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Intonation: Handling soprano Sharping



Dear Listers,

Thanks so much to those of you who responded. Below is the compilation of
those responses. The first major thing I've done is to mix the sops with
the altos (I don't have enough boys to sing in quartets), and I told them to
sing no louder than mp or a soft mf. So far, this is helping quite a bit.

Dawn Durham



There are lots of approaches to solving the sharping soprano problem, and
I'm sure you'll hear a lot of them. The problem is usually tension in the
jaw that transmits to the vocal folds, causing the pitch to sharp. A lot of
it is just oversinging and not listening.

First, you have to get them to listen. Quite simply, don't let them sing so
loudly. Phrases like, "if you can't hear the altos, you're singing too
loudly" can help. Tell them to listen, but also tell them WHAT to listen to.
"Balance and tune with the tenors and altos." Or, "you're singing a 'duet'
with the tenors -- listen to them." Work parts in pairs, and make them
listen and tune to each other. You can't tune four parts until you can tune
two (or one).

Placement in the choir might be part of the problem. If the sopranos can
only hear themselves and each other, the problem feeds on itself. Mix them
in with other singers and make them sing softer so they hear the other
parts. If the sopranos are all together, the tend to "compete" with each
other, so break up the problem. If you have to, put them in separate corners
of the room!

Finally, the thing that has worked for me when everything else I tried
failed is to ask the sopranos to sing with a "darker" tone in specific
passages where they tend to sharp the most. You can often isolate the
problem to certain passages (often ascending), so teach them to darken the
vowel sounds in those passages. The added "weight" often takes care of the
problem.

You can also play around with the pitch if the piece is a cappella.
Sometimes raising or lowering the tonal center by a half-step solves the
problem. I don't know why, it just does!

The main causes of sharping are (1) pushing with the throat (excessive
throat, jaw and/or neck tension), rather than supporting with the abdominal
muscles and the strong column of air; and (2) getting too emotionally
excited . I have a tenor who sometimes goes sharp for this reason. (3)
Another cause is nervousness. I have a solo voice student, a soprano, who
usually sings beautifully. Get her in front of an audience, though, and
she goes sharp.

Sharping has many causes. Even within a section, different singers may have
different reasons for sharping. My work is with young trebles -- a group
notorious for singing sharp. So it's a concern dear to the heart. First, we
do a lot of sight-singing drill, listening very carefully for intervals,
especially mi-fa -- the most dangerous step in the scale. Vocally, it seems
that sharping is often the result of tension in the vocal mechanism. When
the mechanism is tight, the sound gets strained and the pitch goes up. We
work on relaxing the voice and every other part of the mechanism, and
supplying a STEADY flow of energetic but fairly light wind. You can't
exactly describe that to young singers -- they don't give much credence to
the director's endless theorizing. They want results. So go for the
effect. When you hear it, encourage it. Work with the wind, getting that
steady, energetic supply, with the voice floating on top. This is very
different than simply blowing air at the sound There are issues of
placement, and these may be more of an issue to more mature singers than to
young ones. Younger singers "place" the voice fairly naturally, once
they've found it. And in the end, no substitute for listening and matching
intervals.

I'm sure you've asked them to try to "blend" and, for whatever reason,
they're
not doing it. Aside from the pitch issue, it's usually one of two problems:

1. They don't realize their sticking out and think they are blending. They
might think their leading the section, etc.

2. The other is the "lone wolf scenario." Maybe they do know they're not
blending, they want to stick out. Perhaps they're also trying to outsing
each
other. They're singing so loudly, they're not listening to the intonation of
the rest of their section,let along the accompaniment and the rest of the
choir.

This has worked for me:
I start by pointing it the various merits of their vocal technique (whatever
is
true--there's always something). I might comment on their breath support and
how their ability to use it well has given them quite a large sound. Then I
would challenge them to take the next step in becoming a great singer.
Someone
who has the voice of a soloist and can also step into a choir and blend is
the
true artist. It is much harder to listen, follow direction, and "disappear"
(blend) into the "one voice" of your section.

Present it as a nobel challenge that you know they can do.

As for pitch--Closing their eyes and singing chords on vowels--making sure
these particular singers can hear the singers around them, not just
themselves.
Singing in quartets is good, if they can handle that.


Problems of intonation are, to a surprising degree, usually problems of
technique rather than of pitch perception. In this case, it is likely that
your sopranos are "over-blowing," an imbalance of pressure erring on the
side of too much sub-glottal pressure.

Do you ever use lip trills (singing through "motor-boat" lips) in warm-ups?
They are wonderful because the impedence of the lips counter-balances the
air pressure needed to keep them buzzing, equalizing the pressure on both
sides of the vocal folds (above and below.) This makes a great warm-up
because the folds are under equalized pressure--you cannot strain the folds
while doing lip trills.

I use them alot with choirs and do them faithfully myself. (Great warm-up
for the car...) I recommend "trilling" a slide on either the perfect fifth
or the octave. You can do them ascending, descending, or both, according to
your singers' needs.

You might try adding lip trills to your repertoire of group warm-ups. You
might also work with these girls as a small group apart from the rehearsal,
teaching them to lip trill. The trill will produce balanced vocal production
and by doing them, your students will develop a kinesthetic sense of what
their singing should feel like.

I've found that singers of all ages have fun with these when taught in the
right spirit. If the "buzzer" wears out, placing the tip of an index finger
to each side of the mouth will support those muscles.

I'm having the same problem. I don't think they actually listen to
intonation. I've tried exercises to try to get them to understand the
concept of centering the pitch and placement, but it doesn't seem to help.
I think it must take a lot more time and
continuous effort.

My sopranos who go sharp usually do so around register changes. Teaching
them to be aware of the problem (where does it occur) and helping them to
find the desired placement during changing of vocal register helps a lot.

I don't seem to be able to eradicate the problem entirely because it takes
time for all of them to be self aware, especially when I have an amateur
choir with members' age ranging 12 to 35.

I tell mine to "listen louder and sing softer".

when you describe them as "strong," it may be that they are pushing instead
of relaxing the voice and throat muscles. Try doing some yawning exercises
(they'll love it!) and unpitched lazy sirens up and down, leading right
into one of their phrases.

I've also experienced sharping with high school sopranos, and finally
figured out the most of it was due to tension...either on my part or theirs.
I learned to relax my shoulders, smile a bit more, and ask the sopranos to
assume a more relaxed mental state, as well as physical. That seemed to
ameliorate the situation greatly.

Try darkening their vowells slightly. Also, simply reign them in and
not let them sing so loud.

Usually sharping in teenage girls comes from too much breath pressure.
It could also come from tension in the jaw and tongue. So you need to
do some vocalises that promote release, something we teach a lot about
here. Do you know Jenni Sue Quertermous, who graduated from Salem about
a year ago and who hails from Paducah? If she were around your town,
she could come and work with your students to show them how to overcome
the tension.

I also have success with moving the sopranos more to the middle of the
group, where they can hear better what else is going on. In my women's
chorus, the setup is SII-SI-Alto (soprano I in the center). When people
are really confident, standing in quartets can help intonation. Part of
the intonation problem can arise from sharping (or flatting) singers
feeding off of one another when they stand together.

Work with them to relax the throat. Sharping come from tension in the
throat. Any exercises that you can give them to relax the singing
mechanism would be helpful.

Check out the Charlotte Adams video: Daily Workout for a Beautiful
Voice. Proper vocal production is "key" to singing in tune.

have them sing alto! :-) it'll be good for them and you!

Dawn Durham, choir director
ddurham(a)mccracken.k12.ky.us
Lone Oak High School
225 College Ave.
Paducah, KY 42001
270-744-4159




Colleagues,
There was quite a variety of responses, all of which are posted below. This has also been a topic previously on Choralnet, and those responses are contained on the web site. Thanks to all, you have been a great help.


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I for my part would guess that it is not so much the larynx unsettled, but
rather inefficient breath support or plainly too weak muscles. And thus I'd
advocate lots of body exercises and training in the warmup - they may have
the necessary ability to *hear* how to settle in to the pitch and still not
be able to do it due to lack of balanced suppport. As far as I have seen
singers of the relevant age, especially the female voices tend to have a
certain lack of body awareness and build of efficiently working muscles...

What do you think? Since I did not get to hear them or see them, it is hard
to suggest something particular. But first let me ask if the general concept
would make sense in your perception of your group?

An easy thing to do on the beginning of warmups is have them speak very hard
aspirated consonants in rhythm, in a certain succession.
For instance, I use "p - t - k" in several repetitions. Next I could proceed
to "ss - sh" (again very hard and voiceless; crisp diction). Then back to
set 1 and forth to "ss - sh" again. Usually this helps already to create a
certain kind of body awareness I can later buit upon or relate to in my
work.


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This is a topic I am very familiar with! I once had the same problem with
the sopranos in my university/community choir. Whatever I did - vocal
exercises, yawning, relaxation, listening exercises, aural imagination, etc
etc - nothing worked. And it just got worse with the excitement and
adrenaline of performances! Then I went along to a seminar on choral
psycho-acoustics, and learned that almost half of all choral singers can,
under certain circumstances, experience an aural illusion whereby they
(consciously or unconsiously) think they are singing flat, and compensate by
going sharp. This is apparently more common in sopranos, due to a
combination of physiological, psychological and physical (acoustic) factors.

One such factor is the difference between feedback (what the singer hears
back of their own voice, both through the air and internally) and reference
(what the singer hears of the sounds of the rest of the choir). If feedback
is too loud in relation to reference, many singers are likely to experience
the above illusion and compensate in the manner described. If all the sharp
singers sit together, this problem will be magnified, although simply
separating them may not necessarily work.

I should point out that none of the following ideas are my own, but are
adapted from many sources, including the abovementioned psychoacoustics
seminar, as well as from respected choral conductors & educators such as Sir
David Willcocks, Rodney Eichenberger & Simon Carrington.

This is what I did with my choir (and I continue to do this with all
sections of my choir whenever I have pitch or blend problems - the two often
go together!):

* The main thing was that I experimented with where people stood/sat in
relation to one another. I would get the section to sing something simple
that they knew reasonably well, and walk around listening to the voices and
combinations, suggesting that people swap places with one another, etc, and
I continued to do this until the sound improved. When I first began doing
this, it took several sessions (at say, 10 minutes per rehearsal) to get it
right, but now I do it much quicker, because my choir members are more aware
of it as well and tend to place themselves better to begin with. With the
sharp singers, it seemed to work best if each had perhaps one other sharp
singer near them, but not 2, 3 or 4, and could hear a non-sharp singer
easily as well. This exercise seemed to work on at least two levels - 1. the
obvious one of improving the sound via placement of singers in relation to
one another; and 2. they were distracted from the "problem" of sharp
singing, intrigued by the exercise, and learned to listen more keenly - I
always get the members of the section I'm not currently working on to listen
and to confirm or disconfirm my choices. We usually agree, but not always
BTW!

* Another thing I now do consistently is to make sure people are not too
close to one another (nor too far away - that poses different problems).
Again, experimentation was the key. If too close, people hear too much feed
back from their own part; if too far apart they get too much feedback of
themselves (individually) & too much reference of the whole choir in
relation to their own part.

* I do a lot of listening exercises with the whole choir. E.g., singing a D
major chord to a set of changing vowels - choristers each listen to the 2
voices either side of them & aim to agree with those singers on dynamics and
vowel sound. (BTW differences in vowel sound are another source of
intonation problems, since it sets up interference patterns in the
harmonics, thus making it harder for singers to tune into each other).

* With all of the above, now other things like larynx lowering exercises
seem to be more effective - one of these is singing downward scales; another
is any exercise where you start with the "bright" vowels and move to the
"dark" ones (such as i-e-a-o-u); or, conversely, go u-o-a-e-i, but with the
aim of maintaining the tone of the "u" through the other vowels.

* I must say that, these days, a small problem of intonation, whether it be
sharp or flat singing, can SOMETIMES (definitely not always) be solved just
by getting everyone to agree on either the dynamics, the vowel shape &
sound, or both.




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Have you discovered if this soprano dilemma is truly related to vocal technique, or could it be aural accuracy? If it is one spot in one piece, or one interval, or notes above a certain pitch, it is probably the discernment of their ear that is the main trouble... especially if the vocal mechanism seems to be working properly.

Unfortunately, it is somewhat difficult to diagnose without seeing them work. If there is anything specific that you notice, I could possibly help more.

Have you done any solfege exercises with them, or ear training related things, in a variety of pitch ranges? I have a book with some great aural skill building units - that is at school and I can't think of the name. I'd be most happy to send it along.... email me at: renot33(a)rsd17.org
and I'll get it for you.



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-lip trills galore
-there is tension somewhere
-reminders to keeps the base of their tongue relaxed
-while singing moving head gently from side to side(shoulder to shoulder) is a great way to release
-watch their jaws are they set?
-have them sing ata softer synamic level
-is the breathe well seated




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I frequently find that doing something physical, in a contrary direction, helps pitch.  Sit when you go higher, Knee bends, hands press down like on a table etc.
I also stress that sharp is not better than flat.  Both are out of tune.  Listen girls!  LOL




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If you haven't already, you might try reminding them to relax the abdominal wall when they take their breath. Oftentimes sharping occurs because of overpressurized subglottic air pressure. Ask them to allow for a generous air flow instead of "pushing" at the air. This may allow the larynx to settle. Best of luck.




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Does this pitch problem in your sopranos occur in all parts of their register? If not, can you discern where in their range it occurs and at what dynamic value? Also, are there certain vowel sounds that are particularly problematic? This sort of analysis will assist you in finding a solution. From your comments, I presume that you attribute out of tune singing with a problem in singing fundamentals, i.e., body alignment, breath supply, appropriate relaxation, mental focus, etc. It is seldom a question of musical intelligence or pitch perception.

So these are questions that should be addressed if you haven't already done so. As far as vocal exercises go, my suggestion is to begin phonating all of your singers in their speaking range. For young women, this is likely to be roughly in the same pitch region. Check their pitch acuity where they are speaking, then move downward and upward in pitch. As you move upward and downward, you may experiment with staying with major scales that move to their diatonic neighbors, rather than chromatic neighbors. With this strategy, your singers are vocalizing on more common tones than in a completely different scale.




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I usually put them on alto to help train their ears for a while.




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For this, I'm really afraid no exercise will substitute for a true,
intellectual undestanding of what's going on: they're just singing too
high, plain and simple. Part of the problem can be tension, and it sounds
like you're doing some good things to help that. But young sopranos often
sing sharp - the nature of the beast, and you have to draw their attention
to this natural fact, and then, they can consciously tune. The passagio
notes always seem worse, too (from c-g above the staff), so they'll want to
be especially vigilant there.




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1. Have them imagine they are singing out through their belly buttons. I
know, it sounds strange! But it helps them to get their body underneath
their sound. Singing is a whole body experience.

2. Have them expand their rib cage and hold it out. As they are singing,
feel as if you are expanding out again on every note. (Pavarotti calls it a
'pushing out feeling'). Have them hiss out with their muscles to feel the
abdominal muscle support. You feel like you are expanding although the
muscles really are contracting.

3. Have them imagine that their throat is a tiny extension of the rib cage
and to keep it open and expanded also.

4. Flare the nostrils. Weird, I know! It helps to lower the larynx and
raise the soft palate.

5. Hiss the phrase that is flatting. Then sing using the same support on
every note.

6. Open the 'stereo system's 4 speakers'...the mouth, the throat, the nasal
pharynx and the body.

7. Make sure the choir is not top heavy. That will pull the pitch up also.
If so, have the sopranos sing lighter and the basses and altos in better
balance.

All of the above will ground the pitch...getting into the body, working with
support, and actually focusing on techniques that will help to fix it. Good
luck! :)



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2 issues in my mind are the keys to your problem

1) break hook-up and management
2) vowel release

When these two factors are "in sync," I have found the sharping to minimize. These young ladies may not be used to the amount of space really needed to release the vowels. Open that space; model for them, and encourage a constant connection from the bottom of the lungs to (through) their teeth and cheeks.



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Peter, my advice is to have them sing sustained single notes on " AH " and have them match the tone of the piano. Pitch recognition is the problem not the mechanics of the throat, etc. It is forming a proper mental concept of the vowel, pitch, and intensity that is the key. Sometimes having them concentrate on the throat or other technical aspects can tend to make them forget about singing on pitch. Do one section at a time on a single sustained note with the focus being totally on pitch. Then try all the singers in unison, ect. All exercises should be done very slowly and deliberately with pitch being the top priority. 



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Peter: it sounds so simplistic, but keep your gestures relaxed (including your own face!)and especially use the hand in the shape of the uvula(as if
you were showing "la" in solfege) for those high leaps to prepare and
maintain a relaxed posture. Focus on the breathing down low as you prepare
the air and try some facial massage and mandible work in warm-up.




Peter Schleif
Director of Vocal Music
St. Anthony Village HS
3303 33rd Avenue N.E.
St. Anthony, MN 55418
(612)706-1054
pschleif(a)stanthony.k12.mn.us

Artistic Director
Zuhrah Shrine Chanters
Minneapolis, MN

Music Director
Edina Morningside Church, U.C.C.
Edina, MN



This is the original message:

I have a problem with the sopranos in my high school
> choir: they almost invariably go sharp. I haven't found a
> common range or melodic pattern that I can blame. I have
> told them about breathing low and eliminating neck and
> throat tension which should help the situation (if they
> would consistently heed my admonitions), but I was
> wondering if anyone out there has suggestions, buzzwords,
> or magic bullets that have worked for you in your choirs,
> and, if so, if you wouldn't mind sharing them. Right now
> we are singing everything a cappella, in preparation for
> our upcoming tour where we won't have access to pianos.
> Thank you.

Thank you for the replies. They are listed herein, in no particular order.



A common problem to be sure. My sense in 34 years of teaching HS is that
they simply do not hear it. Do some aural training and audiation exercizes
and see if that helps at all.

Michael Wade
Elkhart, In



I work on this problem in warm-upsgetting the girls to listen to what they
are doing, training them to be able to evaluate as they sing. Any way you
can make them more aware of the problem helps to solve it.

I use a lot of warm-ups that start and end on the same pitch, emphasizing
ending on the same EXACT pitch.
i.e. Sol-Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol
Check to see if the second sol matches the first. This exercise will start
out with a very sharp second sol, but gradually the girls will understand
the goal. (Of course, you emphasize the teensy half step between mi and fa.)

Good luck!

Jena

Jena Dickey, founder/director
Young Voices of Colorado



> I don't know if it is a fluke or what, but when I
> notice my sopranos going sharp, I have them do a
> breathing exercise. I have them take a deep breath,
> the breathe out on an Ssssssssssss.... Breathe in
> again, pulse on Ss ss ss ss... and finish with
> another sssssss. Take in another breath and sigh.
> Thus far, it has worked like magic. I don't know if
> there are any technical reasons, if it relaxes them
> or what, and some directors have told me not to do
> hissing exercises for whatever reason, but it works
> for me.
>
> -Kylie Regan
> Highlander Way Middle School
> Howell, MI



it sounds like you're doing the right things. If it goes sharp in the upper
register, it's a sign of too much pressure. Lower breathing and eliminating
tension is the right treatment. You just need to be patient, it might take
quite a while to undo unwanted habits.

Part of the problem might be that the singers are straining to hear
themselves and thus pushing on the tone. You could try having them stop
their ears. They will sing much softer - and possibly more in tune - because
they hear their own voices. Another thing that might address this problem is
having them seated in quartets, so that the sopranos are more in contact
with the other voices than other sopranos.

Any exercises that emphasis singing lightly in the upper register will
probably help (lip trills, a rolled r), as will having more "space" when
singing upwards (the more ah in the vowels the higher they are).

Keep at it, you'll get there.

Kari Turunen
senior lecturer (choral conducting)
Pirkanmaa Polytechnic
School of Music
Tampere, Finland



Remember that in cases of sharping/flatting, the problem is almost NEVER due to the singers not HEARING the correct pitches. It's almost always a problem with the resonators. In general, if a singer is flat, then he/she needs more focus; make sure the singer is keeping the tone forward (the Italian "inner smile" concept is the key hereand showing a little top teeth will work WONDERS for flatting problems). If, however, a singer is sharp, then the solution is usually to add more space in the resonators. A high and wide soft palate (the palate is wide, but the jaw is LONG and NARROW) and comfortably relaxed jaw (slightly down and back to promote proper laryngeal position) are of the utmost importance in fixing pitch problems of this sort.

I hope that helps!

-Joshua Leger



Try working with hearing rather than tone production use simple
vocalises in parallel fifths and octaves with other parts. Sustain
octaves and fifths on and "ah" vowel, just listening to everyone's
choral sound and listening to how your own voice fits in. Switch the
"ah" to "oh," sustain the new sound, and listen for the overtone.

Hope this helps!

Good luck,

Nina Gilbert



Russell,

Thank you for your post. Read comments in your
message! Best of luck to you.

- rt(a)juda.k12.wi.us wrote:
> I have a problem with the sopranos in my high school
> choir: they almost invariably go
> sharp.

CAN THEY TELL? HAVE YOU STOPPED, POKER FACED, AND
ASKED THEM? IF they CANNOT TELL, THAT WILL BE YOUR
BIGGEST CHALLENGE, AND IT'S UNLIKELY YOU COULD FIX IT
BY THE TIME YOU TOUR. PROBLEM FINDING IS THE KEY, IN
MY HUMBLE OPINION. SO, FIRST AND FOREMOST, CAN THEY
RECOGNIZE BEING SHARP WITHOUT YOU TELLING THEM? IF
THEY CAN RECOGNIZE IT, THEY CAN FIX IT. IF THEY
CANNOT, YOU WILL NEED TO RETHINK HOW YOU TEACH THEM TO
TUNE.

I haven't found a common range or melodic
> pattern that I can blame.

GENERALLY, TECHNIQUE IS THE CULPRIT. WHAT SORT OF
WARM UPS DO YOU DO? HOW MUCH DO YOU DISCUSS THE
CHANGE OF VOCAL REGISTERS WITH THEM? WHEN YOU HAVE
THEM DO WARM UPS, CAN THEY FEEL THE CHANGE BETWEEN
CHEST AND HEAD REGISTERS?

DO YOU DO ASCENDING OR DESCENDING WARM UPS MORE?

I have
> told them about breathing low and eliminating neck
> and throat tension which should
> help the situation (if they would consistently heed
> my admonitions), but I was
> wondering if anyone out there has suggestions,
> buzzwords, or magic bullets that have
> worked for you in your choirs, and, if so, if you
> wouldn't mind sharing them.

YOU COULD TELL THEM HOW TO WIRE YOUR PHONE LINE TOO,
BUT DID YOU SHOW THEM? (SERIOUSLY, NO SARCASM IS
INTENDED HERE). HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS DO NOT LEARN BY
BEING TOLD, THEY LEARN BY BEING SHOWN, IN MY HUMBLE
OPINION.

IF THEY DO NOT RECOGNIZE SHARPNESS OR FLATNESS, OR IF
THEY DO NOT PHYSICALLY KNOW "HOW" (NOT JUST WHERE) TO
BREATH AND ARE NOT SHOWN, THEN UNFORTUNATELY THERE ARE
NO MAGIC BULLETS. THIS IS A TOUGH ISSUE AND I'VE
LEARNED MUCH ABOUT IT THROUGH MY MASTER'S DEGREE
STUDY, THAT IS THE ONLY REASON I AM SHARING SO MUCH
WITH YOU. THESE ARE ONLY MY THOUGHTS, AND ARE
INTENDED WITH UTMOST RESPECT,

Right
> now we are singing everything a cappella, in
> preparation for our upcoming tour where
> we won't have access to pianos.
> Thank you.
>
> Russell Thorngate
> thorngater(a)yahoo.com

WHAT AGE ARE THE KIDS? WHAT REPERTOIRE ARE THEY
SINGING? AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY, WHAT IS YOUR
PHILOSOPHY REGARDING VOWEL PLACEMENT/ENSEMBLE SINGING?

IF YOU HAVE SOME TIME, SEND ME A REPLY. I WILL DO MY
BEST TO HELP YOU!

Regards,
Sean DeBoth
Choir Director
mrdeboth(a)yahoo.com
Vocal Music Instructor
William Horlick High School
Racine Unified School District
Racine, WI



1. Try experimenting with position - i.e., where they stand in relation to
one another. Some possibilities:

* try moving them further apart or closer together - too close together
and they can't hear themselves well enough and will "oversing" to
compensate; too far apart and they can't hear enough of the others to
accurately match pitch.
* try putting them in different postitions within the soprano section -
sometimes diferent voices have different effects on other voices.
* "scramble" the choir - mix up the sops, altos, tenors and basses - this
way they have a better chance of hearing and matching to the other parts.

2. Do listening exercises, such as asking them to match vowel sound,
dynamics and timing within the sopranos and also the whole choir. And don't
mention pitch, 'cos anxiety about pitch can send people sharp.

3. Do any kind of tuning exercises you can think of, but ask the choir to
tell you whether it's correct, rather than you telling them - so you are
training their listening skills.

4. Vocal production could be the issue with a few of them, who then have a
big influence on the whole section.

I hope some of this is helpful.

Margot McLaughlin
Director, Macquarie University Singers
Macquarie University
2109 NSW Australia



Some thoughts...have them sing a little softer, sing the choir music on
solfege/numbers to relate it back to a scale, place the choir in a
completely or somewhat mixed formation, thus removing them from being a
soprano sharping "gang."



This has been an ongoing process for me too. My ladies seem to fix it when I tell them to listen more or just sing lower until the chord locks. Once it locks I tell them to pay attention to how it sounds and feels. They have to be taught what is right before they can identify and appreciate it themselves. The key has been a culprit at times too. F Major and d minor are terrible. I usually raise it up a half step.

Bo Shirah
Marcus HS
Lewisville ISD, TX




A couple suggestions for you:

It could be that your teaching technique is working against you. When we tell someone not to think about the color green, it does no good for all they can think about is green. Similarly if we tell them to "get rid of throat tension," they will, no doubt be thinking all about throat tension. Give them something else to think about that has the desired effect, such as "projecting their sound from between their eyes" or "singing while standing on a small boat in the water," or other such nonsense. It may be a good idea to encourage them to move a little as they sing - not sway in time (necessarily) or dance to it, but to let the music flow through them and move them. Show them some videos of people/choirs doing this.

As far as "quick fix," I would suggest you really encourage them to sing with their mouth open more (tall, not wide), especially on the brighter vowels. They can sing the vowel 'ee' with a 2-finger-height between the teeth, and they need to make it a habit. Their jaw muscles should be a little tired after choir rehearsal, especially at first. Perhaps more important is that they get the soft palate raised as well.

Another "quick fix" is to rehearse the pieces slowly and/or on a darker open vowel ('oh' is always my favorite, although 'oo' is better for younger kids).

Good luck,
Josh



I have my sopranos sway as they sing...this seems to help get rid of the tension that is causing the sharping. They don't necessarily sway during a concert, but it gets them to stand in less rigidly.

I also have them put their hand by their cheek, with their pointer finger extende and then move their hand forward as they point. This seems to help them focus on centering the pitch.

Another thing I've done that seems to help is I have them sing the phrase on an open mouth hum...producing an NG sound.

I hope this is helpful.

Michael Ehrlich
songmandc(a)aol.com
W. T. Woodson HS
Fairfax, VA



Russell,
I submitted this same problem two years ago. I think the archive on
Choralnet should have it. I found that the best solution was the
simplest: Lip-buzzing, and lots of it.

Good luck!

Pete



Hi Russell,
Have found that most sharpness with my sopranos (after eliminating what you
mentioned) comes from unfocused vowel soundsparticularly E and EH. If I
have them modify to IH, or have them sing the vowel through an "oo" shape,
it sometimes will help.

Good luck!

Best Regards,
Stacey Wilner
Maryville College
Maryville, TN



At the moment I'm clinging to lip buzzing as a cure-all. It seems to work
for problems related to support (both too much and too little) and throat
tension. I am operating under the assumption that if they can't make their
lips buzz while phonating they aren't using their breath correctly. So far
I haven't found any reason to doubt the truth of this idea.

Another thing that I have seen work better than I imagined it would at the
time is the use of sol-fege. Even for groups that don't have a background
in sol-fege (i.e. you have to tell them what the syllables are so they can
write them in their music) I have seen a significant improvement in a
relatively short time. There's more to it than just that, daily drilling,
etc, but all-in-all a good idea.

You could also work on listening/tuning exercises where the singers sing
very softly and listen very carefully.

Cory Alexander
Director of Choirs & Music Instructor
Central Florida Community College
PO Box 1388
Ocala, FL 34478




you can always try having them bend there knees like they were starting to sit down as they progress up a scale, aproch the higher notes, or arive at a problem area. many times just acting out what they should be doing will improve there understand and there vocal ability....




As a soprano, I find it effective, to color the vowel differently if I sound off pitch to myself, but obviously young singers, are not always self correcting.

My conductor will have the section do it repeatedly, until we do it right, and then have us sing it two times, at least correctly, to form a muscle memory of the correct way to do it. It seems to work for the less self correcting in our adult group.

It's worth a try :)

Dawn Southwick



>From Russell Thorngate, rt(a)juda.k12.wi.us