I sing in a choir that performs a lot of music containing very close, tone-cluster type harmonies. We stand mixed rather than in sections, so it's especially challenging to find my pitch and maintain it. Worse, I'm an "inner voice" (tenor).

In rehearsal, I can cup one of my ears to hear myself better, but that looks pretty bad in performance.

1. What at-home exercises will improve my skill in this area?
2. How can I help myself within the ensemble?

I am comfortable hearing and singing intervals, fixed and moveable do, and singing common-practice music. I'm looking for techniques to address non-tonal music and finding/holding pitch within clusters/heavy dissonances.

A couple examples of the kind of music I'm/we're singing, timed to illustrative parts.

"...a riveder le stelle", by Ingvar Lidholm

Figure humaine, "VII: La menace sous le ciel rouge", by Francis Poulenc

  • I can't understand why the choir cannot be split into sections - particularly for rehearsals. To me, it's like having your foldback monitor only panned to the guitar, while you play bass. There may be some sense in it, but it escapes me! Hence comment only! Once you know your part, there shouldn't be a problem - in fact, in situations like this, I rely on other voices to get my own pitch.
    – Tim
    Dec 20, 2020 at 9:16

2 Answers 2


About the only rehearsals I've done in the last couple of years have been big bands, and that's been to get the ensemble playing really together. Funnily enough, the saxes all sit together, as do the trumpets, as do the trombones, as do the rhythm section. All that makes good sense. And, durng performances, the same happens.

I record it all, for various reasons. One being to hear exactly what goes on - not easy listening to trumpet figures while concentrating on my own parts, another being to listen to what I played - how it blended (or not), how the ad lib bits adlibbed, another being when I need to, I can replay parts and play along with them.

That last bit is an idea for you. It could be important where you place the mic, but that isn't too onerous.So, you go home, replay, look at the dots, sing along. Also play along on piano, etc.- your part - so it becomes ingrained.

I'd also have a look at others' parts too, to be aware of how they fitted in with my own. And, listening to recordings of the pieces, singing along, too. I'm well aware that the arrangements may be different, but it's another avenue. You might even stumble on the exact one the choir uses. Serendipity!

In response to the second question - I'd be waiting to be convinced there's a good reason why the choir is all mixed up. I went to an auditon a few years back, and the band was set up as if at a gig - drummer behind etc. I enquired why there could be no eye contact - it was supposed to be a rehearsal - and the answer was 'it's like a gig'. Well, rehearsals can be like gigs - they're usually called dress rehearsals'...


Better to cup your ear than to lose your pitch!

I don't think there are any special techniques beyond the obvious ones - lots of practice of sight-singing in atonal style and thorough familiarity with your part. And experience, of course.

  • 2
    This is a comment, not an answer.
    – Aaron
    Dec 20, 2020 at 2:26
  • No it isn't, yes it is!
    – Laurence
    Dec 20, 2020 at 3:25

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