Survival Tips for Barbershop Singers

Survival Tips for Barbershop Singers

Reprinted from the June 1998 North Shore Harmony Rag

--Adapted from Teresa Radomski's article on the Internet "Center for Voice Disorders of Wake Forest University," as seen in Nodakord Notes (Bob Hankins, editor)

Warm up, energize! Most singers arrive at rehearsals exhausted from a day's work, so it's important to begin with a physical warm-up. Stretching and loosening exercises and relaxed humming get the voice going, before heavy vocalizing. Warm-ups should begin in the car!

Think posture! "Collapsed" posture limits breathing capacity. Sitting erect with both feet flat on the floor, music at eye level and shoulders relaxed is less tiring in the long run.

Breathe! This may seem obvious, but it is the singer's responsibility to maintain adequate ventilation--not "gasping" in order to maintain the director's beat. Good directors indicate breaths with their gestures, but they may not apply to each singer's capacity.

Sing the right part! It is hoped that all singers are in the best section for their voice. Trying to stretch your range can lead to vocal strain. If the part you sing is uncomfortable, request a change.

Don't oversing! Singing loudly in order to hear oneself over other singers usually stresses the voice. "Showing off" one's voice is inappropriate in group singing--it doesn't contribute well to a choral "blend," and it is usually resented by fellow singers! If you need to check the accuracy of your pitch, simply put a finger in one ear. Even when fortissimo singing is required, it is wise not to push the voice.

Prepare your music! Whenever possible, try to learn your part before coming to the rehearsal. If you are insecure about pitch, it is unlikely that you will sing well. Hesitation impedes good vocal technique.

Avoid talking! Not only is chatting disruptive to others (especially the director!), but it tires the voice.

Take care of your health! Avoid smoke and alcohol, postpone partying until after the final performance! Get plenty of sleep and aerobic exercise. Hydrate--drink plenty of fluids. Use common sense when you are sick. Better to miss rehearsal than to expose others to your "bug."

Take voice lessons! If you really want to maximize your enjoyment of choral singing, a few voice lessons can provide valuable insight. Ideally your teacher should understand and appreciate both choral and solo singing techniques.

Teresa Radomski is a professor of voice and theatrical singing at Wake Forest University and a contributing editor of the Voice Center newsletter (

--from Cherry Hill, N.J. Chapter Tru-Notes; Milt Weisman, editor

Back to Home Page.