caroling 101

Caroling 101 Tips

Did you know about 16% of Americans go caroling, according to the Pew Research Study? As we get closer to the holidays and D.C.gets colder by the week, the spirit of caroling is in the air.

Zak Sandler, a voice instructor at D.C.’s Middle C Music, which specializes in voice lessons, has compiled a list of his caroling 101 tips for families who want to spread holiday cheer for all to hear this year.

Which Songs to Embrace

You know when you turn on the radio during the holidays and the whole family gets filled with joy hearing familiar favorites? Those should be the ones you start with!

  • “Jingle Bells”
  • “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
  • “Silent Night”

These are all crowd favorites and can be sung with just melody, making it easier for children to follow along. Bringing songbooks or lyric sheets to keep everyone aware of the next line is never a bad idea. Encourage your caroling audience to sing along as it’s always more fun when the community joins in.

Which Songs to Avoid

I recommend that families avoid “Good King Wenceslas” because it has a difficult rhythm and people aren’t very familiar with the whole song as well as “O Holy Night” and “What Child Is This?” because of the large range it covers. Ironically, “Here We Come A-Caroling” throws everyone off as many people, especially young ones, don’t know the words as well as they think they do.

Requests will happen, and welcome them if you feel comfortable! If you’re not familiar with the songs, be polite and offer another that is similar.

Warming Up Your Voice

Warming up your vocals gets your voices and ears ready as well as helps keep your voice warmer for longer when outside. If you have never done vocal warmups before, try humming, first in your mid-ranges, then try to bring the voice higher. After you feel like the voice is warm, try singing through your carols together! Once you’re outside and getting colder, make “zzzzz” sounds into a scarf to keep your voice warm.

Planning Your Night

Caroling will go much better for everyone involved if you do a little planning beforehand. Depending on the crowd’s reaction, I recommend three to four songs at each stop. It’s okay if you don’t draw a crowd. I recommend encouraging children to just sing for fun and understand that not everyone is going to gather around. Don’t feel restricted to neighborhoods –-bop around to small business districts, visit ice rinks and/or see if your local church would be receptive to the idea.

Before venturing out, make sure everyone has enough warm clothes including gloves, hats and earmuffs. Nothing is worse than feeling cold when you’re meant to be singing to put everyone in a festive mood! Lastly, no caroling experience is complete without lots of hot chocolate and warm beverages throughout the evening. Stay warm and have fun!


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