How To Plan & Execute A Productive Church Choir Rehearsal

Choir rehearsal is the lifeblood of every music group. It’s the most important activity that yields the most results for what we do. It’s important that it’s done well, and made to be as effective as possible.

How do you have an effective rehearsal every time? Well, today I’ve considered and fully answered that question. Here’s how to maximize productivity in your choir rehearsals.

Feel free to share this article with the members of your choir, so that both you and others in the group with you can benefit fully from what is here, and apply it together to make your rehearsals a beautiful time well spent and useful for your ministry.

What’s The End Goal of The Choir Rehearsal?

Ultimately, the point of rehearsing is so that the music becomes second nature to you.

Any church musician or singer will tell you that always, in singing, we’re doing two things. Of course we’re delivering a song, and we’re also ministering to people. However, there must be a healthy balance between delivering what is technically expected to qualify as good music and performance delivery, and ministering through the Spirit to make a meaningful impact on the listeners and the worshippers.

The balance is to get to a place where the music is almost automatic, flowing out with almost no thought and presence of mind.

Now, this is almost impossible because music is an artform that requires technical mastery and an application of your mental faculties and your physique, so of course there’s always thinking and mental exercise involved.

The goal is to get that to the barest minimum, where you’re almost delivering the music without thought, so that you can engage and be fully connected in the Spirit, focused on what and how the Spirit of God would like you to do within the ministration, and how to respond to Him and to the people who are being ministered to.

To do this, effective rehearsals are a must-have for your choir.

How many kinds of rehearsals are there?

It’s worth noting that church choirs have different types of rehearsals. Each is unique, and while those differences alter slightly what should be done, in this article we focus on things that bring rehearsal success broadly to any kind of rehearsal.

I’ve discussed the different types of choir rehearsals in detail in this other article that you should check out, but briefly here are some of them:

1. Band rehearsal: Here the band meets alone to rehearse. Singers are typically not present.

2. Vocals rehearsal: Singers meet alone to rehearse vocals, lyrics and arrangement. Typically the band is not present or not required to play along. Musicians may assist with the parts, but the focus is on vocal output.

3. Full rehearsal: This is your typical rehearsal where everybody is available and expected to deliver together. More time may be spent on the singers but the band is there to play along just as accurately as the singers are expected to deliver. This is the most common form of rehearsal.

4. Dress rehearsal: A dry-run of the actual delivery, also called the final rehearsal or the stage rehearsal, where the choir reproduces the exact performance that is expected on the day. This is typically done from the stage where the ministry will happen; essentially everyone gets into character.

5. Composite rehearsal: A two part rehearsal where the first is a full rehearsal, or a split for musicians and singers separately, and the second part takes everyone on stage for the dress rehearsal.

Any other kinds you can think of? Let me know.

So, how do you have a productive, efficient rehearsal that delivers on expectations and objectives every time and is always successful and meaningful?

Here’s what you do:

No 1: Have a plan for each rehearsal.

Yep. Failing to plan is failing, period. A lot of things go anyhow if no thought is given to it prior. 

Just a simple thought of “what will we do in the upcoming rehearsal” and it will amaze you how much structure and intentionality you will bring to the meeting.

This question will have you thinking of a plan, which will certainly cover the duration of the rehearsal, which songs you’re focusing on, how many songs to do and how long each of them will likely take you, what you expect from the band, and several other things.

Simply not thinking about this ahead of time will cost you in preparedness, in clarity and in purposefulness during the rehearsal.

What you should do:

Write out a simple plan for the upcoming rehearsal. And when you’re done, share this plan with other leaders who will help you conduct the rehearsal and with the choir, so it’s clear what’s intended to happen. You can tweak the level of detail you share with leaders or with the choir, that’s fine.

No 2: Prepare ahead for rehearsals

Notice how the first point is something not actually done at or during the rehearsal? This is exactly the same as that.

The irony of rehearsals is that ideally, singers should have learnt the song, lyrics and arrangements before coming to the rehearsal, so that rehearsal becomes the place to fuse together what everyone has learned, and iron out the chinks and inaccuracies, and blend all the output together.

For this to happen, the material to be learned should be distributed ahead of the rehearsal. Songs, lyrics, song structure and arrangement, notes on song technique, etc – anything that should be learned should be sent ahead of time.

That makes for a great rehearsal when everyone comes prepared, having learned all what is expected of them.

What you should do:

Inform the choir of the songs to be done ahead of the day. This gives them ample time to learn.

For those who need it, make available a recording of the vocal part, song score, lyrics and arrangement to assist in their learning.

No 3: Begin with prayer

This is a ministry. Enough said.

But really, begin the meeting properly on a spiritual note. As with any other gathering that’s in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, a church music group has to acknowledge God in all their ways. Rehearsal is no exception.

What you should do:

Begin the rehearsal with a prayer, and make sure everyone present is involved. Don’t let anyone slack off while the choir is praying.

No 4: Allow a short time of greeting, fellowship and encouragement

Typically, rehearsals take place in the evenings or late afternoon in most places. Either way, most people do a lot and making it to the rehearsal is always sacrificial. It helps to take a moment to acknowledge that.

Allow members to greet each other, exchange warm pleasantries, to give a good atmosphere for the start of the meeting. Good vibes are always useful.

Also, provide some encouragement and express gratitude to the choir for making it to the meeting. People always like to feel valued, and that primes them also to give their best in return.

What you should do:

Invite members to greet and connect with each other at the start of the meeting. Be very warm and inviting yourself, while wearing a smile that encourages others to do the same to those sitting next to them.

Spend a short time thanking members for their presence and encouraging them to continue in service to God.

No 5: Outline the rehearsal plan

Set the expectations for the day from the start. Give everyone an outline of what the plan for the day is.

This allows everyone to tune themselves into the meeting, to play their role in delivering on the goals that you set out. People generally cooperate when you clearly show them what you need to accomplish together and what their part in that will be.

What you should do:

Speak to the choir and inform them what the day’s plan is. Answer questions such as:

How much time do we have today?

How many songs are we doing?

Which songs are we doing?

Who will lead/handle which aspects of the rehearsal?

Any other ground rules that you want to enforce, either generally or specific to this rehearsal

No 6: Tackle each activity with presence of mind and provide clear direction

Rehearsals can break down quickly if it’s not clear that there’s a set agenda and that you are working focused to meet it. While a generally pleasant and warm, conversational atmosphere is useful, you must take care not to lose the sense of discipline, focus, or the “work-first, then chat” atmosphere.

Otherwise, people can become distracted, disengaged and engage in their own thing while rehearsal is ongoing.

What you should do:

Establish a certain control of the atmosphere by constantly directing what’s happening, providing guidance and leadership as to what’s next to happen, and generally drive the rehearsal along to the completion of the plan that you outlined earlier.

Catch the slip-ups, the apparent gaps, the moments of uncertainty and the general disconnect that sometimes happens; step in quickly and regain control of such times, in a way that shows that you’re still in charge and expect results.

No 7: Adjust if things are not going to plan

Face it: things don’t always work out how you want them to. A song may take longer to learn, there may be disputes about some parts of how it should go, or there could even be improvisation ideas coming up while you’re in the middle of learning.

These things happen. What matters is being able to adjust for what’s happening, so that you still achieve all or most of your original goals. What ultimately happens is you get to know your people a bit better, and you also get better at planning the rehearsal, and being able to predict such twists and turns in the future. And that’s always a good thing.

What you should do:

Keep analyzing the rehearsal process as it’s happening and make adjustments. Monitor the time so you’re not caught off guard by one thing that’s taking longer than anticipated. Better yet, have someone keep track of the time and signal you when that’s happening.

No 8: Use everyone’s expertise

A productive and successful rehearsal requires many people and many things to happen concurrently. For this reason, you should leverage as much expertise as you can to make things happen.

Rely on the strengths of everyone in the choir or in the team, so that you can move faster.

Some singers are stronger than others in the part they sing in; position them for spread so others can learn quicker from them. Most times the band can help with teaching difficult note sequences; let them help you do it right and quickly, especially if you’re having difficulty doing it.

Also, most rehearsals slow down because only one thing is happening at a time. By having multiple things happen concurrently, for example, teaching all three parts simultaneously instead of cycling through from one part to the other, things happen much faster, and you get the output that you can all celebrate and be proud of.

What you should do:

Take note of the competencies of the members of the choir, and be ready to apply them where needed.

No 9: Close with prayer

Again, there’s no church group meeting that should end without prayer. Often the closing prayer may be treated with some inattentiveness because people probably want to just leave, or occasionally the rehearsal may have gone past time.

But, it’s important to inculcate the practice of remaining attentive and engaged until the meeting is officially over. Put some deliberateness into the closing prayer and again, ensure that everyone is engaged.

What you should do:

Insist that everyone participate in the closing prayer. Draw the attention who is moving about or set up in a posture to leave, as that indicates inattentiveness with what’s going on in the moment.

No 10: Encourage personal rehearsals and continued practice

The overall quality of the choir is the sum total of the quality of your individual choir members. For this reason, it’s crucial that people spend time away from the corporate rehearsal improving on their craft and learning what you’ve all just learned.

Remind your choir of this as often as possible so that people can build it into their routines and take personal development seriously.

What you can do:

Mention that it’s important people are caught up for the next time you meet. Provide assignments that require people to study the songs, lyrics, arrangements and motivate personal learning with some simple rewards to encourage them to participate.

A successful rehearsal is the outcome of hard work, good planning, and a focused attention to detail, working through and with other people to get the results you want that signal success. Use this approach for your next rehearsal and enjoy the outstanding results.

Stay inspired for ministry.

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