The life-changing magic of note-taking in choir rehearsals

The life-changing magic of note-taking in choir rehearsals
Photo by Daniel Romero / Unsplash

I started a new habit recently. While I'm directing choir rehearsals, I keep my iPad behind where I stand, with a keyboard attached. When there's a break, the first thing I do is turn around and write down as much as I can remember about the session we just had.

This includes what we worked on, as well as anything I identified that will need looking at in the future.

You'll forgive me if this sounds like an unbelievably simple concept, but having this in place over just two sessions has hugely changed the way I plan and deliver chorus rehearsals.

Your memory sucks

As David Allen says in his book Getting Things Done:

Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.

I'm not sure whether this is something that a lot of people experience, but my brain often trusts its future self far more than it should. I'm always telling myself I'll remember things, but inevitably forget about them almost instantly.

One of the primary functions of note-taking is to remember stuff that you would forget otherwise. It’s a bit like having a second brain.

No more planning from scratch

Rehearsal planning used to be a really difficult task for me. I'd sit there and try to recall what we'd been working on, and what I thought we would need to look at next.

In fact, it was often such a chore that I would often avoid it until the very last minute (thanks, ADHD). While some flexibility and spontaneity is required in delivering rehearsals, setting objectives ahead of time is extremely important for ensuring you're consistently heading in the right direction, and for giving your singers a great experience!

Now that I have a bank of notes relating to each rehearsal and each song, planning rehearsals is just a case of looking back over my notes and turning them into a todo list.

Making members feel heard

My members are wonderful, and often come up with great ideas for stuff they'd like to try in rehearsals, or things they think need looking at. I love hearing these suggestions, and always want to use them. But before I was in the habit of writing stuff down, I would often forget about these great ideas, and members would have to badger me repeatedly to make sure I remembered.

Now, whenever a member comes to me with an idea, I have a place to write it down. I can then review these suggestions when making my rehearsal plans. Now that I can start to deliver on members' suggestions, I'm hoping their sense of ownership will increase.

My note-taking system

Because everything I use is Apple, I love using Bear to take notes. It has a really flexible tagging system for organisation, and uses Markdown for formatting.

But there are plenty of alternatives available including Apple Notes, Evernote, and Notion. And, of course, there's good old-fashioned pen and paper too!

Each time I make a note, I title it with the rehearsal date, and then tag it with each song we worked on. Tagging songs in notes helps me find all my notes on a particular song in one place.