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Elevating Group Singing with Props & Visuals

by Jennifer Dean 

Group singing is great for both your body and your mind. "We did a study comparing novice singing classes with novice hobby classes in terms of how much these activities produced feelings of social bonding” explains University of Oxford evolutionary psychologist, Robin Dunbar. “Singing produces a massive hit of endorphins, and that makes you feel very bonded to the people with whom you're doing it". In addition to forging a sense of belonging and social connection, singing has also been found to improve physical health, lung function, and immune response. And, when it comes to enhancing your group singing sessions, props and visuals, in particular, are a great option. By incorporating scarves and ribbon streamers, instruments, and physical movement into your sessions, you can make them fun, interesting, and varied for all. 

Use scarves and ribbon streamers

Scarves and ribbons are a fun way to better facilitate self-expression while singing, and help children and adults alike ease into the joy of movement. So, for instance, scarves and ribbons can be used to make trickier parts of the song — including more complex melodic contours — easier to manage. They can create a helpful visual and kinesthetic learning opportunity — ideal for people who learn through “doing” — that helps the group better follow the sound. As a result, you’ll spend less time rehearsing trying to perfect a certain section.

Not only are scarves and ribbon streamers a fun and effective prop, but they’re also fairly affordable. For example, you can purchase these items — along with plastic rings to loop them onto — cheaply at thrift stores. Alternatively, you can ask group members and relatives to donate any spare scarves or ribbon — you don’t necessarily need the plastic rings. A handy tip is to attach strips of non-adhesive flagging tape onto the ribbons or scarves to help them better float in the air.  

Play live instruments

Do you play an instrument? Why not bring it along to your group singing session? Playing live instruments has been proven to increase coordination, cooperation, and contact with others — which will serve to further enhance your group singing session. Yet, you don’t necessarily even need an instrument to perform live music. With a laptop and special software (like a full digital audio workstation), for instance, you can create your own beats to sing along to. Alternatively, there are websites out there that allow you to make your own beats for free. Either way, making your own beats, melodies, and chord progressions is a fun way to engage the group, and create a fun and enjoyable session. 

Move your body

Yes — your own body can be a prop! In fact, "singing is a deeply embodied activity: It reminds us to get in touch with our whole selves”, singing professor Melissa Forbes tells The Conversation. By incorporating physical movement into your group singing sessions, you can inspire and enthuse the group, and help them feel more involved physically and emotionally. In turn, you’ll end up with a richer and more natural vocal sound. Physical movement also has the benefit of helping to highlight a song’s message and meaning. So, for example, start by thinking about the lyrics to one of your songs — what theme or story do they tell? You can then work on incorporating movements that reflect key memorable and movement-oriented lyrics in the song. Movements like claps, pats, shoulder shrugs, and head tosses, for instance, are simple to execute, and a great way to highlight interesting musical rhythms and rests. Big, sweeping movements, on the other hand, can be used to crescendo or carry a musical phrase. Above all, your chosen physical movements shouldn’t be complicated. Rather, they should be simple and easy for everyone in the group to learn and remember. You also don't want to repeat movements too many times throughout the song as this can cause them to become stale and boring. So, try incorporating a fresh, surprise move on the third or fourth time through the chorus, for instance.

Props and visuals are a great way to elevate group singing sessions. By incorporating scarves and ribbon streamers, instruments, and physical movements, you can make your sessions fun and memorable for all.

Best Concrete