There are various digital aids on the internet, MIDI files, MP3 files and others, that can help you learn a piece. Practising between rehearsals is worth doing to improve the quality of any performance by the choir and it can also really increase your own enjoyment of the rehearsals. After all, we spend far more time in rehearsals than in performances.
There is probably not one solution for everyone – it depends on personal choice and on what device (computer, smartphone, tablet) you use. The list below gives a few examples and explains a bit. Ask us for help if you need it.
1) MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface): We often talk of MIDI files but they are in fact not music files or recordings, but a set of digital instructions to your device to play notes at the right pitch and the correct rhythm for your voice part. You can slow the track down, put it on repeat, or change the balance of the voice parts or accompaniment.
MIDI files are available from several sites on the internet. On most sites you can play them directly (on Microsoft) or download the files . Downloading them can give you more control to slow them down, repeat etc. However your device will need a MIDI file player app. Some Windows devices come with an in-built app eg Windows MIDI player, which means you can play MIDI files immediately. From our experience, MIDI files seem to work better on non-Mac devices.
If you need, or choose, to download a different app, there is a thorough discussion of what’s available (eg ‘Learn My Part’ a paid-for app for Iphones and Ipads) at: www.learnchoralmusic.co.uk/PlayMidi.html )
For a selection of MIDI files of the music we sing, take a look at:
- learnchoralmusic.co.uk (free to use)
- johnfletchermusic.org mostly free to play (a small fee is charged for works if they are in copyright). You need to create your own personal login (for free) to access both MIDI and MP3 files from this site.
2) MP3: Mac users might prefer to look out for MP3 files, which you can play directly on your device and do not need a special app. For a selection of MP3 sites, take a look at:
- Cyberbass.com – free to play. You can choose your individual part or ‘all voices’, you can slow it down and speed it up
- choralia.net – free to play, but donations are appreciated. You can slow it down or speed it up (with the tortoise/hare slider), and you can reduce or raise the volume of your chosen voice part.
- johnfletchermusic.org – as above, mostly free to play (a small fee is charged for works if they are in copyright) and you need to create your own personal free login to access both MP3 and MIDI files. On this site, it doesn’t seem possible to change the speed of MP3 recordings.
3) Paid- for CDs and MP3 recordings: Some people prefer to buy practice CDs or MP3 recordings – eg from www.choraline.com which has a voice to guide you through the music, call out bar numbers etc. (Choraline also has a paid-for app.)
Choraline has a free guide to learning your part that everyone might find useful – https://www.choraline.com/files/LearnVP.pdf
4) Other options: If you don’t have a piano, there are keyboard apps for smartphones or tablets, and there are freestanding keyboards you plug into your device – see photo:
They might be tricky to play a whole piece on, but you can use them to find your note or work out a short passage.
For a further clear and comprehensive description about what’s available, take a look at Newcastle choral society’s excellent resources.
If you think we’ve missed something, let us know your top tip. And if none of this makes sense, tell us and we will help you find a suitable practice aid that works for you!