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Creating Practice Tracks for Your Choir or Vocal Teams

Creating Practice Tracks for Your Choir or Vocal Teams

One of the best ways to help your choir or vocal team be successful with their music is to provide a powerful learning aid for them that continues beyond the weekly rehearsal times. I have found choirs will attain a higher level of excellence and be able to memorize music much quicker when they have listening aids to go with them throughout the week.

I have just recently begun an interim position of leading worship in a Baptist church that has an extremely talented choir. One of my goals is to broaden their music and style repertoire and to have them sing from memory often. To help them be successful, I took time to master rehearsal tracks for every voice part and make them available as mp3s or on a compilation CD for all the songs coming up in the next 10 weeks or so. I encourage them to listen to their music while commuting to work, while working around the house, and any other time they can.

Of course, you must get proper copyright licenses to do this project. See the section later in this post for needed information.

Producing the Tracks

Produce your own practice tracks for your choir or vocal team Click To Tweet


You will need a computer (some tablet applications may be sufficient for your needs). You will also need a MIDI keyboard to input all your notes for the voice parts. I input all my notes with a M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3 MIDI controller keyboard. It just plugs in to your USB port and you are ready to go. Or, if you prefer to sing the parts, a good USB microphone is needed. For an inexpensive, but highly-rated option, you could choose a microphone like the CAD U37 USB Studio Condenser Recording Microphone. A pair of headphones, good earbuds, or decent monitor speakers will be a great help as well.

For this post, I will describe the keyboard input method.


If you have a Mac, GarageBand is an excellent and easy-to-use application to produce the individual tracks. GarageBand is extremely intuitive and has multiple online tutorials to guide you through every aspect of your work. If you don’t have a Mac, no problem; take a look at some PC options here. 


GarageBand view of Jesus Saves practice tracks




I prefer to start with the studio-produced demo of the song (same key and arrangement). Some publishers provide those on choral club CDs, by individual downloads at a cost, or by free downloads on their website. Start by importing the demo into the software as the top track. If you do not have access to the professional recording, you can create your own or search YouTube for a specific song, keeping in mind licensing concerns).

If you are producing SATB tracks, I would create eight additional tracks in the project, two for each voice part. In GarageBand, I select one of those tracks to be a grand piano sound that will play the person’s voice part. The other track can be a string ensemble or other instrument that can sustain a note better than the rapid decay of the piano note. This will help your singers to hear long sustained notes better against other parts that are moving.

I plug in my keyboard, put on my headphones, set up the soprano track to record (piano track) and start the process. The great thing about GarageBand and other applications is that if you miss a note, you can merely go back and edit the MIDI information without having to re-record the whole track or a smaller portion of the track. If more than one voice part is singing the same part, you can merely cut and paste the entire track or a portion of the track onto the other voice part as well, saving you some time.


MIDI data is editable here

Once I record the track, I play it from the beginning as I watch the score to make sure all notes and rhythms are accurate. If not, I adjust the MIDI data (bottom display in GarageBand) to change a note, rhythm, duration, or velocity (loudness). Once I am satisfied with the track, I can copy the track to the second track (string ensemble) so that both tracks will play the identical line. You can then adjust the individual track volumes to meet your preferences.

Once I am satisfied with all the parts I have produced, I then output the individual tracks to mp3 files for distribution. I first click on the tracks I want to be included in that exported file – the track and two vocal tracks associated with that particular voice part. I adjust the track volumes to get the sound I want. Then I export the song to disk. It will produce the mp3 exactly as you tweaked the sounds. Once you have exported that track, repeat the procedure for each track. After completing the soprano part, I move on to each of the remaining parts until all voice parts have been covered and re-checked.

Here’s an excerpt from this project:

(HINT: If the song is really fast and hearing some of those running lines is difficult for singers learning their parts, you can export a slowed down (same key) version to help your singers in addition to the one at tempo.)

You can then upload your files to, Planning Center, or other online sharing (that you can monitor for licensing), and/or use iTunes to create individual part CDs for everyone.

FREE DOWNLOAD: This is a GarageBand file that is configured for your use in producing practice tracks. Just drop in your audio file and begin recording the individual parts.



Getting the Copyright Licensing You Need

Publishers for choral works you may be using generally are covered by one of these two licenses from CCLI and One License:

The CCLI Rehearsal license allows you to legally copy commercial audio recordings and your own custom rehearsal tracks, and share audio files via email, flash drives or on worship planning websites. The copies are intended for rehearsal purposes only and are not intended to remain as permanent copies for personal collections. Check out a link on this page for covered publishers.

The Practice-Track License from One License enables you to create practice CDs or MP3s for you choir or ensemble members. With this license, you are able to:

  • Copy demonstration recordings provided by a Member Publisher;
  • Copy commercial CDs or mp3s purchased from a Member Publisher or member record company;
  • Record your own versions of covered songs for your ensemble (a specific vocal part, for example, or an accompaniment track);
  • Burn CDs or distribute MP3s;
  • Provide a link to a Dropbox or Google Drive file that can only be accessed by the intended musicians. (Also Planning Center, or other online worship management applications)

For a complete list of Member Publishers who participate, click here.


If your publisher is not covered by either of these licenses, you will need to purchase a license through other means. Check out this post for more information.

About The Author

Kenny Lamm

Worship Consultant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. A frequent worship clinician and guest worship leader. Extensive work in worship renewal in several Asian countries.


  1. Caleb

    Are you allowed to sell to music directors your track practice recordings if you have a ccli lisence?

    • Kenny Lamm

      No and yes. Your CCLI license does not cover for-profit production and sales of those items. I would think that if the church has the appropriate licenses they can contract you to produce the products for their use–essentially providing the labor to put together the product they are licensing. In that sense, you could be compensated for the work as long as the church carries the needed licenses. (Note I am not a lawyer so my thoughts may not stand up in a court of law!)

  2. Mike Rice

    I still do not understand why you suggested making two tracks for each part. My wife and I are going to try following your instructions to make a parts CD for each of the soprano, alto, tenor, and bass parts. My wife will sing the soprano and alto and I will do the same for tenor and bass. Since we’re not using a piano but merely singing each part along with the production demo, why are two tracks needed for each part? I’m new at this so forgive me if this is a dumb question. Thank you, Mike Rice Oak Harbor, WA

    • Kenny Lamm

      You output only one track for the two tracks. Note the description in the article: “Once I am satisfied with all the parts I have produced, I then output the individual tracks to mp3 files for distribution. I first click on the tracks I want included in that exported file – the track and two vocal tracks associated with that particular voice part. I adjust the track volumes to get the sound I want.” You mix the two tracks to your preference to output to a single track. I hope that helps.

  3. Anthony

    Parts tapes are immensely helpful! This artivle is a really helpful resources.

    Another option rather than playing the parts is to get a USB microphone, or other interface, and sing the parts as a demo. That works if you’ve got a few good readers in your choir. I’ve done it both ways. Some people really like the singing more than the playing for some reason.

    The other trick I’ve used is to render out the file as a split-track, with the original recording on the right, and the part demonstration on the left. Whether we want them to or not, about 90% of the time spent listening to these parts-tapes will be in the car. This allows the choir member to dial in the balance between demonstration and part, and to eliminate the part entirely while practicing if they want to.

  4. Lara A.

    This is terrific information. Thank you so much. I can’t wait to try this with my choir!


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