Magic Choral Trick #29 Synchronization – Basses in Front
This one may mess with the Basses’ heads a bit – but it’s a great trick for getting chords to lock in much more quickly.
Whether or not Barbershop is your thing, listen to the synchronization that these guys have. ‘Old School’ was the 2011 Barbershop Harmony Society International quartet champion. Yes, their tuning is wonderful and their vowels are matched – but please pay particular attention to their synchronized starts and finishes, and how quickly they get their chords to ‘Lock and Ring’.
Google: Old School – 2011 International Barbershop Quartet Champions (Usually the first link that comes up. I tried posting the youtube link – but it wouldn’t work)
This kind of precision was something that even ten years ago I wasn’t noticing. I didn’t know about listening for it, and didn’t know that I didn’t know.
In the last few years though I’ve either been given, or developed tools for bringing this to the singers’ attention. This trick was given to us by Ig Jakovac – a wonderful singing coach from the Barbershop Harmony Society.
Line up the chorus or choir so that the part singing the melody is standing directly behind the Bass section. (Leads/Sopranos)
When you’re working on this, it would be best if the song was one that everyone knows from memory – because the next step is to have just those two parts close their eyes and sing a phrase or two, while everyone else listens. Not only will the Basses and melody part be learning something, but the other parts will also be noticing the places where the two sections are not lining up.
There are two main reasons for focusing on the Basses. The first is that they are the engine of the chorus or choir – they drive the rhythm – but they need to be perfectly aligned with the melody to be able do this job. The second is that they often have voices that take just a little longer to ‘speak’ – so that in order to sing exactly in time with the melody, they need to anticipate where that next melody note is going to be. They have to really hear the Lead/Soprano section (who, in turn need to be singing as a unit). It may take many sessions before things seem to be lining up well – but at that point, the other parts can be added, and everyone now knows what they’re listening for.
Even if only 10 minutes of every rehearsal is devoted to this, there’ll soon be a noticeable improvement in synchronization – especially in new repertoire. Old habits are going to die hard with the older repertoire!
Recording this whole process can be a real eye (and ear) opener too.