The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Better Choir Singer!

Avon Harmony A cappella chorus
Written By Mary Williams – Choir Leader, Singer & Blog Writer

Do you love singing in a choir and want to get better, right? Yes, me too. It’s my passion to be the best I can be and support my team of fellow singers. It made me ponder what I would put in an Ultimate Guide for becoming a better choir singer – so I thought I’d answer the questions that people often ask me.

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Singing in a choir or chorus is a beautiful and rewarding art form that not only rewards us with a sense of achievement but entertains audiences, connects people and touches hearts and memories.

It takes years of practice and dedication to become a skilled member of your choir. Whether you are a beginner or a more experienced singer, there are always ways to improve your vocal technique, maintain good vocal health, enhance your performance and enjoy belonging to a choir. In fact, you’ll always be learning and maintaining skills, whatever your existing level of experience and age.

The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Better Choir Singer!

In this list I’ve compiled as the Ultimate Guide to becoming a better choir singer, there are heaps of helpful tips aimed at improving singers and choirs. From vocal warm-ups and breathing techniques to stage presence and performance skills, these useful reminders will help you to continually develop your vocal abilities and create a more engaging and dynamic performance.

So whether you are singing in a choir or even performing solo, read on for how to take your singing to the next level.

– Singing Tips


1. Breathe Low

Proper breathing technique is essential for good singing. You hear about breathing into your diaphragm, but if you don’t want the technical explanation – try this.

Gently push your air out. Then relax and let the air fall back in (never force it!), and the reflex action will allow you to breathe low so your stomach is round and appears to fill when you inhale.  If your shoulders move, then you aren’t going low enough. This isn’t the time for worrying about a flat stomach. Just let it happen.

2. Never sing louder than beautiful.

Never sing louder than beautiful with your own natural voice. There is nothing worse than someone straining to hit notes or being heard above everyone else. Or someone who is “helping” everyone else by overcompensating as they will stick out in the crowd. That’s not the aim of choir singing -it’s a team sport.

Your music director will place you close to people with similar voice types so you feel comfortable. A quiet voice shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by the more resonant ones, and the resonant voices need to be free to be who they are.

boy shouting

3. Stand properly to sing in the choir

Good alignment is crucial for good singing. Stand up with your feet hip-width apart, your knees relax, your hips over your feet, and your ears over your shoulders. Head facing forward with chin neither up nor down. Look at the Alexander Technique for advice.

I’ve found singing coaches who have overlooked the importance of how individuals’ bodies are structured without the relevant training. Often, this will end up with someone who may raise their chin (aka me for years), but that isn’t where the problem is created. It won’t be as simple a fix as “put your chin down” to resolve it, and they physically won’t be able to comply with the request. In fact, until I realised where my actual problem was after several years and finally consulting a real medical expert – this caused imbalance and loss of stability, pain, embarrassment, and knocked my mental confidence (how hard can it be to stand straight, eh?) and more issues.

Some people may have body issues with hips that tilt backwards or forward in different directions or have weak core muscles. Other people may have neck issues from a previous illness. You will have limitations – we have been living this way for our whole life. In this case, unless the singing coach is medically trained or perhaps properly qualified in Vocal Pedology – then consult an expert if it doesn’t “feel” right.

4. Sit properly to sing

Although standing is best for peak vocal performance and alignment, for those who need to sit – you can also apply most of the rules of alignment to sitting. Perch on the end of a seat rather than sink into it and balance your feet firmly on the floor.

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5. Say goodbye to tension and worry

The biggest cause of tuning issues and reduced resonance in voices.

Relax and let go of any tension you feel in your body whilst you are singing. Body tension affects tuning and free unrestricted voices. My favourite saying is that your only task is to relax your hands if they clench when people are anxious. Then I find the rest tends to take care of itself.

As a consequence, I find that my chorus doesn’t have many issues maintaining pitch and resonance when singing A Cappella as they feel more relaxed and don’t worry about the learning and performance process. Just chill.

Ultimate choir singer - breathing

6. Singing warm-up and cool-down exercises are important

Don’t turn up late or complain because you don’t like the warmup sessions. You need it. It’s essential.

You wouldn’t exercise or run a marathon without a careful vocal warm-up and skill-learning session, so don’t sing without one. Proper warm-up exercises can help prevent vocal strain and injury. Warm up your voice with simple exercises like lip trills or humming. Build the range slowly, practice resonance exercises, and tune into the group sound and vocal agility.

Plus, it builds up a sense of unity and community in the choir. We are in this together.

7. Sing the right notes

Learn your notes at home so you are prepared, confident ready for your choir rehearsal practice. Everyone will thank you for it. You and everyone else will enjoy the rehearsal more.

Use apps like Anytune that will help you with your learning practice.

8. Sing the right words

Learn the lyrics at home so you are prepared and confident and won’t be worried about messing up the words.

Write them, read them, act them…. and get them embedded in your mind as soon as possible so we can learn music faster and have a more enjoyable experience in our limited rehearsal times. Support your MD and choir friends by doing your best – then, you can learn more music faster.

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-Look after your body


9. Love your water to improve your voice

Drink plenty of water to keep yourself and your vocal cords hydrated throughout the day. This is important to everyday life and your general health and won’t do you any harm.

10. Avoid Smoking and alcohol, which will affect your singing voice

Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, as they can damage your vocal cords. They aren’t good for you. And please definitely don’t get drunk and overtired the night before a big gig and event. It will affect your voice. You won’t sleep properly and ruin those months of practice.

I’m not teetotal, but I sometimes go months without having a drink, and I barely miss it. I have a Garmin watch, and you can see from the Body Battery feature that just one drink – affects me for 2-3 days.

11. Get plenty of sleep

Get enough sleep to help keep your voice healthy and rested. Keep a regular routine and get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep. My body really thanks me for it – I’m more productive generally as a result and less grumpy, too.

cat sleeping choir singing ultimate guide

12. Exercise & stay fit by moving regularly each day.

You’ll live a healthier, better life by keeping active regardless of the singing improvements. Keeping fit doesn’t have to be hard or need any equipment other than a pair of decent pair supportive shoes or a gym membership.

Just briskly walk for at least 20-30 minutes continuously every day to keep strong and mobile. Build up to 60 mins if you fancy. Do some smaller bursts – say three lots of ten minutes if you don’t have a full half-hour in one go. I enjoy going out before work and listening to the birds singing. It sets me in a good place for the rest of the day.

Don’t sit down for more than an hour at a time during the day, and move around for 3-5 mins. This will help your body alignment, balance and core strength, as well as help with hormones, digestion and “bowel” issues. I always move 10000-20,000 steps a day nowadays, and it has “cured” many singing and alignment issues for me.

13. Eat well to sing well

Look after your body and voice by eating a healthy, varied diet of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. I am not a slave to my diet, but I try to get plenty of fruit and veg, protein, fish and fibre through wholemeal bread. I do keep to a minimum of over-processed foods most of the time.

Yet I do enjoy a good slice of cake and chocolate occasionally. I just ensure that I don’t overeat. Not too much and not too little. In fact, I quite fancy a piece of Coffee and Walnut Cake now I’ve thought about it.

14. Minimise shouting and raising your voice

Avoid shouting or screaming, as it can cause vocal strain and damage.

I feel for the staff in the local Aldi checkouts as they are calling out all day and for the teachers of classes full of young people. The reality is that you can find ways to avoid the damage of projecting your voice through exercises and natural resonance. Singing exercises can help with that.

man shouting ultimate choir guide



15. Singing in harmony improves vocal skills

Singing in a choir can help improve your vocal skills and your ability to listen and give you the opportunity to sing in harmony with others.

It encourages teamwork and cooperation with others, which are useful to everyone in the home, families, work and life.

16. Find “your people” at choir and make friends

Choirs can be a great way to make new friends, meet people and develop a sense of community.

We are all unique, but there will be a variety of different people you can connect with of varied ages and backgrounds. You will find your people. Some are introverted, some extroverted, some anxious and some less so. In fact, it can be like a family; we experience the ups and downs together.

The thing is that we are coming together to create beautiful music, and therefore, we all share that in common. This your tribe.

17. Be reliable & attend rehearsals

When you signed up to join your choir or chorus, you knew exactly when what day and what time it was on. At that point, you made a pledge to belong to the choir and be an active singer. So why do some people miss a lot of rehearsals? Please block the time out and go every week as it’s a team sport.

If you say you are going to be doing a performance, please turn up and don’t change your mind. We have made the decision to perform based on the balance of the singers who have signed up – so it is very important to be reliable.

Choir singing well needs to be properly prepared and practised, so if you don’t go to each rehearsal, then it holds back both the choir and your own development and self-improvement. It means we have to repeat work, and we make less progress – and it annoys the other people who are putting in the groundwork week after week.

And you may not be prepared for the concert and have to miss the event you wanted to sing at. It’s not nice to feel left out.

So unless you are ill and having an occasional holiday, please come to choir rehearsals.

Make arrangements for celebration meals and nights out on another day, and if you don’t feel in the mood one evening – consider how buzzed you normally feel after rehearsal and why you joined.

We all feel weary sometimes after a long day, but please don’t let the team down. We need you, your company and your voice.

18. Be prepared to rehearse

Rehearsing regularly is essential for a successful choir. Ensure everyone arrives at rehearsals on time and is prepared to work hard.

avon harmony a cappella

19. Listen to your music director – less chatting!

People can’t hear the instructions if there is a lot of noise. It’s a distraction and affects the progress and well-being of everyone there. Plus, it’s not very polite to everyone else if they are trying to teach and learn.

Also, be mindful, especially if other people have hearing issues and use hearing aids. Everything is loud to them and of the same volume as the background noise, and they won’t be able to hear instructions properly. This affects their enjoyment and can cause them pain if too much.

So take heed, be quieter and make the most of your rehearsal.

20. Memorise sheet music and lyric sheets as soon as you can

Don’t rely on sheet music and lyric sheets because they get in the way of a cohesive sound. In my choir, I expect everyone to know a song in 3-4 weeks especially as people are provided with great singalong tracks for home practice.

You can’t watch the conductor, connect with audiences, tell the story or add artistry to the music by looking down at a piece of paper.

Nope, you just can’t. Memorise your music and feel it.

21. Communicate

Good communication is key to a successful choir. Make sure everyone knows their part and is able to communicate effectively with each other.

Have systems in place to support singers and ensure people aren’t afraid to ask for help.

Use section leaders, mentors, and buddies and check in with people.

22. Record rehearsals

Record your rehearsals to identify areas for improvement. We use sound recorders on our phones and video the group. People record themselves to self-check.

Our rehearsal notes are emailed each week, and I spend a couple of hours writing each week. We utilise Facebook and Chat groups. This will help you get better faster.

23. Take vocal rest breaks

Take breaks during practice to give your voice a rest so you don’t damage your vocal cords by overuse. If you get hoarse – that is your body saying that you need to stop now. Be quiet.

Seek professional help from your doctor if it persists.

– Practising


24. Practice your singing

Practice regularly to improve your vocal skills. The more you sing, the better you’ll get. Bubble along to your favourite music.

Even 10 minutes a day whilst driving to the local shops or work is more than doing nothing. Or even try it whilst dog walking or running. I am used to getting funny looks.

dog, pet, canine-3751980.jpg

25. Enjoy a variety of music styles

Experiment with different styles of music to broaden your repertoire and develop your musical skills. It’s easy to get stuck in a musical rut and only listen to songs of your youth or favourite artists.

Dare to discover something new and exciting that you might love.

26. Get feedback and take lessons

Get feedback from others to help improve your singing. Consider working with a vocal coach or taking lessons to get personalized feedback. Your choir leader and other singers will be helpful too.

Occasionally, you might get someone who says something that may seem personal and lacks tact – but stand back, look objectively and get another point of view to see if it is valid or not. Sometimes, singing coaches will contradict each other, and sometimes, the advice depends on what research they have read, their own experiences and what they have been taught.

No spare money? Use YouTube videos and Google searches to find lots of great resources.

27. You will make mistakes, and that’s okay.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Embrace the learning process and keep practising to improve your skills. Life would be boring and less satisfying if we found everything easy. The best wins are hard-earned.

I’ve made lots of mistakes, and sometimes, I struggle to learn music and fit everything in. It is not an easy ride. And sometimes it sucks – but it isn’t who I am. I’m just doing my best, and that’s good enough.

28. Learn from other singers, artists and styles

Listen to other singers to learn from their techniques and styles. They will have experiences that they will be happy to share with you. I love helping others myself.

– Better your skills


29. Learn to read music

Learning to read sheet music to improve your sight-reading skills. It’s not essential, but it’s handy to be able to check your notes, rhythms and musical intentions of the composer.

30. Develop your listening skills

Develop your ear training to improve your ability to stay on the pitch and sing in harmony with others. TE Tuner app will help you with this.

Don’t stress too much, however, as some pitch issues will have to do with tension in the body and incorrect vowel placements. For instance, an EE vowel that is sung with too wide a mouth or an AH that drops into the jaw will cause pitch issues.

ultimate singing guide - recording

31. Keep in time

Use a metronome or other rhythm tool to improve your timing and sense of rhythm. Use TE Tuner or similar. You may be a person that needs to feel the rhythm. Don’t be afraid to move, dance and walk in time to the music to embed it into you whilst learning.

Work on your own timing to be able to stay in sync with the rest of the choir and the music director.

32. Record yourself

A very powerful tool. Record yourself personally singing along to the learning tracks or in the choir setting. Be kind to yourself and self-evaluate what you know and what you need to improve on.

I know it won’t feel comfortable as people don’t like hearing their own voices, and you must avoid being negative (treat yourself like a friend), but using this as a self-assessment tool will bring powerful changes.

– Make the music interesting


33. Sing the story

Learn to sing with expression and emotion to connect with your audience. Think about the words and how you would say them without the music, rather like Poetry and storytelling. Sing as you would talk if the message of the song is happening to you. Put yourself and your experiences into the words of the lyrics to make them meaningful.

Sometimes when people sing, we use strange ways of saying words that don’t make sense. Things like lingering on a note in a middle of a word that sounds unnatural. Don’t do that!

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34. Use Dynamics

Use dynamics to add depth and nuance to your singing based on what the lyrics are telling you. Vary your volume and tone to create interest and expression in your singing.

Be sensible about your choices. For instance, it would be inappropriate to be loud and booming when you are in a sad or sentimental part of the music.

34. Maintain long notes and phrases

Phrase the lyrics well and sing to the end of the notes, and finish the words’ sounds at the end. I always laughed, reminding my choir, who used to sing “Eight Days a Week” when it sounded like Eight Days a Wee!

Practice breath control exercises to improve your ability to hold long notes and maintain a consistent tone. Train yourself to use proper breath support to sing long phrases or hold notes for an extended period of time.

35. Control vibrato

Learn to control vibrato to add depth and character to your singing where appropriate.

If you are singing barbershop style in the choir, I would want to hear a fairly straight vocal tone in the chorus to allow the chords to lock and ring perfectly. A strong vibrato voice would unbalance that.

However, a lead in a barbershop quartet may use vibrato at the end of phrases for vocal interest. And many soloists use vibrato to add character to their performance.

36. Let’s hear those lyrics

Work on your diction to improve your clarity and articulation when singing. We want to hear those words and what you are singing about.

Please give us the ends of the words (back to the Wee of Week!). The consonants REALLY matter, and ones like K add interest, too.

Add the consonant sound of the end of a word at the beginning of the next where appropriate to keep a smooth legato flow.

divas quartet ultimate guide better singing

37. Be confident connecting with your audience

Sing with confidence and conviction to connect with your audience and convey the song’s emotion. If you know your music properly and are well-rehearsed, this will come easier.

Practice this skill when learning notes and words from the beginning.

38. Use natural phrasing

Use proper phrasing and diction to convey the meaning and emotion of the lyrics. Don’t stop in the middle of a sentence that you wouldn’t if you were speaking, and keep the flow of each musical phrase moving and arching through.

39. Use appropriate body language

Your body language will convey emotion and expression when singing. Make the most of your face and eyes as your most powerful tool to connect with people. Make it believable.

Think about what you singing the lyrics before you do and only perform movements as you would do if you were telling the story.

Sometimes, I see performers flapping their arms and body all over the place when they are singing, which is distracting ( along with people who don’t keep their eyes on their MD 😂), but they wouldn’t do it in normal conversation. Their OTT body moves affect their body alignment and affect their best voice, too. So move… but only to enhance and not to distract.

I know because I used to move far too much, and I stuck out like a sore thumb in the chorus. My arms kept going up and down like I was flying. Yet, finally, I have it cracked nowadays. Keep at it.

Use a mirror for instant feedback. Video yourself to self-improve.

– Explore your voice


40. Try different vocal styles to add texture

Experiment with different vocal styles, such as belting or vibrato. Try vocal effects, such as falsetto or growling, to add variety to your singing. It’s fun to see what your voice can do. Use an internet search for inspiration.

41. Use your full vocal range

Practice singing in different ranges to improve your flexibility and range of expression. Experiment with different vocal exercises to improve your vocal range.

Exercises like sirening on a bubble will help you develop this.

42. Listen carefully

Develop your ability to harmonize with others by listening carefully and blending your voice with others in the group.

Listening harder to those around you than you sing is the key.

43. Change the key

We don’t always sing music in the key it is written as it may be more comfortable pitched up or down for each individual choir.

I spotted this whilst singing common BABS & LABBS Polecats and songs. For instance, I have sung Anthem and Lazy Day in no less than three different pitches, depending on the chorus. And never mind how many pitches you can sing Heart of My Heart in, especially when we have mixed singers in the same room!

So practice singing in different keys to improve your versatility and ability to adapt to different songs, styles and artistic changes.

44. Add vocal colour

Use vocal colour to add depth and character to your singing. Singing brightly, darkly and breathy, depending on what the music calls for. Use your voice as an instrument to create a unique and expressive sound.

45. Look for the music in the silence.

Use your breath points to create dynamics, meaning, rhythm and interest in your singing. 

The strongest emotional points of the music are often never spoken about, which gives you the chills. Special moments and feelings are found in the silence.

46. Express with your face and eyes

Use your facial expressions to convey the emotion of the song and connect with your audience.

Use a mirror. Are you looking happy and relaxed in the love song, or do you look pained and are trying to remember the notes?

In the chorus, we had a bit where people struggled to remember the lyrics of a new song. At that point, there was an unplanned collective look to the sky among those who were not proficient yet (divine inspiration?!), and I lost the meaning of the music as well as highlighting who wasn’t confident yet.

Those eyes tell it all!

– And a few extra tips


47. Sing with a band or have a karaoke session

Practice singing with a variety of different accompaniments away from rehearsal, such as karaoke, piano, guitar, or drums, to improve your ability to adapt to different musical styles.

It’s great to let it rip. I do love my occasional bit of living room karaoke.

woman in band

48. Visualize yourself as a confident singer

We know how hard it is to be kind to yourself, and we are looking for the magic power that’ll take all your anxiety away about singing in public.

I’ve shaken so much on stage with stage fright that I thought everyone could see it and call my bluff about being a fake. Over time, it has got easier, but rationalizing it.

Fool your brain and body. Use visualization techniques to prepare mentally for a performance and to help you stay focused during a performance.

49. Watch out for colds & viruses

Practice good physical hygiene to prevent the spread of illness and maintain good vocal health. Wash hands etc.

Stay away if you think you have a bug so as not to infect your fellow singers.

50. Microphones

If you need to be amplified, use a microphone properly to avoid feedback and ensure that your voice is heard clearly.

51. Never run out of air when singing

As a choir singer, you don’t need to run out of breath. In my chorus/choir, people breathe when they need to (but not in the obvious places!) whilst pretending they are singing! It creates a continuous sound, and we always finish the phrases and words properly.

Use proper breathing techniques and ninja breathing/staggered breathing/planned breathing to avoid running out of breath while singing.

52. Final body alignment reminder.

An extra reminder. Fabulous body alignment improves your vocal sound dramatically, helps maximise resonance and reduces vocal strain. Just relax and sing as naturally as you speak.

53. Enjoy singing in your choir and have a great time

Above all, enjoy the process of singing and being part of a choir, and never stop learning and improving your skills

Thank you for reading my Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Better Choir Singer. I have added everything I could think about when writing this, but if you have any suggestions, please get in touch with me.

Please subscribe to my blog, share my post on social media and recommend my website to your friends.

Take care,


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Want to discover more about singing? Join my glorious tribe of singers.

Sign up for occasional email updates from my singing blog, news from my musical adventures, and unmissable tips on improving your singing voice. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Subscribe to the curious singer blog here

Read more Singing Blogs by Mary

Want to discover more about singing? Join my glorious tribe of fabulous singers.

Sign up for occasional email updates from my singing blog, news from my musical adventures, and unmissable tips on improving your singing voice. You can unsubscribe at any time.

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