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,
( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTBTTMHWOE8 )
…and a tongue that behaves itself
( https://betterchoirs.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/magic-choral-trick-5-target-vowels/ )
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.