How to run an Online Singaround

Apr 07, 2020

We started the @TradSongTues online singaround because a lot of online concerts and films shared by pro and semi-pro musicians started popping up and I wanted to remember all the people who go out and sing every week who might not want to put themselves out there in that form but still wanted a place to share a song and be with other singers.

I wasn’t the only one who had this idea and several folk clubs have started their own, with others getting in touch for advice on how to get one going. So while you are all VERY WELCOME to drop into the @TradSongTues public singarounds, I understand established groups want to sing together and so I’m sharing our newly acquired knowledge in case it is useful for you and your friends.

***DISCLAIMER*** This is not an area I am an expert in, so things might not be perfect, things are constantly changing so the post might need updating, but I wanted to respond quickly to help others get mobilised - do let me know if you have an edit to suggest and let’s all keep singing and Keep Music Live!

Setting up a singaround

We are using Zoom. There are scary stories going about, but as far as I can tell, they are not a bad company and as long as you are not storing government secrets on your computer you’ll be fine. There are some issues of gatecrashers, but if you follow the tips below they won’t be a problem. It is free software and users are fine on the free version. There are limits with ‘hosting’ on the free account though - if you want the singaround to last more than 40 mins, one person - the host - needs a ‘paid for’ account (about a tenner a month). You could have two short halves but might lose people with everyone logging in and out. You can have up to 100 people in a session which should suit most groups - if you need more, you need to pay for more add ons. The ‘Host’ needs to set up a meeting. It is fairly self-explanatory and you can’t go very wrong at this point. Here is a step by step guide.

Inviting others along

Then you need to send the link to whoever you want to join in. Following a stressful scene with gatecrashers, I suggest setting up a club email list rather than publicly on social media. The problem with gatecrashers comes when links are made public and they can ruin an event. Users need to download the free version of zoom, set up an account then they just click on your link and should go straight into the singaround. It might be helpful to send them a link to www.zoom.us to get set up.

Settings for singarounds

Once the singaround has started, the host can change various settings. Make sure you go in a bit early to get these set up before others arrive. There are lots of settings to explore these are some I particularly recommend for singarounds:

Mute on entry - this is the equivalent of waiting til the end of a song before entering the room. It stops people arriving mid-song and saying ‘am I on, can you hear me’ at the most sentimental moment.

Only host can share screen - as zoom was designed for conference calls, they need people to share powerpoints etc. That is not something I expect singers will need. More than once someone has accidentally shared their screen and we see all their emails, or an embarrassing photo - no one wants to see that! - so it is worth setting to only host can share screen - and then make sure you don’t do it!

Useful features (found on bar of icons at the bottom of the screen)

Manage Participants - this brings up a list of everyone who is in the room on your screen with the ‘mute all’ controls - really useful for easy access, making singer lists and muting and unmuting people.

Chat - people can write to each other privately, or the whole group while the singing is going on - often things like, ‘lovely singing’, or ‘where is that song from?’. As everyone is muted this is a really nice way to keep connected. It is hard to keep your eye on everything though, so if you are the host, assign someone to keep their eye on the messages and to prod you if something is important - like ‘you’ve missed so and so‘.

Record meeting * - if you want to keep a record this might be nice

Live stream meeting * - we do this for @TradSongTues as more people can watch it on Facebook than would come into the zoom session. You need to be a paid account holder and enable it in your profile settings.

* For both these, do make sure people know you are doing it and consider how you will ‘use’ it afterwards - ethics and all that…

Features you don’t need to go near

Waiting room - it could be useful if you know the names of everyone you are expecting so you can turn away potential gatecrashers before they enter, but I haven’t found it useful. Just another thing to keep my eye on.

Invite - if you have already sent the link to whoever you want to come this isn’t very useful.

Screen sharing - this isn’t particularly useful for a singaround, so disable as suggested above to avoid mishaps, then leave it alone.

Break out rooms - unless you have a lot of people, you are unlikely to want to split them up - ignore until you are a pro!

Polls - useful if you want to know how long to have the beer break for, but not essential - ignore unless you fancy playing!

Reactions - No problem using it, but its a bit of a weird techy thing for me. You can get a thumbs up or down visually which is nicer.

What tech do users need?

Tech wise it is very simple. You need a computer, tablet or phone that can download zoom. Either from the website www.zoom.us or your app store. (Some older machines struggle a bit - if you are trying to help someone with an old machine here are the system requirements).

You can listen in if you have speakers, you can sing if you have an inbuilt mic, and you can be seen by others if you have a webcam. External cameras and mics are not essential and a mix of people with different tech is absolutely fine. Like a real singaround you will have listeners as well as singers. The mic quality of most devices is good enough for voices and you don’t need to do the next bit. But instruments are a bit more tricky - especially the high end ones like pipes or whistles. The tech is set up to make speaking voices as clear as possible so tries to cut out ‘odd’ sounds(!). You can turn on ‘Original Sound’ to make the sound quality much better. There is a tutorial at the bottom on how to do it - I stress it is useful even if you are *just* using your internal computer mic.

How to run things and using Co-hosts

We have found it best to have one person MCing and inviting others to sing - give them a song or two warning. All others are muted, and the singers are unmuted one at a time. It is important to mute everyone as there are a few seconds lag between the singer making noise and people hearing it - when people join in a chorus, this adds a couple of extra seconds and frankly, it just sounds awful. Do try it for a giggle, but don’t attempt serious chorus singing! With everyone muted, people can sing along at home to their heart’s content - it is lovely to see all the mouths going up and down like fish.

While one person can do the MCing and button clicking, it is a bit of a faff. The host doesn’t have to be the MC, or the host can add other people as co-hosts (they don’t need a paid account) who also have the power to ‘mute all’ etc - this can be really helpful - it is surprisingly hard work!

Oh and get creative - how will you run your raffle?...

Happy singing, together we are stronger xx