Magic Choral Trick #326 Clarions, Resonants and Drivers

Thanks to Sue Kember, Director of the ScotianAires Chorus for working this magic at her Harmony Inc workshop.

Organizing standing position by voice type:

Clarions – clear, bell-like and usually fairly small voices

Resonants – rich voices that blend well. Not likely to pop out of the texture regardless of where they’re standing.

Drivers – usually bigger, well focused voices. Need to stand behind the others so that they don’t constantly feel that they have to hold back in order to blend.

Directors and Music Team – you may already know many of the voices in your chorus, in which case you’ll need less time than we used last night for my women’s chorus.

You won’t necessarily get an accurate picture of a singer’s production style if they’re put on the spot and have to sing alone in front of the chorus – so what I did last night was to bring down one row at a time off the risers and walk along listening to each singer as they sang Mary Had a Little Lamb. As I passed each one, I gave them a number 1 for Clarions, 2 for Resonants and 3 for Drivers.

Once I’d listened down the whole row, they went and stood in the designated spot for their voice type – away from the risers.

Then I brought down the next row and the next and so on until I’d categorized all the singers.

There were about the right number of Clarions for the front row, then two rows of Resonants, then finally, about the right number of Drivers for the back row.

We then sang the same song as we’d been working on just prior to doing this exercise.

Wow! Richer sound, more blended, and what seemed to be effortless volume.

I know that when Sue (Kember) did this exercise with us in the fall I found it so much easier to sing between two other Clarions. Usually my fairly small voice feels a bit lost in a group, but when I was standing between two other people with a similar voice type, it felt as if I were part of a powerhouse!

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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 January 14, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Janet, I’m trying to get a better handle on seating arrangements for my church choir. We’re going to try some of this tonight. Could you offer some more detail on the difference between clarions and resonants?

    • Hi Jordan! Clarions are the clear, focused voices that have a lot of forward placement. You probably want the smaller, clear voices in the front. A big but clear voice would be of more use in the back of the choir. (The big voices are the Drivers – the ones that you’d have to keep asking to back off if they were further forward)

      The Resonants are what we used to call the Blenders. Vocal placement is naturally a little further back – a ‘tall’ placement, or there may even be a little breathiness in the sound. A round sound that is unlikely to ever stick out of the texture.

      Enya’s placement is more Resonant –

      This one is me – and my own voice is definitely more Clarion than anything else – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1aAHUd-XC0

      Hope this helps

      • You have a lovely voice, Janet. And what a beautiful song. I may still be confusing this a little, but I think in my choir you would be a driver because you have a well-focused voice. Is that possible? I wouldn’t call your voice “big,” but it would certainly carry with that focus. Perhaps the difference is that I don’t have many well-focused voices in my choir, so compared to our clarions your voice is more driver-like.

        I have a few drivers that I have to work with constantly to help them blend. It seems like putting them on the back row would make them less likely to make an effort to blend. Wouldn’t that be a bad thing?

  2. You’re right Jordan – context is everything. But I know that when I put the voices that are small but clear in the front row, they really like singing with each other. As someone who spent my choir singing life just trying to hear myself over the big voices, singing between voices similar to mine was a blessed relief. And I also didn’t feel that I had to fight with the voices directly behind me – the blending, more naturally resonant voices.

    As for your Drivers..if I were working with them, I’d line them all up and have them sing a phrase. Then I’d take the biggest, and hopefully the most accurate of those voices and put them in the center of the line – and have them all sing the same phrase again. Is it better or worse? At this point, it’s hit and miss as far as rearranging the line goes. Try as many different permutations of this line up as you can – and include the rest of the choir in the feedback about which standing order sounds the best. They’ll all be intrigued and want to be a part of this. It will be valuable input for you – and it also means they’re not standing around feeling that their time is being wasted.

    There’s always one standing order that sounds markedly and magically better than the others. We hear differently with each ear – and finding the optimal blending side for each person can make a huge difference.

    Your Divers, once they’ve experienced this blend will become addicted to the feeling and actively blending is something that they will want to do without having to be encouraged.

    (And thanks for your kind words about the song!)

    • Awesome. That’s really helpful. Thanks a bunch. Do you try to group the sections at all? For example, I put all my sopranos on my left, arranged in the 3 rows as you suggested, then basses, tenors, and altos. Our choir is a volunteer church choir of about 30, so I hesitate to put them in a completely mixed formation.

  3. My women’s Barbershop Chorus is the only one of my 4 groups that’s in a scattered formation – though I still like to have my Basses in the center of all the rows. All the other singing groups seem to be happier when they stand with their sections.

    Please let me know how it goes!

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