Can You Give Any Advice for a Vocal Workshop?

by Yvonne
(United Kingdom)


I have been asked to hold a singing workshop, well 3 actually on the same day - 45 minutes apiece, culminating in a large sing-a-long at the very end of the day.

There will be 30 adults in each group to be held at strategic times of the day. I have only ever held very small groups for singing and usually teach on a one to one basis.

Do you have any tips on how to make the day a successful one that people will enjoy?

I have also been requested to teach 3 songs 'in the round'. I only really know a couple if I am honest. The sing-a-long at the end should be fun, but a pop song has been requested as the one for all to join in. I am concerned this will be too difficult given the time scale involved.

Can you offer me any advice?

I am doing the workshop on a voluntary basis so resources are very limited.

Kind Regards,



Hi, Yvonne,

It sounds like fun, but definitely a bit scary if you've never done anything quite like it before! I would personally treat this like a learning experience for myself, not just for the workshop attendees. And it is okay to tell them this, too!

As a general strategy, I'd focus on the same things that you focus on in a private lesson or small group, with the difference being that you need to "produce" a decent-sounding song for the grand finale.

Because of the pressing deadline, you should probably keep the songs VERY SIMPLE. If they master them quickly, have an extra piece or two in the wings.

I'm doing something new this year that includes a lot of the issues you are facing here; in a couple of weeks I'm starting a Singing Class that is open to adults and children (with some music background). I've selected a fabulous duet book by Jay Althouse to be our basic "text". I know this wouldn't work for your budget this time around, but it is a great book with just 2 parts for singers or singing groups to learn, and worth a look.

Now the main issues:

1. Are these adults non-singers, or non-musicians? Being adults (and I assume primarily non-singers or only occasional singers) their voices are apt to be stiff from under-use, and not able to reach high notes. If so, or if their experience is limited to singing in church only, I would plan each session to include BASICS:


You can probably think of more. But time is limited! Think of exercises you KNOW work well, or are really fun and energetic. Or, take excerpts or phrases from the actual music you will be using and turn them into warmups/ vocalises. Big groups are great for energy, and for pitting one side of the room against the other.

Perhaps start with some bouncy or air-moving warmups, switch to a round, then go to another warm-up, then on to the next round. Don't beat the rounds to death.

Pick apart the popular song, turning any tricky sections into rhythmic exercises if appropriate. Your group will be forgiving of experimentation, but I would plan each warmup and song and practice the teaching of each session with a timer.

The WORST thing that can happen is for the session to feel as if it is DRAGGING... as a conductor, you must be a benevolent dictator. So even if you are not given to telling jokes (I'm not), the act of singing in and of itself is so fun and rewarding that if you just keep them SINGING, they will enjoy themselves. Forget about telling stories, unless you are snappy and FAST at it and it comes naturally to you. Don't let it get in the way of the music itself.

Paperwork -- the passing out of the music -- must be planned in advance, so as not to waste time. Every minute will count.

2. Music: Have you already picked the pop song? Since you're doing the teaching, the music needs to be something YOU believe in and like. Probably 3 rounds and one pop song in harmony will actually take up the 45 minutes if you are also working on principles of singing, but it is best, as you know, to have more music ready than you will actually need.

A combination of 1 or 2 very energetic pieces (or rounds), 1 quiet or contemplative piece, and perhaps one that employs a foreign language but is EASY to pronounce (like Dona Nobis Pacem) means that you might have something for everyone.

3. You haven't said if you have an actual music budget. Classical or public domain music you can find online for free, but I would not do the "popular" piece unless they give you money to BUY multiple copies of whatever you choose. As you know, any popular music will be copyrighted, but non-musicians will probably expect you to just make copies! Hah! will allow you to download a sample page of music to check it out, and has audio samples as well as the first page or so of music for you to look at, and also the ability (with some music) to change the key. Both those sites have instant digital downloads. is my favorite source of music, but for choral works, you must buy a minimum of 6 sheets (which you would certainly have to do in any case). You're probably going to need 46 pieces of music (one for you and one for each group of 2 people in the final singalong). But choral music is very inexpensive... about $1 - 1.50 a copy. And you can probably get the music discounted if you buy in quantity.

Personally, I would not do this workshop without compensation unless it were for a cause I loved; even so, the attendees could each certainly afford to give you the equivalent of the price of a cup of coffee! That would be $200 - $300 right there.

What you will probably get is a bouquet of flowers... very nice, but think of all the preparation you must do. People greatly undervalue the work of musicians... because of MUZAK and our cultural sense of entitlement, some people think music just falls from heaven... it's a part of the air. (Even my website, which offers free music, does indeed make money for me.)

Best of luck!

I would welcome other ideas for Yvonne from other teachers!

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