Voice for Life

The Voice for Life Training Scheme provides a framework allowing singers of all ages to develop their skills, to learn about music notation, and expand their knowledge of repertoire. The work books provide a clear guide on the different aspects of singing by completing questions, exercises and puzzles. The back of each book provides a checklist for easy reference. There is no time limit for completion which allows each chorister to study at their own pace under the direction of the church musician.

There are five levels: White (beginner), Light Blue, Dark Blue, Red, and Yellow. These colours correspond to the choir badgesVfl_ logowith ribbon or the lapel pin. As each work book is completed, the chorister is promoted to the specific level during a presentation ceremony which may be part of Sunday worship. (The RSCM Centre has an order of service that lasts about five minutes during which a chorister may be admitted to the choir or promoted to their new level.)

These levels are completed individually or in a group setting with the help of the church musician. Some of the work in the books can be incorporated into the choir rehearsal.

The RSCM Centre’s online shop provides the workbooks, progress charts, medals and lapel pins. There are choir trainer books to assist the church musician in setting up the programme.

This Scheme is available to all choristers who are affiliated to the RSCM through their church choir membership.

How singers are trained and assessed

So that choir trainers and teachers can train and assess singers with confidence, each level includes:

  • Teaching material appropriate to the level. This includes practical exercises, diagrams, photocopiable worksheets, and sample tests.
  • Workbooks for singers containing questions, exercises and puzzles. These are designed for use by singers of any age.
  • Clear targets. These are listed in the back of the Singers’ Workbooks with a space for the choir trainer or teacher to sign and date each target as it is achieved, showing the singer’s progress.

Singers may also take Bronze, Silver and Gold singing awards.

The skills developed in Voice for Life

Each level provides training in the following areas:

Module A: Using the voice well

Module A illustration

This module teaches singers how to develop good vocal technique. It contains many practical exercises and helpful diagrams enabling you to deliver the training with confidence. It begins by helping singers get used to the physical sensations of healthy vocal technique, and in the later levels develops their understanding of the physiology of the voice.

Contained in this module:

posture, breathing, tone and range, diction, style and interpretation, blending with the choir

Module B: Musical skills & understanding

Module B illustration

Musical skills and musical understanding should grow together; as a singer makes progress with their voice they need to develop the understanding and skills to support them in their singing. Singers need to understand the music they are looking at and develop an ability to read and interpret what they see. Likewise, they need to develop their listening skills. This module develops knowledge of music theory and notation, and then encourages singers to demonstrate this understanding through sight-singing and aural skills.

Contained in this module:

music theory (note values, rests, time signatures, note names, ledger lines, accidentals, double sharps and flats, intervals and degrees of the scale, keys and scales, modes, chords and cadences), sample sight-reading tests, sample aural tests.

Module C: Repertoire

Module C illustration

This module develops a good understanding of the musical and historical contexts of the music performed by the choir or individual singer. It also gives singers the opportunity to demonstrate the musical understanding they gain in Module B through simple musical analysis. Singers are encouraged to find out about the background of the music that they sing: to translate and understand the text of a piece, to look at the historical background, to look at the purpose of a piece and to develop an understanding of the style/genre. Through this research, singers develop the ability to gather information from various sources and to present this in an original form.

Contained in this module:

finding the information, sample questions, sample answers, how to write programme notes, programming for your choir – basic principles.

Module D: Belonging to the choir

Module D illustration

If a singer wants to be part of a choir, there is more required than simply being able to sing. There are issues of commitment, punctuality and responsibility. This module considers how a singer can be encouraged in these areas and gives plenty of additional advice for you on recruiting singers into the choir and how to maintain their interest and commitment.

Contained in this module:

recruiting and publicity, new singers, when a singer moves into the adult section, when singers leave the choir, roles for singers within the choir, choir pay, discipline, notes for head choristers/choir captains, copyright issues, child protection, weekly standards, general progress, rehearsal tips, starting a choir.

Module E: Choir in context

Module E illustration

A choir does not exist in isolation. Although it is a community in its own right it is also part of a wider community such as a school, church, village or town. This module encourages singers to explore the wider context of its choir’s existence: Why do they sing in that particular choir? Why does the choir exist? For whom does it sing? How does the choir benefit its members and those outside the choir? The material is divided into various sessions, each based on one topic, and these come complete with photocopiable worksheets.

Contained in this module:

the gift of music, the power of music, what is a community?, the community of our choir, the wider community, the roots of our choir, the changing repertoire of our choir, special project: serving the wider community.

Additional sessions for church and worship choirs:

Christian ministry and music, regular and special services, festivals and seasons in the Christian year, places of worship (church buildings).