Monthly Archives: January 2016

Magic Choral Trick #353 Whirligig Resonance

This hand gesture trick is great for reminding singers about creating resonance.

I often use this one when there’s an ‘ee’ vowel being sustained at the end of the phrase. It seems to help our brains keep refreshing the ‘ee’ without getting the tongue involved with the finishing ‘y’ – which is one of the banes of singing in English. If you don’t believe me, say the word ‘free’ a few times to yourself and pay attention to what your tongue does as you finish the word. That tongue movement will shut down the target vowel, choke off the sound, and make the ‘ee’ seem pressed and pinched.

Step one is to make sure my singers already understand how to create resonance – with forward placement, tall space in the back of the mouth,
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…and a tongue that behaves itself
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Step two is to have the singers themselves do the whirligig gesture as they practise sustaining target vowels – especially those in ‘ay’ ‘ee’ and ‘I’ – where there’s so much potential for tongue misbehaviour.

Here’s the gesture.

Point your index fingers at the ceiling. (Your Peter Pointers)

Pretend laser beams are coming out of your finger tips and making 2 small points of light on the ceiling.

Now imagine you’re drawing little 1 inch circles on the ceiling – round and round very quickly. (This is an old, ironic ‘whoopee’ gesture, but with both hands instead of one. Some people use this sign one handed for “ok – wrap it up”)

The vertical fingers are a reminder about the height of the vowel, and the movement keeps the mind moving – creating and creating and creating the vowel. (Thereby avoiding falling into the dark pit of despair that is early diphthong resolution)

I’ve found that once singers know how to create resonance, they still need to be reminded many, many, many times before the mouth posture and the legato thinking become habit.

This is such an easy gesture. It saves time in rehearsal, and can even be used by me during a performance – in a much more subtle form of course. In performance I generally scale it back to one whirligig finger movement close in to my chest.

Magic Choral Trick #352 Guest Nights

Friday night. And for fun I’ve been catching up on some organizational stuff for various singing groups.

I just made up the draft schedule for next Tuesday evening’s Guest Night for my women’s Barbershop chorus, and sent it off to the music team for their feedback.

In the past for Guest Nights we’ve done more showcase stuff – but this time I thought it might be a good idea to let any prospective members get an idea of the intensity of work that we really do. So if you’re interested, here’s the draft plan:

Guest Night

7:00 – Risers – Introduce guests

7:05 – Opening and Warm Up (With Guests)
Vocal work and Tags (when teaching really happens)

7:25 – Repertoire (With Guests)
Dancing Queen
We Rise Again
With a Little Help From Our Friends
As Long As I’m Singin’

7:45 – Masquerade

Egg Yolk Basses (
Singable consonants
Work the tag

8:05 – Alexander – New Intro and Choreo

8:20 – Seated – Run through Joint is Jumpin’

8:30 – Closing

8:35 – Social time

In addition to handouts about the financial costs of membership, and the audition requirements, I think it’s useful for prospective members to see and hear some real work – the kind that they can expect on a typical rehearsal night.

Normally my women’s chorus rehearsals would go till 9:30, but on guests nights we like to quit early for tea and sweets – and of course, a lot of conversation with our new recruits!

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