Magic Choral Trick #336 One Note Johnny On the Stick Singable Sounds

Tom Gentry showed this one to my Men’s Barbershop Chorus after their competition last month.

Fortunately for my Women’s chorus, we were able to work on it for almost a month before our competition, and it made a significant difference to our synchronization and to our score!

Here’s how it’s done.

“On the stick” directing – one sound at a time – every singable sound in the phrase.

For example, the first phrase of the ballad ‘The Masquerade is Over’ is “My blue horizon is turning gray”

The sounds, in order, and slow motion on the Director’s cue would be:

Mm – ah – ee – blll – oo – ho – eu – rrr – ah – ee – zzz – uh – nnn – ih – zzz – teu – rrr – nnn – ih – ngggg – greh – ee (If you want to get really picky, there’s a slight ‘ih’ at the end of the word gray)

Now there’s no way to process all of this up to speed – but once my chorus started becoming aware of all the sounds, and drilling this exercise, they were able to speed it up a little.

But more importantly, when I needed more detailed treatment of a word later on in the song, they all now understood exactly how much refinement I was asking for.

I’m sure that some of you are thinking that your chorus would never want to make distinctions that fine.

Certainly that would have been the case with my choruses a few years ago. Here are the steps we took to get to the place where my women’s chorus finds this sort of thing fun.

1. The primary target vowels – ee, ah, oo (We worked on matching ‘ee’ for a whole year!)

2. Vowels that people think of as target vowels, which are actually diphthongs – oh (oh/oo), ay (eh/ee),

3. Short vowel target vowels – ih, eh, a, uh

4. Tons of other pure vowels – as are found in words like: first, book, good, law, the…

5. Diphthong resolutions – long target vowels, then fast resolution vowels

And at this point, they were ready to hear about, and drill the singable consonants – and all the singable sounds. We’d been asked for years by coaches and judges for more singable consonants  – but we weren’t quite sure how to get everyone’s ideas about them aligned.

However, this exercise made it all easy to understand, and easy to drill.

So thank you again Tom Gentry!!

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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 June 11, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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