Vocalises sung to ‘ooh’ or ‘ah’ can be lovely and musically very expressive, but the reason we sing songs is because of the extra levels of emotional depth that are possible with the musical expression of language.
Built into our language are many, many magical triple arches – arches that get progressively more emotionally important.
Here are some examples from three completely different songs:
Faith and Hope and Love
But the Greatest of These is Love
Fading like Sunset to Glow no More
And Leaving a Heart that is Sore
Amazing Grace how Sweet the Sound
That Saved a Wretch like Me
Each one of these lines gives us a triple arch – but in each case here, there’s yet another triple arch in the very next line. You will need to make a decision about whether it works best emotionally for the second line to keep on growing (bigger and bigger arches), or to backtrack the intensity of the first arch in the second phrase from where you ended up after the first line.
Then there are songs like Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy which set up the triple arch beautifully by using the ‘ready set go’ technique – double arch, double arch then the triple. Which as an overarching pattern, is yet another triple!!
He was a Famous trumpet man down by Chicago way
He Had a boogie sound that no one Else could play
He was the Top man At his Craft
These arches are everywhere!
And if we use them, we immediately create more interest and forward motion in every song, no matter what the song’s tempo or style.
The progressive triple arch is such a natural pattern for us. From expressing love (I love you/I really love you/I can’t live without you) to throwing up, to a child starting to wail – this is all very familiar. I’ve even heard people sneeze in this pattern. And our language has evolved to include it.
Because we tend to align ourselves emotionally with patterns that we recognize, an audience will be more engaged with us as we use this aspect of our language.
So what exactly should we do with the arches?
I have my groups use arm motion for each arch as they sing – drawing a little hill, bigger hill, Appalachian Mountains (an old mountain range that runs up near the east coast of North America, that is now quite rounded)
When they actually do this movement I can avoid having them just accent the target word in the arch – which is not at all what we want.
The ‘dynamics’ monitor in your choir may go a little nuts with the arch drawing thing, so they may need to hear the instruction as a messa di voce (crescendo/diminuendo), but everyone actually drawing the progressively larger arches will know what to do.
I also like to add the instruction to sing the target vowel of the word at the top of each arch with progressively more emotion. Fill the target vowel with emotion – then more emotion for the target vowel at the top of the second arch – then even more emotion filling the target vowel for the word at the top of the last arch.
It just occurs to me that anyone still reading at this point must really love this stuff as much as I do!!! Bless you!!! You’re the reason I do this.