Don’t try to help your fellow singers – it’s not your job!

Listed on June 9, 2013 in Blogs!

Many’s the time I see Ann lean over to Gill (not their real names!) to help her get her part right. And every time I see a pained expression on Gill’s face.


photo by m_culnane

She doesn’t want Ann’s help and didn’t ask for it. And it’s not Ann’s job to give it any way.

There are many reasons why you might want to help your fellow choir member out, and most of them are wrong!

  • it makes you feel important – or even superior. Maybe you picked up the part quite quickly and feel the need to show that off to others.
  • you want perfection – and hearing someone a bit ‘off’ offends your ear so you try to correct it.
  • you’re only trying to help – but you may not be helping at all (see below)!
  • you’re a control freak – and can’t bear not being in control of the overall sound your section makes.
  • you need to show off your musical knowledge – usually because you’re feeling a little insecure yourself, and this is one thing you can boast about.
  • you’re not a team player – and really want to be the one standing out front leading. Go and form your own choir then!

Here is why your unsolicited ‘help’ might not be such a good thing:

  • you’re not taking responsibility for yourself – better to focus on your own singing and make sure that you’ve got it right (see also How to be a good choir member).
  • struggling is not such a bad thing – it’s important for individuals to go through that eggy stage where they’re not quite sure what’s going on. That’s when real learning takes place. If you step in too soon and try to do it for them, then the song might not go in as well (see also Learning songs by ear).
  • you might not be right any way – and end up helping your mate to sing the song wrongly too!
  • it’s not your problem – or your job. The choir leader is there to teach and help singers, not you. It also means that you’re focusing on the wrong thing. In the early stages of learning a song, you need to concentrate on your own singing.
  • it can amount to tittle tattle – a bit like gossiping, or pointing out to your choir leader “Gill seems to be singing it wrong again”.
  • it puts too much responsibility on one person – let’s suppose your help is needed, and let’s suppose the singers around you start to rely on the fact that you always seem to know what’s going on. Then they stop taking responsibility for their own singing and start to depend on you. Not only is that a lot of pressure, but if you don’t turn up one week, they’re screwed (see also Why being a confident singer is not always a good thing in a choir)!
  • people may start to dislike you – nobody likes a know-it-all.

There are times when some help might be needed, but only if someone asks for it!

If you’re on the receiving end of such unsolicited advice, then just politely tell the person that you’d prefer to struggle with it on your own as you learn better like that.

If you do have problems with a song, then ask your choir leader for help (see Ask questions – your choir leader (probably) won’t bite!).

Have you been in this situation yourself? Has someone butted in and tried to correct your singing? How did that make you feel? Or have you felt inclined to help someone out who seems to be struggling? What was your motivation and how did they react?

I’d love to hear about your own experiences, so do please leave a comment.

Chris Rowbury’s website: