Magic Choral Trick #170 Singable Consonants
Once a chorus is finally getting the hang of 100% note accuracy, clean vowels, good vocal placement, chord balancing, great blend, every singer agreeing on the emotion from phrase to phrase, what’s next? (Yes – I know – all of the above are lifelong pursuits, but here’s the next ball to trying juggling with all the rest)
Singable consonants – the ‘Ls’, ‘Ms’, ‘Ns’, ‘Vs’ and the ‘NGs’. The most basic trick here when the singable consonant is on the end of a word is not to finish off with a kicky little neutral vowel. ‘Home – uh’.
What we’re going for here is a diction presentation that sounds similar to the way we speak. If we modify our singing diction too much it’ll be a distraction for the audience, and get between them and what the composer was trying to express.
Most of the time, we don’t sing right through these consonants for fear of interrupting the legato line created by singing vowel to vowel to vowel. However, singing through these sounds can actually enhance both the legato line and the interpretation.
The difficulty is in getting everyone to agree on exactly the same length of time and intensity on each L or N or M. In this agreement lies the artistry.
My groups have now become good at singing on the target vowels, but consonants have taken a back seat. So I’ve only just begun to work on them – mostly in the warm up – singing words like ‘Romance’ over and over (with eyes closed) to try to get the right amount of M and N. (Which in this case really helps with the word painting.) However, I haven’t yet been able to guide them with a technique that will be reliable from word to word without having to spend a great deal of time on each one.
I did a workshop yesterday for about 50 church organist/choir directors and when one of the participants asked me if I had a Magic Trick for singable consonants, I had to say that I’m muddling along with most other directors on this one.
So – dear reader – if you happen to have a great technical trick for this that would help us all, please just click on ‘leave a comment’ below, and I’d love to hear about it!