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teaching the concept of a glottal stop to church choir

I would like to address the concept of glottal stop to my church choir of mostly volunteers.  In specific context we will be singing Tertius Noble's lovely setting of "Souls of the righteous" and i would like to teach them to put a glottal stop between the words "righteous / in".  I'm not certain, however, of how to succinctly explain the concept of glottal stop to people who may not already be familiar with that terminology.  I can demonstrate it to them but i wonder if there are some ways of teaching and/or explaining it that might make it more readily accessible?  Just wondering if someone has something that has worked for them in a smililar context :)
Thanks in advance!
Julie Ford
Replies (7): Threaded | Chronological
on October 1, 2013 2:41pm
Hi Julie,
Do you actually mean a glottal onset?  
Andrew Brown
on October 1, 2013 6:18pm
Julie Ford asks about addressing "the concept of glottal stop" with her choir.
May I suggest that you don't need to teach the concept of glottal stops (or even glottal onsets) to your choir, unless your aim is to train technical experts rather than to make music. What you need to do is cause the singers to articulate fully the word "in" after "righteous." You don't need to explain; you need to rehearse.
I can just picture and hear in my imagination Robert Fountain stopping the choir in rehearsal and repeating back to it, "righteous SIN??!!!" That would usually do the job without the need for any explanation.
But if that doesn't work, have them speak an invented phrase that begins with the word "in" -- you could even give it a little tune if they're unable to transfer speech to song easily. Then put "righteous" in front of the same "in," making sure that their pronunciation of "in" is unaltered. A couple of repetitions (see "rehearse," above) should do it.
Best regards,
Jerome Hoberman
Music Director/Conductor, The Hong Kong Bach Choir & Orchestra
Applauded by an audience of 5
on October 2, 2013 6:12am
One thing that has worked for me is to have the singers imagine they are scolding an unruly child, by saying "ah-ah-ah," using a glottal stop at each onset.  You could then have them apply it to the place in question, so as to differentiate righteous / in from righteous sin.  (Would that be an oxymoron?) ; )     The trick is to get them to do it without overdoing it.  
Good luck, Julie.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on October 3, 2013 6:41am

Hi Julie!


I miss seeing you at ECCO now that I'm here in Michigan.


I love to educate singers with vocal pedagogy concepts, so I vote to tell them about the glottal onset (glottal stop).  Here's what I tell my singers:


"I would like you to put a glottal stop before the word "In."  For those who don't know what a glottal stop is, everyone say "Uh-Oh." (And I demonstrate a glottal stop before each syllable).  The stop before syllable is your glottis clossing off the airflow for a moment.  The glottis is what closes over your trachea when you swallow, so food and water do not go into your lungs.  Now, here is the symbol for a glottal stop (and I write the IPA on the board [ʔ] ).  Please write it in your music before the word "In."


It seems like it might take a little time, but most singers will retain the information.  Plus, some people really enjoy knowing the physiology of the voice.  It's not a lengthy, super in depth way to describe a glottal onset, but it works for me.


Hope that helps!


Jaclyn   :)

Applauded by an audience of 6
on October 3, 2013 9:55am
Thanks for the great advice, Jaclyn!  (Although I don't think I am the Julie Ford you think I am... :)  )
on October 4, 2013 7:50pm
How funny!  Well, it's nice you make your aquaintance.  :)
on November 16, 2013 11:59am
Jaclyn wrote exactly my thoughts as I read your original post. The "uh-oh" idea is regularly used to teach singers the feel of the clean onset, and it is one of a few techniques to give you the effect you are looking for. I highly recommend it as a vocal technique, and I also highly recommend teaching our volunteer singers as much about vocal anatomy and physiology as they can understand and find useful.
If I could make one clarification, however. The glottis is actually the space between the open vocal folds, while the epiglottis (literally, "above the glottis") is the leaf-shaped cartilage Jaclyn refered to which covers the glottis and, by extension, the trachea when swallowing.
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