Something all conductors and vocal teachers should use!
When I was a student in 'teaching music', I was told many times about the value of teaching without explanation or using too many words. Stuff like, when you teach a simple song, use your hand to show if the melody goes up or down. So usefull! As much for kids as for grown ups! So I'd like to write to you about using these hand signals. They will make a great difference for both you as a choir conductor and your choir itself.
For example, when you make a circle song or improvisation together, it's key that you shouldn't talk. At least, that's what I tell my singers. While you're making music, that's the language you speak. But of course you have to have some way of communicating and maybe someone has to be in charge. (of course, if you have a small group of well trained musicions, this might be different, bla bla..;-)
If you make choices together, you could make a performance way more interesting. Like soft/loud, long/short notes, harmonize/unison, solo/tutti, airy/twangy and so on. Whatever the signals are you choose to use, the group will be more focussed and together.
If you have ever had lessons in EVTS (Estille voice training system), you know that there's hand signals for using twang, singing airy, lowering the larynx, etc. To suppport the singing technique, the signals show quite letterly what is happening inside when you make the sound. Like singing breathy or with twang.
(left photo shows the signal for 'breathy/airy')
Of course in some way choir conducting itself is about using signals. Moving signals, that support the melody or phrasing, of course. But also if you introduce a voice or end a phrase, you use some kind of language we all understand.
Also, if you are performing with a choir/vocal group and you want to remind them of the musical choices that were made in the rehearsals, the signals work perfectly! The singers will be more focussed and will automatically link the sound they have to make to the sign the conductor shows.
(right photo shows the signal for singing with 'twang')
I hope this short blog can be of inspiration to you. There's so many signals you can come up with, that can be usefull for you, your choirs and your vocal students. I use them all the time! Can't conduct without them anymore.
That's it for now, leave a comment if you feel like it! :-)