When you’re learning how to be a good choir director, job one is learning how to give clear directions to your choir. To be effective though, you need to do two things. You need to learn how to give them early enough so your choir has time to understand what you want and be prepared to execute it. Secondly, you need to use gestures and/or hand signals that they can clearly understand. While every choir director develops his own style of giving direction over time, there are certain basic commands you need to learn right away to move your choir through a song. In Gospel music these commands have over time developed hand signals that are almost universally used in black churches.
Today I’ll reveal the top five Gospel choir hand signals:
1. Go back to the top!
This tells your choir to go back to the beginning of the song.
The hand signal: Place one hand over the top of your head, palm facing down
2. Sing that again!
This tells your choir to repeat something that was just sang. It’s most commonly used when you first take the choir into the vamp, but it can be used anywhere you want something repeated.
The hand signal: Repeatedly make a circular motion with one arm, index finger extended.
3. Sing the verse here!
Use this to let your choir know a verse is about to happen; whether it’s your leader or the choir that has it.
The hand signal: Hold up the” Peace” sign nice and high so everyone can see it.
4. Let’s go to the vamp!
This tells your choir it’s time to” take it home”, as they say.
The hand signal: With your thumb, do the hitch-hiking move over your shoulder.
5. Let’s end the song now!
This tells the choir we’re about to do the big finale and end the song.
The hand signal: Hold up one or both hands, arm(s) straight up. You can use clinched fists or open hands.
There ya go! Now, this is no means an all inclusive list of everything you’ll ever need. For example, you’ll need to learn how and when to ask them to clap, move from side to side, etc. For more reading on the subject you may also like 4 Things Every Good Choir Director Must Do.