Magic Choral Trick #94 Pre-pitch Grunting
I know why nobody ever addresses this issue. The phrase ‘Pre-pitch Grunting’ is difficult to say.
It’s the extra syllable that gets placed in front of the beginning of a word – usually one that starts with a consonant blend. Uh-what, Uh-the, Uh-bring…..
It’s often a problem with one or two of the most enthusiastic singers in any choir. I think that sometimes it’s an unspoken message to the rest of the group: ‘Come on – we’re behind the beat’ or ‘Come on – more emotion!’
But sometimes all it is, is unbridled eagerness. Tough to complain about that. But it does mess with the synchronization at the beginning of the phrase.
This affliction is not limited only to choir members. It’s also an issue with choir directors when they demonstrate – choir directors who’ve put in some career time in front of chatty, sullen or unruly groups. It’s had to become a way of getting the choir’s attention – and also communicating both of the ‘Come on!’ phrases above.
Because the Pre-pitch Grunting is usually done by people who really care about the success of the group, there’s no problem convincing them to stop once they are aware of the problem. This is where the individual mp3 recorders come in really handy. If Pre-Pitch Grunting is on the checklist of things to listen for, these people will hear it (and probably be horrified that they never noticed it before.)
However, convincing people that they need to stop, and supporting them in helping them stop are two different things.
I have a cardinal rule. Absolutely no singling out of individuals in front of the group. Even positive feedback for an individual’s singing – holding them up as a shining example, can backfire and cause other choir members to feel unappreciated.
The reason this is now a cardinal rule for me is that every time I’ve broken it, and singled a person out for anything – good or bad – it has come back to bite me. People in the choir will say, “It’s ok Janet – just tell me if you don’t like something I’m doing” But the absolute universal truth that I’ve discovered is: It’s never ok to do this in public.
So back to the Pre-pitch Grunters. The choir as a whole needs to be aware if this is an issue. Like any other learning, it’s a matter of making a distinction – of noticing something that you never even knew existed. If they don’t notice this eventually on their own, a section leader or the director may have to mention it privately.