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.
One of the very best synchronization tricks I know
Work the song phrase by phrase, with everyone singing the words on only one note. This way, it’s a simple matter to work on word stress, speech rhythm, rubato, and target vowels and their diphthong resolutions.
It’s simple because without the melody and harmony, the synchronization issues become obvious to everyone.
It’s especially effective if the chorus is standing in 4X4 arrangement on the floor (rather than on the risers), with one part on each side of the rectangle, facing in to where the director is standing in the middle
With my Men’s chorus last night I also had a lot of success with adding hand signals for the formed target vowels. For the word ‘time’ I used The Claw: https://betterchoirs.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/magic-choral-trick-287-the-claw/ for the ‘Ah’ vowel, pulled it away from the mouth as the note was sustained, then we all quickly and smoothly turned our hands around for the quick ‘eem’ and cut off.
When there’s only one note being sung, everyone can hear much more clearly what needs to happen.
Once each phrase has been worked, then the joins between them can be cleaned up.
It’s always a little tricky when melody and harmony are added back into the equation. The basses will once again feel that they need a bit more time to move those low notes around – but this can usually be helped by singing with a headier tone.
The more difficult vocal technique spots will be obvious immediately – but now at least everyone has a template in their head of what great synchronization should feel like.