Magic Choral Trick #239 Swing/Back Beat
Another simple and elegant solution to a problem I’ve had for ages – suggested by Kathy Greason, (the coach my women’s chorus worked with last weekend).
I’ve shied away from swing tunes because I’ve had such difficulty teaching choruses to feel the Back Beat. Swing has always been so easy for me that I didn’t have a step by step technique for teaching people to feel beats two and four, instead of one and three. At least, not without many singers expending a lot mental effort – and the process eating up huge chunks of rehearsal time.
In every group there are people who can feel the swing effortlessly, and just enjoy its dance like forward motion. Then there are the folks who need to intellectualize it – very deliberately thinking’ “one TWO three FOUR”. These are the folks for whom a Back Beat is very hard work.
Step one is for each singer to realize in which of these two camps they belong. This can be done by singing through a swing tune and having everyone clap on beats two and four. The people for whom this is difficult will be frowning, and their movements will be stilted. Any casual onlooker can see the difference between the natural swingers and the hard workers. And those who are having to think very hard about it, will notice this themselves.
Step two – Kathy’s elegant solution. Have only the people for whom the Back Beat is easy do all the clapping (on beats two and four). Freed from the distraction of having to be their own ‘metronome’, the non-swingers’ singing will just entrain to the dominant rhythm around them.
Nobody has to analyze anything – just feel it.