Learning a choir part from a full SATB score can be overwhelming. When starting a new piece of music, particularly when learning a choral piece, it’s important to get used to hearing it with all parts playing together so you know how it goes. As long as you are a reasonable sight reader, you don’t need to memorise it perfectly, but should recognise the overall sound and sections of the piece with no surprises. It’s easier to pull out and learn choral parts when you have an idea of the end result and where you will fit in.
Follow the score as you listen to the piece, and make notes on any sections you want to come back to and give extra attention. This helps you to understand the vocal score for all parts, and visually learn where things occur. When you’re ready to start singing, warm up your voice.
Break the piece into sections by looking where the phrases are. You can easily work through one lyric line at a time in most choral music pieces, or simply mark where you would take a breath.
Practice coming in on your first note of each section with the correct pitch – if the first note is strong, you will naturally find the rest of your line is easier to learn. The best way to do this is to rehearse from the bars preceding your first note. Where is your note compared to the accompaniment, or the other vocal parts if they are present? If you can ‘hear’ and pitch your first note perfectly like this for every line, it can be a very useful method to learn choir parts.
Some singers like to learn the pitch and lyrics at the same time, while others prefer to work on pitch first, then add the rhythm and syllables. When you are starting out in a choir, it can be useful to begin by humming along, and then speak the words to practice pronunciation and rhythm separately. This breaks down vocal lines further without attempting too much or straining your voice.
Learning a Choir Part with PlayScore 2
The PlayScore 2 app can be used as an effective tool to learn a choir part on your phone or tablet. If you are not a good sight reader, PlayScore 2 is a perfect and fun way to learn the notes. Traditionally, choir directors have made MIDI files as practice tracks, and PlayScore 2 provides the option of MIDI, MusicXML plus interactive playback options. PlayScore 2 enables you to use a photo of your sheet music in the app. Then you can follow the score as you hear it playing, solo choral lines, edit the volume and instrumentation, loop sections and slow the tempo to assist your learning of SATB parts. One of the key features of PlayScore 2 is that your choir director can have a professional subscription and create a PlayScore document that choir members can view and use on the free version of the app.