Staying in time and singing with the appropriate word or syllable accentuation seems to be tougher in three four time.
It hasn’t been enough for me to tell my groups that the weight of the beats is Strong Light Light, Strong Light Light.
In fact when that’s what they’re thinking we get an accented first beat, and beats two and three that are dragging as badly as ever. In addition to this we have the added questionable bonus of a hearty glottal attack every time a vowel begins the word on beat one.
I’ve even asked them to waltz while singing to get the feel of three four into the body. However, as soon as they stop waltzing they revert quickly when I don’t give more specific instructions to occupy their brains.
I think I’ve discovered a better way to say what I mean.
I ask the group to form the target vowel very clearly on beat one, then use a completely neutral mouth shape on beats two and three.
Form (the vowel) Mumble Mumble, Form Mumble Mumble – is now beginning to become a habit with my groups. I tell them that there’s no need to even reduce the vocal volume if the mouth is less open.
Most of the best songs in triple metre are set up with the most important syllable in the bar on beat one, so the lyrics and meaning are still clear.
The beauty of the neutral mouth shape is that we also are now free of the messiness of many jaws moving at different speeds and distances – so the dragging on beats two and three becomes much less of a problem.
And I’ll still be asking them to waltz!