Magic Choral Trick #27 Synchronization 4X4
A basic rule of thumb that I’ve discovered when it comes to working with choirs is: ‘Different is Good’ Perhaps not crazy different – but then again – sometimes changes in a choir’s standing order can be seen by some members as too much of a walk on the wild side!
If you’re a director – please reassure your choir members that after this exercise they’ll be allowed to return to the seat that over the years has been smoothed and molded to fit only them.
Here’s how 4X4 is done.
The piece – or even the one phrase to be worked on needs to be solidly memorized.
Line up the four parts so that Sopranos/Leads are along one side of a rectangle, Basses opposite them, Altos/Baris on one end, and Tenors on the other. If you have a lot of people on one or more parts, they can line up behind the first row of the side of the rectangle. Everyone faces into the middle of the rectangle. The Director may choose to listen from a slight distance from the action or right in the middle, but either way, needs to refrain from directing. I usually wait for the Electric Silence then just say ‘go’.
T S/L __S/L___S/L ___S/L ___S/L A/Bari
T B__B__B__B__B__B___B_ B A/Bari
Have the melody part sing a phrase or two – then when they’ve finished, ask the rest of the chorus on what word they heard synchronization problems. The Director can make suggestions about technical things that will clean up the issue – but still no physical directing. Once technical things have been addressed and the Sopranos or Leads have cleaned up the section sound, it’s time for the rest of the chorus to listen to the Basses. When their section sound is clean, have Sopranos/Leads and Basses sing the phrase together. Repeat for other sections. Here’s a checklist of things to listen for. Anything that I haven’t spoken about before, I’ll cover soon.
Is everyone breathing at the same time? Is everyone clear about the target vowel, and forming that shape as they breathe in? Is there any pre-pitch grunting or sliding being done (Usually just a couple of individuals. DON’T address them directly in front of the group!!!!!!) At the end of the phrase, is everyone clear about the target vowel, and its diphthong resolution? Does everyone sing right to the end of the phrase with the same amount of energy?