Did you know that every time you sing a ROUND, you’re exercising your harmony singing chops?
A round is a song which can be sung by two or more people (or groups of people) at the same time, with each person starting the same song at a different time.
(SCROLL DOWN TO THE BOTTOM IF YOU WANT TO START SINGING RIGHT AWAY!)
When you sing a round, you’re singing in harmony!
Take the song Row, Row, Row Your Boat… While one person is singing “Row, Row, Row,” the other person is singing “Merrily, Merrily, Merrily” on different notes, and it sounds so cool! That’s harmony!
Rounds singing can be tricky — here are some tips!
1. Put the beat (or pulse) of the song in your body — tap your feet, clap your hands, or bounce.
The more natural your movement the better — think DANCING. Make your movement visually obvious so the people you’re singing with can see it. This helps everyone because the pulse is what everyone has in common, even while they’re singing different parts. The shared pulse keeps everyone connected. And it feels good!
2. Learn the song first.
It’s hard to stick to your part when you’re hearing other sounds — this is why singing rounds is such a skill builder for your musical brain. Knowing your song well really helps!
Rounds are usually designed to be accessible and fun so the songs are usually pretty short and relatively easy.
Play this track for a (thorough) lesson on how to sing Row, Row, Row your boat:
3. Tune out until you can tune in.
When you’re starting out you might have to cover your ears to tune everyone else out, and just focus on getting your own part right. Or if there are multiple people on each part you might need to put all your attention on the people who are singing the same part as you until you’re feeling really solid.
Then bit by bit you can start letting in the sounds of people singing the other parts. It’s a back and forth process (or a spectrum between) “I can’t heeeeaar you!” to “I’m listening to you, singing my part, and enjoying all the harmonies we’re making!”
4. Let’s do it…!
Let’s sing it together!In this next track you’ll hear two distinct voices singing Row Your Boat in unison, and then as a round. That pattern repeats twice so you can practice both getting really solid on the song and practice singing it as a round. Try choosing one of the voices to sing with all through the track. Then switch and try it with the other voice. Have fun!!!
Join me and Zach singing Row, Row Row Your Boat as a Round…
And, here are the notes of the song plinked out on the piano in case you’d like that visual support… (it’s in a different key so it will sound a little different than what we’re singing, but this shows the relationship between the notes in the song, and that never changes, no matter what key you sing it in!)
Nancy Salwen is a singing teacher and the founder of The Fear of Singing Breakthrough Program, and the author of the book by the same name. She teaches singing to "non-singers," beginning singers, and anyone who wants to be more confident and expressive with their voice. She leads workshops in New England, New York City and California and teaches private lessons over Skype.
In addition she is a Music for People certified workshop leader and leads music-based team building workshops for businesses and organizations, and an early childhood music educator and Music Together teacher and center director.