When a choral group sings in parts, they create vocal harmony within a song. Harmony adds richness and texture to many vocal pieces. Typical harmony parts sung by most choirs are soprano, alto, tenor and bass. If you are a choral director leading an adult choir, you may have to work with your choir members to help them to learn their parts. Even if your group does not have formal musical training, with a little time and practice, you can have them singing choral harmony.
Point out the notes that make up the choir members' parts. Even if your choir cannot read music, they can learn to identify when notes move up, down or stay the same. This will help them to follow their pitches more accurately. You also can teach them basic rhythm notes, such as quarter, eighth, half and whole notes, along with various rests. Learning the rhythms will help them to sing more accurately as well.
Divide your choir into groups based on which part is being sung when you are first learning a song. If a choir member can work with other sopranos, altos, tenors or basses at first, he is more likely to figure out his part.
Play the melody line of each part individually and have that group of singers sing their part as you play. After you have played once for them, listen to it. Emphasize troublesome sections of the song by slowing down your playing and demonstrating the part vocally.
Provide your choir members with audio recordings of their specific parts. Advise them to listen at home or in the car and to practice their parts.
Divide your choir into small groups with one person representing each vocal part. Have the group sing a section of the song. This is an excellent means of checking for accuracy once the choir has been working on a piece for a while.
Remain patient. You may have some adults who have been singing for many years but have never learned to sing harmony parts. They may experience frustration at first. Encourage your choir members and remind them that learning to sing harmony parts takes time.
Charlotte Johnson is a musician, teacher and writer with a master's degree in education. She has contributed to a variety of websites, specializing in health, education, the arts, home and garden, animals and parenting.