ward Choir singing once and for all [PART 1 of 3]

Get rid of out of tune Ward Choir singing once and for all [PART 1 of 3]

Are you struggling to help your ward choir sing in tune?

Are you stumped trying to figure out how to solve their bad intonation?

There are 3 basic reasons a choir can sound out of tune are...

  1. They are singing the wrong notes.

  2. They are singing incorrect rhythms.

  3. They are singing with poor or unmatched vowels.

Fixing Wrong Notes

Today we'll focus on fixing wrong notes.

Singing a wrong note is nothing new. It happens to us all. The trick is to isolate the wrong notes.

Which section is singing the wrong note? Which singer is singing the wrong note?

You don't have to call anyone out and embarrass them. That's why I like to talk to the whole section.

Here's what I do in this situation...

Let's say I hear a wrong note in the Alto part. I stop the music and ask just the Alto section to sing a few bars of the problem section.

If they still sing something wrong, I ask the pianist to play their part alone for those bars. We'll sing it again with the piano and the problem usually solves itself.

If there’s still a problem, draw their attention to the specific note that's not quite right. Often their part is not clear in their mind's ear. Once they hear it a few more times, it will stick.

Sing it for them. Play it again. Give them another try. Do this merry-go-round a few times and the wrong note usually solves itself.

But before you go on to the next phrase, there's one more step… 

Add the other voices back to the whole texture. Having everyone sing these few bars together once again helps the Altos hear there now “correct” notes in context of the whole piece.

To sum up this point, be sure you take adequate time to prepare before rehearsal. 

This is a crucial point. 

As I’m sure you know, most Ward Choir’s don’t get a lot of rehearsal time.

Every minute counts. 

In the professional music making world, rehearsal time is very costly. If everyone in the rehearsal is getting paid to be there, then every minute wasted is money down the drain.

We’re not being paid in Ward Choir, of course, but the principle holds. Every minute counts. You want to maximize your time in rehearsal.

Preparing for Rehearsal

Here are a few tips to make sure you’re prepared for rehearsal so you can hear any problems that may occur. 

  • Play or sing through each of the choral parts a couple times. This doesn't take more than 10-20 minutes. But it will help you to have "ears that hear" during rehearsal.

  • Try to find a recording of the piece. Or, if one isn’t available, get together with your pianist and have him/her play through the whole piece. You want to have a good idea of the whole arc of the piece. Having this in your inner ear before rehearsal will give you a big head start.

  • Take some time to consider the composer’s markings. Look at dynamics, cresc. or diminuendo markings. Notice any repeat signs. Become familiar with all these nitty gritty musical details. The composer went to great lengths to add these as a helpful guide to make the piece sounds as beautiful as possible. 

  • Talk or sing through the text. We’ll talk about tuning and text in a future email. But for now, work on becoming familiar with the message. Understanding the message of the piece goes a long way to helping you and your choir perform the piece with the right set of emotions.

  • Mark any potential trouble spots. Having a few “worry” spots marked helps you get in front of possible “train-wreck” moments. Make sure you can sing each choral part in the potential “train-wreck” spot so you can help each section during rehearsal.

I could go on and on about preparation, but I’ll save that for a later time.

Just remember this. The more prepared you are before a rehearsal, the more you’ll be able to use your time wisely and help your choir learn the piece quickly and proficiently.

And during rehearsal, be an active listener. If you sing along the whole time, you can’t hear if your choir is singing the piece correctly. 

It’s hard to do. But try to keep your mouth shut and your ears open. If they need help with a part, stop, sing with them, and then go back to your silent hyper listening and you’ll be amazed how much more you’ll be able to hear and help out.


Next week we'll move on to the 2nd method of fixing your choir's tuning issues, the rhythm.

Stay tuned,


P.S. What are some of your biggest challenges when working with your ward choir? Let me know what you’re struggling with and I’ll see if I can help. Thanks!