Do you dream of taking singing lessons, or singing in a choir? If so, consider this…
I was recently talking with a friend in her 60s who told me that she was considering auditioning to join a choir. She explained to me, “My voice is getting weak. I just don’t have the power I used to have. Do you think that singing in a choir will help me with that?”
I answered with a bit of hesitation, “Yes… maybe.”My friend, who knows I am careful when I answer questions regarding health and music, responded with a laugh, “Only ‘maybe’? But singing in a choir is supposed to be so good for us!”
She is right about that. There is strong evidence from good studies that singing in a choir brings with it huge benefits, especially for those of us who are over 60. One well-regarded study from 2021 notes that: “In older adults, regular participation in community-level choirs can reduce anxiety, depression, and loneliness; improve self-evaluated quality of life, physical health, and interest in life; and increase general activity.”
That’s a pretty impressive list of possible improvements to an older adult’s life. Add to that the deep joy of creating beautiful, meaningful music with others, while breathing in sync with them. How could this activity not enhance your life?
But if you are looking for very specific changes in your voice, or if you have a need for unique musical expression, then singing lessons may be more beneficial to you than joining a choir, at least as your first step. Let me tell you why.
When you take a singing lesson with a good teacher, you enter a magical world that is quite different from that of the choir. Choir experience is about the group in harmonious action together. A singing lesson is about you, and only you.
For instance, my friend who has found that her voice has lost power may find that certain vocal exercises will gradually increase the power in her voice. A voice coach will listen to her singing through various exercises (or songs) to see if there is an imbalance in how she is using her voice.
Is it a problem with the vocal cords themselves? This is something that is tricky to address. If there is damage to her vocal cords, she may need to see a throat doctor and/or commit to a period of vocal rest.
Or is the lack of vocal power a misunderstanding about the muscle co-ordination required to sing? Is she breathing well? Perhaps she will need a good explanation about how at least some of her power can come from using the ring or twang aspect of resonance in her face.
As you can see, each of these issues is very personal and individual. My friend may find that once she has solved at least some of her power issues, she will feel more confident about going to a choir audition.
Lacking that vocal understanding, my concern for her is that she may “push” hard on her throat and strain her voice in order to get the kind of power that her conductor may require.
But singing is a mysterious act in many ways. While we know quite a lot about the mechanics of the voice, there is clearly a deep boost of wellbeing that comes from making music together. And we cannot measure that. Some of my friend’s vocal troubles may well be solved just through the sheer joy of musical camaraderie.
Finally, there are those singers who have a need for very personal expression through songs.
One of my students who is now in her 50s, dreamed as a child of singing songs from music theatre like, Cats, Les Miserables and Cabaret. But her young voice was not able to produce the powerful belting sounds that some of these musicals require.
Her goal now is not to become a solo artist, but to find out if she can, at this point, learn to use her voice in this way. This kind of vocal ambition requires the quiet concentration of private lessons. It’s a one-on-one kind of process.
Still, as a person who relishes community activities, this student also finds joy in singing with a big, glorious choir.
So, singing lessons or singing in a choir. Or both? What is right for you, at this time?
Do you have a strong desire to sing? Is the choir experience right for you? Or are you more drawn to singing lessons? Or would you consider doing both?
Tags Hobbies for Women