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Last minute issues

My concert is Tuesday and the kids are making more mistakes now than they did a week ago.  My most major issue is a couple of my sopranos in one group sing loud and sharp after my strongest soprano moved a couple of weeks ago (seventh graders - and some resource sixth graders).  It's throwing the whole chorus off pitch, and none of my other sops are strong enough to stay on pitch by themselves.  Sometimes if I sing loudly right beside the offenders it improves, but obviously, I can't do that at the concert.  Suggestions?   I've asked them to listen and sing more softly so they can blend and hear better, but it's not working.  I'm considering moving them around some to see if that helps, but I've already rehearsed getting on and off risers and placement, and I'm afraid it might throw my resource kids off.
 
 
on May 2, 2014 7:49am
Laura,
Two ideas that might help in your immediate situation:
1)  Record the choir and let them hear themselves.  Say nothing.  When you play it for them for the first time, simply ask them to silently listen.   I often ask them to silently raise a hand when they hear the sharping begin, but the focus is listening only.  Self-awareness and self-assessment will help them begin to open their ears.
2)  Draw a bullseye on your board.  Write "sharp" on the top of it.  Write "flat" on the bottom of it.  Indicate that "in tune" is the red center.  Use it for ear-training throughout the year.  The visual component is very helpful to students whose ears are not the best.  Just telling them they are flat or sharp and to listen better isn't enough for the young singers who learn better with their eyes than ears.
 
Ear-training takes persistence with students this young. 
 
Good luck!
Dale Duncan
Go straight to the Lesson 3-Ear Training:
Ear Training is a key component of the S-Cubed System:  Successful Sight Singing for Middle School Teachers and their Students
 
 
 
 
 
 
on May 2, 2014 12:24pm
Tension in the singers' body (and oversinging) is the chief cause of sharping (and poor listening).  Place the emphasis on experiment and feeling the kinetics of their bodies (note: these are to be performed for the first time as a unit:
      
     Have the students lie on their backs and concentrate on breathingfrom the lower torso and back.  They must breathe gently. Have them sing descending five-note scales at about a mezzo forte (energized, but not shouting), using the gentle breath.  Encourage them to sense how their bodies are working.
    
     When you feel they are singing better, have them stand, bent over, arms dangling, eyes on the floor. Tell them to breathe the same way as when they were lying on the floor. Do a few downward five-note scales. Straighten up slowly, keeping the breathing the same.
  
      Have the students roll their shoulders, and move their hips (ala hula hoop) and move their necks from side to side (not up and down) at the same time as they sing the scales, including ranges that lie higher than the offending sopranos sing sharp. Then go to the offending places, while they are doing all those physical movements.
 
They (and you, if you have the patience to let the results happen) will notice the difference.  Then calm the motions down, hips first, then shoulders, finally necks, while having them pretend they are moving.  Do not let them raise their chins above the horizon.
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