Voice for Life

Training a choir is both a challenge and a joy. The Voice for Life training scheme provides a framework for choral singers to develop their vocal skills, their musical understanding and their knowledge of repertoire. It comes with a range of teaching material and supporting resources, and gives plenty of advice on the practicalities of running a choir.

It enables choir trainers and teachers to train their choir or group more effectively, and helps singers grow as people as well as musicians.

Voice for Life involves the choir trainer or teacher and each member of the choir or group. The scheme is flexible: it fits around your choir’s schedule. Much of the training will become part of your usual rehearsal time; for example, the vocal exercises can be incorporated at the beginning of your rehearsal as warm-ups or to break up the rehearsal, and you can provide training on posture, breathing, diction, etc.

How to Use Voice for Life

How to Use Voice for Life

The Voice for Life guide to musicianship

The Voice for Life guide to musicianship






Downloadable singers’ copies of resources in the Voice for Life ‘Guide to Musicianship’ are available here.

The Voice for Life resources for choir trainers contain all the information and advice you need to launch Voice for Life. Other support materials are available to help you motivate, encourage and assess your singers:

  • singers’ workbooks
  • medals
  • badges
  • song collections
  • wall-charts


How Voice for Life works

There are five Voice for Life levels:

  • White (preparatory level)
  • Light Blue
  • Dark Blue
  • Red
  • Yellow


White Level

The F0099White Level is for new singers (ie, probationers/trainee choir members, both children and adults). It introduces and assesses very basic choral skills and understanding.

On finishing the White Level, the singer becomes a full member of the choir. The RSCM Chorister’s Admission Card can be given to mark this special occasion.

The Voice for Life White Lapel Badge can be awarded to acknowledge the achievement. Robed choirs may award a surplice at this stage. Some choirs present singers with the Voice for Life Chorister’s Companion on joining the choir.

Light Blue, Dark Blue, Red and Yellow levels

Once the singer has become a full member of the choir, they move on to the later Voice for Life levels: Light Blue, Dark Blue, Red and Yellow. Each level has graded targets which the choir trainer or teacher assesses. Once a singer has completed the necessary training for that level, reached the targets and finished their workbook, they can be awarded their RSCM Voice for Life medal and the appropriately coloured ribbon (for robed choirs) or coloured lapel badge (for non-robed choirs). They then move on to the next level.


How singers are trained and assessed

So that choir trainers and teachers can train and assess singers with confidence, each level includes:

  • Teaching material appropriate to the level. This includes practical exercises, diagrams, photocopiable worksheets, and sample tests.
  • Workbooks for singers containing questions, exercises and puzzles. These are designed for use by singers of any age.
  • Clear targets. These are listed in the back of the Singers’ Workbooks with a space for the choir trainer or teacher to sign and date each target as it is achieved, showing the singer’s progress.

Singers may also take Bronze, Silver and Gold singing awards.


The skills developed in Voice for Life

Each level provides training in the following areas:

Module A: Using the voice well

Module A illustration

This module teaches singers how to develop good vocal technique. It contains many practical exercises and helpful diagrams enabling you to deliver the training with confidence. It begins by helping singers get used to the physical sensations of healthy vocal technique, and in the later levels develops their understanding of the physiology of the voice.

Contained in this module:

posture, breathing, tone and range, diction, style and interpretation, blending with the choir

Module B: Musical skills & understanding

Module B illustration

Musical skills and musical understanding should grow together; as a singer makes progress with their voice they need to develop the understanding and skills to support them in their singing. Singers need to understand the music they are looking at and develop an ability to read and interpret what they see. Likewise, they need to develop their listening skills. This module develops knowledge of music theory and notation, and then encourages singers to demonstrate this understanding through sight-singing and aural skills.

Contained in this module:

music theory (note values, rests, time signatures, note names, ledger lines, accidentals, double sharps and flats, intervals and degrees of the scale, keys and scales, modes, chords and cadences), sample sight-reading tests, sample aural tests.


Module C: Repertoire

Module C illustration

This module develops a good understanding of the musical and historical contexts of the music performed by the choir or individual singer. It also gives singers the opportunity to demonstrate the musical understanding they gain in Module B through simple musical analysis. Singers are encouraged to find out about the background of the music that they sing: to translate and understand the text of a piece, to look at the historical background, to look at the purpose of a piece and to develop an understanding of the style/genre. Through this research, singers develop the ability to gather information from various sources and to present this in an original form.

Contained in this module:

finding the information, sample questions, sample answers, how to write programme notes, programming for your choir – basic principles.

Module D: Belonging to the choir

Module D illustration

If a singer wants to be part of a choir, there is more required than simply being able to sing. There are issues of commitment, punctuality and responsibility. This module considers how a singer can be encouraged in these areas and gives plenty of additional advice for you on recruiting singers into the choir and how to maintain their interest and commitment.

Contained in this module:

recruiting and publicity, new singers, when a singer moves into the adult section, when singers leave the choir, roles for singers within the choir, choir pay, discipline, notes for head choristers/choir captains, copyright issues, child protection, weekly standards, general progress, rehearsal tips, starting a choir.


Module E: Choir in context

Module E illustration

A choir does not exist in isolation. Although it is a community in its own right it is also part of a wider community such as a school, church, village or town. This module encourages singers to explore the wider context of its choir’s existence: Why do they sing in that particular choir? Why does the choir exist? For whom does it sing? How does the choir benefit its members and those outside the choir? The material is divided into various sessions, each based on one topic, and these come complete with photocopiable worksheets.

Contained in this module:

the gift of music, the power of music, what is a community?, the community of our choir, the wider community, the roots of our choir, the changing repertoire of our choir, special project: serving the wider community.

Additional sessions for church and worship choirs:

Christian ministry and music, regular and special services, festivals and seasons in the Christian year, places of worship (church buildings).


For more information, and to find out how Voice for Life could help your choir, contact the RSCM Education Department on +44 (0)1722 424844 or education@rscm.com.