Circle singing involves a group of 3 or more singers coming together to come up with improvised musical ideas. This form of singing taps into traditional singing methods of our ancestors before digital media became a thing and really emphasizes the feeling of creativity on the spot. With this exercise, there is no pressure and no need to feel like you've made mistakes. There's no right or wrong, just music!
Musical improvisation comes in so many forms, with each of them being a load of fun to participate in. Some musical improv groups focus on comedy and do shows based on word associations. Some freestyle rappers like to involve themselves in intense battle rap rounds where competitors come up with rhymes on the spot. Jazz improv is well-known for being rich with melodic genius. Circle singing is no different!
Although it's hard to pinpoint where the phenomenon started, famous singer Bobby McFerrin brought life and attention back to the term circle singing. He does workshops and teaches this form of singing all across the world. Usually, this singing session involves a leader that is in charge of throwing out lyrical, melodic, and rhythmic ideas for the singers to then let the music lead them.
Circle singing allows all participants to tap into their inner songwriting creativity. Singers are encouraged to throw out whatever ideas they think will fit and get the benefit of trial and error without any of the anxiety associated with being judged. A singer is allowed to start throwing out ideas at their own pace over time as they get comfortable with the process and get feedback on their ideas from other singers in the form of positive nods and affirmations.
Singing in a group setting gives you a scientifically-backed feeling of happiness! According to Daniel Levitin, a psychology professor at McGill University, our brains release oxytocin (known as the love drug) when we sing with others. Research also shows that when singing to music you enjoy with other people, the brain sees an increase in two neurotransmitters called serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin is known as the happiness hormone, while dopamine is often referred to as the feel-good hormone.
Singing improv is a fantastic way to free yourself and get lost in the moment. There is no pressure to memorize a line or sing the right note. There is no pressure to sound good or to sound bad. Circle singing encourages people to bring out whatever good energy they feel, which can be a great way to release pent-up negative energy and connect with the beauty of music.
This form of singing is great for all ages and all skill levels. Teachers can encourage young students to do circle singing in the styles of nursery rhymes in small groups. High school and college choir directors can encourage circle singing that involves different vocal harmonies to challenge the ears of the singers. Advanced groups can engage in complex harmonies or complicated adlibs like jazz scats. There is no limit to the fun and learning that can be experienced!
Are you looking for your chance to join a singing group that regularly practices this type of improvisation? You may be in luck depending on your location. Several small groups across the world hold weekly or monthly singing sessions for local music lovers to participate in. Sites like Singers.com list several dozen circle singing groups with many entries including websites and contact links where you can get in touch snd possibly join the next singing session.
As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 200 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, features, nursery rhymes, and DJ drops, she currently spends her time engulfed in creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Her most recent creative collaborations include work with PBS Sound Field, Tribe of Noise, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Check out Yona’s latest music releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share the music if you like it!
If you are ever in need of singer, songwriter or song producer services for your music project or brand, see what Yona Marie can offer you on her song services page. As an Amazon Associate, Yona Marie earns from qualifying purchases. Amazon and other affiliate products are recommended to genuinely help readers and keep this site up and running as well.