Monthly Archives: October 2014

Magic Choral Trick #315 The Change Nothing Synchronization Trick

This one is sort of a corollary to the ‘nothing shape’, or neutral mouth shape trick, and applies mostly to pick up notes.

If there’s going to be a synchronization mess, pick up notes are the biggest danger zone and the most likely candidates.

So here’s the trick.

Suppose the last word of a phrase is ‘moon’, and the next phrase begins with ‘the stars’, with the ‘the’ as a pick up note. The mouth forms the ‘oo’ vowel for moon, then completing the word requires only a slight tongue movement – so the mouth can still stay in the ‘oo’ shape.

Breathe in through that same ‘moon’ shape, and sing the pick up word ‘the’ without changing anything.

There seems to be a misconception among many singers that to get a decent breath, the mouth must open all the way to the cavernous setting. When this happens, there’s no time to relax the mouth again to the neutral setting required to sing the pick up note as unaccented.

Here’s what we don’t want:

Mooooooon……huge gasp with mouth wide open……THE stars

Here’s what we do want:

Mooooooon……fast breath through shape of the word moon….the STARS

Because getting that cavernous yawning breath ratcheted back to neutral size takes different amounts of time for all the different mouth shapes in the chorus, not only will the pick up note be accented, but it’ll happen at slightly different times for everyone.

When the shape remains unchanged from the end of one phrase until the next downbeat, mis-accentuations and synchronization problems vanish.

Magic Choral Trick #314 Swipes and Suspensions

The world would be a more fun place if we all allowed ourselves the full richness of the Swipe and the Suspension.

For anyone who’s not quite sure what I mean by a Swipe – it’s the movement of one or more parts from one chord to the next, on the same word or syllable. One word/syllable sung over the course of 2 or 3 notes.

And by Suspension I mean a crunchy chord resolving to a more harmonically relaxed chord.

Both of these types of event have the power to create great excitement and forward motion.

They often show up at the ends of phrases – put there by the arranger, specifically to drive energy from the end of one phrase to the beginning of the next. However, time after time with both Choirs and Barbershop choruses I hear these opportunities for incredible fun being missed or ignored.

For example, suppose we have two chords on the same syllable at the end of a phrase – an F chord moving to a C chord – the two C’s (notes) being sustained, and the F and the A swipe down to the E and the G respectively in the second chord.

The voice parts who are singing the F and the A need to gradually increase the intensity into the movement to the E and the G, and the two voices who are sustaining the octave C’s would take their lead from the two moving voices – allowing them to be heard, but growing along with them.

It seems like a small detail, but the effect is quite dramatic.

The same principle applies when at the end of a phrase 3 voices are sustaining their pitches and the 4th voice sings the crunchy, suspension note – then moves to the resolution. The part that’s singing the moving part needs to crescendo during the crunchy note, then keep growing into the resolution note.

Many times the other 3 parts like to take a vacation at this point. At worst, they taper their notes off and quit altogether, and second worst, they just kind of hang on and wish the chord would hurry up and resolve.

All of which means that a wonderful opportunity for excitement has been missed – for both the singers, and the audience.

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