Jan 202005

Well, good morning. It’s too early to think rationally, but there’s more to fill my hours today than there are hours to fill, so I’m starting around 4:30. Ah, for the good old days when I was a young adult and thought I was the busiest person on earth… 😉

Today I’m culling suggestions from a book called “Beyond the Downbeat” by Sandra Willetts.

  • Breath control and capacity can be improved with good physical conditioning. Singing is a physical activity much like an athletic event.
  • Better diction will produce a better sound quality.
  • If your choir needs to improve rhythmic unity, work to intensify consonants.
  • “diphthong” is pronounced “diff-thong” not “dip-thong.” (Perhaps this doesn’t make much practical difference, but you don’t want to offend your English majors.)
  • Always voice an “r” when it begins a word or appears between two vowels (unless the second is silent as in “here”). Never voice an “r” when it appears at the end of a word, comes before another consonant or appears before a silent vowel. Never roll an “r” except for extreme dramatic effect.
  • When singing legato, words should be “linked” (that is, the end consonants abut the following syllable) unless doing so causes new words to be formed that obscure the text. Example: “Gladly the cross I’d bear” should not become “Gladly the cross-eyed bear.”
  • Many words begin with “be” or “de” (as in “believe” and “deliver”) but these are often correctly pronounced using a “bih” or “dih” sound. If unsure, look it up in a dictionary.
  • Singers tend to be flat when they are insecure on notes or rythms.
  • Singers tend to be flat when repeating a note three or more times. Watch for it and make the singers aware if they’re flatting repeated notes.

These are all the suggestions I’m going to distill for now. There are plenty more in these and other books, but I’m using these as a handout for the choir directors I work with and I wanted to keep things short and basic–and not overload them with too much information at once!

One book I picked up at Amazon that I really like is called “Conducting Technique for Beginners and Professionals” by Brock McElheran. It’s hard to find these days, but it’s worth looking. This book is a bit too technical to offer much in the way of one-liners, but it’s one of the best short works I’ve found for improving conducting technique. He’s clear, concise, and everything he says just makes sense. Good stuff.

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