Updated: May 20, 2021
Are you struggling to get solos in choir? Does it seem like the same people always get the solos? Are you having a hard time getting your choir director to notice you or take you seriously?
In this post, I will give you 5 tips and tricks that I’ve learned to help you go from this to this, and the secret is… it has nothing to do with whether you are the best singer in your choir or not.
If you want to get a solo in choir you need to understand that it isn’t just about who has the best voice, it’s about who the choir director trusts and feels they can depend on to deliver a solid performance. Put yourself in their shoes, conductors need to oversee every part of the concert, on top of tech and logistics. They don’t want to worry about that one solo and wonder if it will work not etc…
So how do you get your choir director to trust you?
Trust is built over time and it starts in rehearsal. Start thinking of rehearsals as opportunities to build that trust between you and your choir director. If you want to get the solos, do these 5 things at every rehearsal to prove your voice, your musicianship, and your attitude.
1. Know the music
The first day you get new music for choir, go through it all and see if there are any solos for your voice part. Learn them before your next rehearsal just in case your choir director decides to put you on the spot and ask you to sing it. I have seen so many of the best singers in choir try out for a solo but don’t get it because they did not know their notes and rhythms. Instead the person who gets the solos are the ones who know the technical aspects of the music the best.
You should also know the music that comes before your solo and after so that you know exactly how and when to start the solo and how it blends into the piece’s continuation. It’s just like in acting where you should know the lines of the other actors as well as your own. Here’s a hint: listen to recordings of the piece to get a good feel for entrances and maybe sometimes even how to find your starting pitch based on the music you hear before your solo starts if it’s not obvious. And if the music makes no sense and you have to find your starting pitch out of thin air, practice with a tuning fork to find your note, a440 is usually the standard pitch for the tuning fork.
2. Sing with confidence
Make sure you sing the solo in your audition as if it were a performance. You need to sing at the dynamic that you would sing in performance so the director can make balance choices. So don’t half-sing your solo, sing it the way you plan on singing it for the performance so the director knows what he's getting beforehand.
3. Watch the conductor
When you audition for a solo, especially if you’ve been given time to prepare, you should have it mostly committed to memory so that when you are asked to try the solo you are looking-up directly at the conductor while everybody else has their heads buried in their scores. That will help you stand out. Sometimes conductors change how fast or slow they decide to go, and sometimes they make musical changes through their conducting that they don’t make at other times. So it’s important to know your music well-enough that you can always have the conductor in your peripheral vision. You want to look at the audience and the conductor as much as possible, not your score.
4. Bring-out the emotion
Learn the meaning of the words, and understand the context of your solo within the piece. Make an artistic choice to choose the appropriate emotion for your solo and commit to it each time you sing it. A great singer is always someone that makes it look easy and the reason it looks easy is because you can tell that they are not focused on their technique in the moment but on the emotion of the text. The technical stuff just happens because of preparation and practice.
5: Be friendly
It’s important to establish a good reputation with the choir director. Favoritism is real but there are ways you can combat it. Make sure you always arrive early for every rehearsal, at least 15-30 minutes. Make sure your music is prepared and that you have your scores with you, and make sure you have your pencil, and, if required, a tuning fork. This punctuality and preparation will then give you the time for the occasional chat with the director to show that you are someone who is pleasant to work with. But be authentic. You don’t need to try too hard. A simple “Hi, how are you?” when you walk-in is enough and then it gives the director the space to either engage or keep it simple.
And those are the 5 tips. Make sure you do them at every rehearsal and you’ll be standing on stage singing your solo in no-time.