Sunday, March 19, 2017

Musical Monday -Enunciation and Then Some - Neil Patrick Harris 2013

We all know how much work it is to get ready for a concert.  We have venues & instruments, costumes & props, movement & placement that are all part of the equation.  

Here is an opening number to end all.  Please watch Neil Patrick Harris and how every word he sings is clear.  He dances, runs, spins & disappears and yet, we hear every word.  

All I can think about is just how much he has rehearsed and then some.  What a fun performance.  

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Musical Monday - Seating/Standing Arrangements for Success

If you look at these seating/standing plans you will certainly find one that you currently use.
We have been using a form of the top suggestion since we began.  We just moved our parts around.  Tenors & sopranos are in front and altos & basses in the back.  When we changed to this after having been static for some time, all of a sudden everyone could hear the other parts better.  What Kristy & I decided was that we needed to move people around more often.  After many changes and trials I think I have a good idea of what works for amateur choirs.
1. Ideal - you guessed it.  The ideal way to sing with maximum blend is with everyone standing with someone not singing their part.  Kirby Shaw liked his people to stand in quartets.  Personally, I feel people should just stand where each can hear well and blend well.

2. Beats - there are people who should not stand with other singers.  It is really important that you listen to how people blend and that you empower your singers to listen for how their voice FEELS next to another singer.  Some vibrations or beats between voices just don't jive.  There is a disconnect and jarring with those voices.  Not matter what you want for a seating/standing plan, sometimes you have to really pay more attention to the vibes!

3. Height etc. - you have to make certain people can comfortably see the conductor.  Remember that the direction is what keeps everything on track no matter where people are.  We have one singer who sometimes needs to sit on a stool.  We have another singer who has difficulty with focus unless close to the action.  Individual needs must be accommodated.

4. Distance - you need to go to the far reaches of your rehearsal space and see what the sound is like.  Then stand close by and see what you hear.  Change accordingly.

5. Input - ask the singers.  How do they feel in each position.  We have decided that we want to change our spots quite often.  Change has enhanced our ability to hear and blend.  As we change, we hear things differently and that is always good.  I can get too set in my ways and the singers are great at encouraging change for good.

6. Record - using your recording devise will give you a objective ear for the sound that results from placement among other variables.  Let the choir hear these recordings so they can adjust accordingly.  

All in all, please have fun.  Enjoy the music you are making and don't be too bossy as the leader.  If you have a huge group then you may have to keep the numbers in mind to make certain that a good blend is still happening.  Just keep trying lots of ways to make music better by giving your people the best chance to hear, blend & see well.  The finished product is the true tell of just how things are going.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Musical Monday - Victor Borge & the Aria

Now we all know that opera is an acquired taste.  How do you acquire that taste?  Well, by hearing really good operatic bits and understanding them.  Victor Borge was a great musician & had amazing comedic timing.  Had we been able to have YouTube bits like this when I was teaching music, opera would have been an easy one to teach.  
Even the songstress in this bit is having fun while singing some amazingly accurate sounds.  Using clips like these can help anyone appreciate various styles of music and have fun doing it. Try something different today!!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Musical Monday - Hitting the Top Notes with Ease

Image result for clip art singer in choirWe all have times when we get some notes in our parts that are on the top end of our comfort zone.  When you research how to sing those "high" notes no matter what part you sing, there are very physical tips to help you.  I truly believe that you must be in the right physical stance but there are some really easy mind tricks that have helped me and my singers over the years.

1. Stand straight - Well yes BUT---

  • stand with feet slightly apart and weight centred on the balls of the feet
  • make certain you do NOT throw your head back but rather tuck your chin down slightly.  Now try both ways.  Stand with your eyes looking to the ceiling.  Yes, you will feel the restriction in your throat.  Now, stand with your chin slightly tucked while thinking of your spin as a straight stick right up the back of your head.  Feel now how much more open your throat feels.  You got it!!
2. Take a deep breath - Indeed you need lots of air to produce a lovely in tune sound.  However, if you breathe incorrectly it can end up being a breathy sound instead. 
  • prepare for the note by always breathing well.  Depending on where that note occurs in the song, you may have to break up phrases to get the required breath.  When you are a choir singer, just breathe where the person beside you does not. That will ensure no "holes" in the sound. 
3. Stop thinking - Yes I really mean it.  If you THINK the note is high, you will reach for it and that usually means you will hit just under the note.
  • think like a basketball player instead.  The note is the ball. Stand well, chin down then let the note fly and enter the basket gently from the top.  No jamming here.  I find thinking of the note as being gently dropped from the top allows me to get it in tune.  If the basketball player always thought about just how high the basket was, there would be very few that scored.  Think above the note and let it sit in the right place.  Ah. 
4. Be a champion athlete
  • We all know that it takes a lot of physical effort to sing well.  
  • It takes a positive mental attitude as well.  
  • If you think you can, you will.  If you think you can't, you're right.  
  • Be in the best shape YOU can be.  Walk and breathe between the poles on the road and let it out in a hiss.  Think about your posture while in the shower.  
  • When you let the little "can't" gremlin into your brain, quickly say, "Cancel, cancel, cancel!" or shake your hands as if getting rid of something sticky and say, "Let it go, let it go, let it go." You are in control.  
4. Relax, enjoy and do the best you can with the tools you have.  Sometimes the best of us have a bad day and those top notes just aren't going to happen.  Get in the proper stance, breathe and open your mouth with a singer's smile.  Someone will get it.  THAT is the true joy of being in a choir.  There are very few times when that note is yours alone.  Fake it and smile.  Oh yeah. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Musical Monday - Feel GREAT with Love Is Like a River

Just 'cause music is that feel good medicine. Listen, enjoy and energize.  Check out the amazing pianist!!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Musical Monday - Using Vocal Fry in Your Singing Can Actually Help

In past posts, I have decried the use of vocal fry (explained perfectly in this video).  Actually, in researching how to heal an overused voice, I found suggestions to use a bit of vocal fry to help heal as the voice heals best when used gently to keep the blood flowing etc.  Well, I was intrigued. 
Here in this video, the use of vocal fry or creak is illustrated.  As in all things, moderation is the key.  Judicious use of fry is helpful but to use it all the time as some current singers seem to be doing will cause you to lose much of your range.  
I will listen differently to a lot of music differently after this tutorial.  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Musical Monday - 5th grade boys Synchronized Air Swimming

These young fellows do a masterful job of being truly synchronized.  They work so well with the music and the result is pure fun.  This will be a lasting, fun memory for them for sure. It is certainly a fun one for us!!