Magic Choral Trick #89 Chord Balancing – minor chords

In post #57 I discussed the balancing of a Major chord. The root and fifth of the chord are louder, and if they’re right in tune (which usually means that the fifth is high enough) the overtones created will mean that the third be able to be heard without anyone even having to sing it. For this reason, when it is sung, it needs only to be gently and lightly placed into the chord. (In other words – if you have the third of the chord – back off!)

Different story for a minor chord. The root and fifth still need to be clean, but we don’t want to be hearing that ringing Major third caused by the overtones, so the third in a minor chord needs to be heard. It needs to hold its own against the overtone.

You might think that another way of solving this problem would be to ask the root and fifth singers to not bother too much about the tuning. I’ve tried this too and the result is just a mess.

When I was very young I remember my Dad introducing me to the sounds of different types of chords, and the emotions that they could call forth. Major = Happy; minor = Sad; diminished = Scary.

So I’ve been thinking about what it actually is that makes a minor chord affect us the way it does. Perhaps it’s because any sadness involves conflict between what is, and what we wish was true, or even what we think is true. A minor chord is the embodiment of this battle. When that open fifth is sung – the root and the fifth – dead in tune, what is, in the natural order of the universe, is that a clear, ringing Major third will be heard. When we superimpose the minor third, we are disagreeing with nature, which always makes us feel bad.

Perhaps someone has already done a philosophy thesis on the premise that the natural order of things is ringing and joyful, and it’s our battles against the Major chord that makes us sad! I’d be interested to know.


About janetkidd

I've been waving my arms in front of choirs now for more than 35 years - and these are descriptions of all the very best things I've learned. I direct a Women's Competitive Barbershop Chorus, a Men's Competitive Barbershop Chorus, a Med School choir, and for a few weeks each year - Big Choir (about 100 voices) - which performs at an annual fundraising concert. Hope at least some of these Choral Magic Tricks will be useful to you - and thanks for reading. Janet

Posted on February 17, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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