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How to run a virtual a cappella rehearsal

Virtual meetings have become the new normal for many over the past year, and the a cappella community is no exception. However your a cappella group has grown to adapt to little to no in-person meetings, here are some tips for how to make virtual rehearsals work to your advantage.

Zoom has proven to be one of the most popular and accessible ways for groups of people to meet virtually, and there is a good chance your group has already tried using it. There is no cost to download the program, and the free version allows you to host group meetings for up to 40 minutes at a time. Contact your university to see if they would pay for or reimburse your group for the cost of a higher-level plan, which can give you the option to host longer meetings.

If Zoom is not your group’s meeting platform of choice, there are plenty of other video call options. Google Meet, Skype, Discord and even FaceTime for smaller meetings are all great alternatives to Zoom that are also free to use.

Singing over a video call can pose some challenges, but there are ways to optimize Zoom for singing to give your group a better rehearsal experience. All group members should adjust their audio settings and make sure their Zoom software is up to date to achieve the best results possible.

Zoom audio settings on a computer can be found by clicking the arrow next to the mute button. To sharpen your singing experience, set the “Suppress background sound” setting to low, as recommended by Zoom for music sharing. Make sure to deselect the “Automatically Adjust Microphone Volume” option and reduce the Input Volume based on how loud your voice will be.

At the bottom of the Audio Settings page, you will see an “Advanced” button that can help you improve your audio even more. The signal processing and auto cancellation features should be set to “Auto,” and check the box labeled “Show in-meeting option to ‘Enable Original Sound’ from microphone.” Lastly, make sure the box labeled “High fidelity music mode” is checked to allow Zoom to automatically adjust itself for singing.

Breakout rooms are an easy way to split seamlessly into sectionals mid-rehearsal. To allow breakout rooms, go to the “In Meeting (Advanced)” section of your account’s settings, enable breakout rooms, and check the box that allows the host to pre-assign breakout rooms while scheduling meetings. You will then be able to find this function in the Meeting Options section while scheduling your meeting, and a Breakout Rooms icon will be visible to the host during the meeting for when you wish to activate the rooms.

Your group should establish some expectations for conduct during Zoom rehearsals to make sure things run smoothly. Set some ground rules for when microphones and video sharing should be on and off, and avoid talking over one another by coming up with a system for asking questions and making suggestions during the meeting. Everyone’s circumstances will be different, so make sure you and your group members are on the same page about what their Zoom capabilities are.

If your group’s conditions allow, consider holding an outdoor, socially distant rehearsal for a change of pace! Your first priority should be the safety of your group members and your community, so this should only be an option if it is in compliance with the restrictions in your area. If you will be outside, bring a pitch pipe to give starting notes, make sure your laptops are fully charged and bring printed sheet music. Make sure you are well within your area’s guidelines for gathering sizes, mask mandates and social distancing, and always stay safe and responsible.

If your group members are attending virtual classes, meetings and rehearsals, Zoom burnout can really take its toll. To avoid getting overwhelmed or over-tired by Zoom meetings, try setting up virtual happy hours and group hangouts. Putting aside time to relax and have fun outside of rehearsal is so important for pumping up morale and keeping the social aspect of a cappella even if you are not able to see each other in person.

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