The aim of these notes is to outline the main types of rehearsal aids and to help choir members decide which to use. The types of rehearsal aid that you may wish to use will depend on your familiarity of interacting with websites, and your ability to handle your PC, Laptop or iPad. Options are outlined in the following paragraphs and links to various site mentioned are provided. A Quick Reference section is also provided.
Aids that do not use the internet
The simplest rehearsal aid would be to use a recording (CD or vinyl record) of the piece of music sung by a professional choir, which you could play and follow with your score, and sing along. Actually, it is probably a good idea for all members of the choir, even those using the more complicated rehearsal aids described below to use this procedure.
Aids for those with limited internet skills
You Tube: Go on-line and search YouTube for a recording of the piece of music which you can listen to and follow with your score. This would be free.
MP3 Files: It is also possible to search the web generally for the piece of music, and to down load an MP3 version to play whenever you require on say Windows Media Player. The down load may cost a nominal sum or be free. Details are given below on useful web-sites for MP3 down-loads. Two very good MP3 sites are described below.
Choralia Files: The MP3 files on this website www.choralia.net are provided free but are subject to the copyright regulations given on the site. So please read the information on copyright, and also the MP3 Manual, which can be downloaded, and describes very clearly the application of the copyright Laws. The MP3 Files are very easy to access and use. Geoff Ashman is very knowledgeable with use of this site. Geoff says that the synthetic voice has a slightly odd sound, but is helpful in that you can hear each syllable. So one enters the site and selects the MP3 catalogue section. Then use the Search Panel at the top of the catalogue section to find the required work from the list. One then left-clicks on the appropriate loudspeaker icon to bring up a window of the four voices, SATB, with currently three options for each voice. Each option has a loudspeaker icon against it, which if left clicked plays the selected part, or if right clicked allows the part to be downloaded. Regarding the use of the three options, it is recommended that the advice given on the site is followed.
Choraline Files: From the website called www.choraline.com , for a small fee, one can purchase a series of MP3 files for your voice, either on a CD or as a download, for most major works. The selected music is broken down into sections of the score, say 20 to 60 bars long depending on the difficulty of the score. There are also voice comments on each section to advise you when your entry is approaching. Because the music is presented in these sections of so many bars, you have the opportunity to repeat any section that you find difficult. Geoff Ashman is very knowledgeable regarding this website and the facilities it provides.
Aids for confident internet users
If you are reasonably competent about going on the internet and operating your PC, Laptop or IPad, whichever you have, then you could use Midi Files and a software package called a Midi Player. A Midi File is a synthesised representation of the music that can be downloaded quite often free, from a number of websites. A very good website for free Midi Files is one by John Hooper i.e. www.learnchoralmusic.co.uk These Midi Files are used with software called a Midi Player. A very good Midi Player, used by a number of choir members, is the free one called Midi Play available from the Chris Hills website which is www.chrishills.org.uk/midiplay . It is also available via a link in the John Hooper website. The general features of Midi Players are that you will be able to select your voice and also some of the accompaniment to the piece. It also allows you to display the score on your screen for the voice you have chosen, covering a number of bars which can be adjusted by altering the size of the screen window in which you are viewing the score. When you are ready and you start the music a vertical bar moves across the score and the notes for your voice are played as it passes over the notes shown on your screen, and the accompaniment that you have chosen is also played. The music can be stopped at any time and then restarted either where you stopped or back any number of bars, or forward any number of bars, as required. It can also be returned immediately to the start if required. There are often a number of other very useful features incorporated such as Tempo control, Volume control, Pitch adjustment etc. As mentioned above the John Hooper website provides a wide range of free Midi Files, and also links to other sites giving free Midi Files. His site also gives very helpful notes on how to download and play Midi Files. Alternatively, one can search the web because it is amazing what one can find by searching the web, for example the American site and the Dutch site in the Table below that provide free Midi Files. When downloading a Midi File, take great care that you follow the website instructions carefully.
Some use Midi Files because there is an option to follow the music score on your PC screen. However, some members find the score on the screen distracting and much prefer to use the Choralia or Choraline downloads and correlate the music with their paper score. The Choralia Files helps you to hear how the words fit to the music, whereas the Choraline Files break the music down into sections which can be repeated a number of times. In conclusion, it does seem that there are widely differing approaches to the use of Rehearsal Aids by members, and that one has to try out the available aids to find out one’s own preferences.
See the Quick Ref section for a useful summary of the above. In addition, members of our own choir who are conversant with the techniques will be willing to help with any difficulties you may encounter.
Good Luck and Good Happy Singing!