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SUMMARY - 5/21/19

posted May 22, 2019, 8:35 AM by Kathy Scheel
There were 19 singers in attendance and it was great to have Toni Roush back on the risers with us!  The night was basically split between two basic activities:

- Vocal training and skill-building:  breathing, tuning, vocal placement, tempo, forward motion
- Working on the new song


Every singer can learn the basics:  correct notes and words (and rhythms and breath plan and vowels and all that).  But one of the most important skills is to truly listen to the melody and tune each note in relationship to that sound.  Of course, this means that the Leads (who have the melody 99% of the time) must be accurate and unified in every way.  This provides the framework for every harmony singer to be able to tune perfectly to the melody.  But as we discovered last night, there are many times in barbershop harmony (or any ensemble singing, for that matter) that the same note may need to be sung slightly different (higher or lower), depending on the specific chord.   We used the final five chords in the "wee-wee" exercise, also known as "MEH-MEE-MAH-MOH-MOO", and worked on some of these principles.  Each singer can apply these principles to every song as we are rehearsing them each week.  Sections can invite other parts to visit their sectionals in order to work on that singing relationship.

We also identified the importance of total unity in:
  • Breathing - Use a "pre-yawn" breath to create the most resonating space possible, and then strive to maintain that space throughout the phrase.  Do this every day, on every phrase, and record yourself so you can hear the difference (improvement over time).  This will not only make your own voice even more beautiful and resonant, but it will create a much better match with the singers around you (blend).   Another interesting approach to breathing is to breathe with your mouth posture in the position of the vowel you are about to sing.  For instance, when you are going to sing "You", you would breathe with the OO mouth posture so that when you sing so the sound will be in that vowel shape/sound instantly upon making a sound.  Voila!
  • Vowels - The vowel that gives us the most trouble is "AH" and several singers are reluctant to sing a true AH sound so it comes out a bit wide like the word "half" instead of tall like the word "gone".  Work on this at home so it becomes more natural for you.  
  • Vocal placement - Remember last week's lesson about Voice #1, #2, and #3 - strive for voice #2 (a combination of all the parts of your voice) to have the most success in matching your section's vocal placement.  Some voices sound "bright" while others sound "dark" so here is an easy reference for you - experiment with this:
    • Sing or say HEE-HEE-HEE very forward and nasal, towards the front of the face. This is Voice #1.
    • Sing or say HOLY MOLY very hooty and woofy, towards the back of the head.  This is Voice #3.
    • Sing or say HELLOOO right out the top of your head, with a mixture of both #1 and #3 so it's resonated and a nice blend of both sounds.  This is Voice #2.  
  • Sister Act - 
    • Worked on maintaining tempo and as I study it here at home, I like the tempo of 66 bpm for this song, so set your metronome for that and work on internalizing the tempo so it's always got that feeling forward motion, delivering the message with purpose.  Leads have a lot of pickup phrases and it's important that you own those assertively in order to maintain energy and provide a unified sound for the harmony parts to sing their notes.  The more energy that EVERY SINGER puts into the product, the better everything sounds!  
    • Refer to the learning tracks for the proper breathing plan.  Put on some headphones and really study how Speed of Sound sings it (without singing along - just listen to it 2-3 times first), then sing along and emulate everything they are doing.
    • Leads and Tenors - switch parts on measures 24-25.  This will fix the problems we were continuing to have with balance.
    • All of the concepts of unity should apply to this (and every) song - pre-yawn breathing, vowels, vocal placement, tuning to the melody, forward motion.
  • Change the World -
    • Sectionals for 30-40 minutes helped to identify problem areas and it sounds like everyone is doing well on the notes, but the rhythms need a lot of work.  I find it most helpful to write the beats on my sheet music (1-&-2-&-3-&-4-&) above each of the notes so I highly recommend that each person takes the time to do this.  If you're not sure about how to go about it, ask your section leader or someone else in your section who knows.  This will help you learn those rhythms. I'll prepare a graphic that may be helpful and will post it in the next few days.
    • Listen to the learning tracks at least 3 times before you try to sing along.  Use the "How to Learn a Song Quickly" (attached at the bottom of this Kathy's Korner article) and follow the instructions.  
    • Basses - You have the most critical part on this song, providing a continual rhythmic foundation, so it's imperative that you get a good handle on those fun rhythms.  There is a pattern and once you learn it (and feel it) it will all fall into place.  We decided last night that ALL of the basses will go ahead and learn the (higher) notes as sung on the learning track.  Be sure all of you have marked your music with the notes an octave higher in those places
    • Baritones, Leads, and Tenors - The measures alternate between having the 3 of your parts with the exact same rhythmic pattern, then having a totally different one.  For example:
      • M1 - exactly the same pattern
      • M2 - totally different - leads are on beat 2, tenors on beat 3, baritones on beat 4.  These must be sung in the exact right timing or it will sound very "muddy".  So work on clarity of those rhythms.
    • Again, your best source is to study the tracks very closely (using the reference, "How to Learn a Song Quickly").
    • This song has been available to everyone since March 11 - that's 2 months!  My expectation is that you will each make the time to know it much better by next week.  Each time we sang it, it got better and better and you became more comfortable and confident.  I could see that some of you were off the sheet music - YAY!!  Thanks for the commitment and dedication!  Let's make a goal of EVERYONE OFF THE SHEET MUSIC by next week.  For those of you already off the sheet music, go ahead and start your self-evaluation process so you can be sure and catch any errors/problem areas in early stages (before they get engrained).

Several of us enjoyed the afterglow last night:  Diane Watson (who had just learned that she won the vote for Chemeketa Community College Director), Linda O'Donnell, Cindy Meyers, Janice LaCombe, Judy Dixon, Toni Roush, and me.  What a rowdy bunch we were!  Hope more of you can join us next week.  Our waitress, Barb, is such a hoot and totally looks forward to us coming every Tuesday night.  It's such a great way to unwind (since we'd all be awake for awhile anyway) and have some great social time together.

Hmmmm….what are YOU going to wear to the Hollywood Awards Show theme for our June 4th banquet?  Can't wait to see your crazy creativeness!

In harmony,    Kathy

Kathy Scheel,
May 22, 2019, 8:35 AM