reminders & Tips for US
In agreeing to and practicing what follows, we commit to treating our rehearsals as if they were performances, so that we practice what we most want to execute on stage.
- WAIT: If you arrive late, or step down from the risers and are returning, simply stand on the side and wait until invited by the Director to take your place.
- No Crossing: Under no circumstances should we ever cross in front of the Director while getting on the risers. If crossing to the far side of the risers, walk behind him instead, or circle behind the risers.
- Have Fun: by enjoying the great stuff the Director has to offer. Save your fun with your neighbor until after the rehearsal. (Exception – see Ten Second Rule)
- Ten Second Rule: If the Director has not addressed the chorus within ten seconds, then you can talk quietly with your riser neighbor until the director resumes. Keep your eye on the director so you know when he has resumed, and then immediately give him your attention.
- Listen, Don’t Fix: Often when there’s a pause, chorus members try to correct their own mistakes or those of their neighbors. Although this may seem important, RESIST. You will miss important comments from the Director that affect everyone in the chorus. Bear in mind that the Director fixes all the problems eventually.
- Listen, Don’t Sing: When the Director is demonstrating how to sing a particular passage, do not sing with him. He’s usually doing that to demonstrate micro-differences in pitch, nuances of vocal quality, or in some cases, notes or words. If you sing with him, you keep yourself and everyone else from hearing him, and instead, you become the example. That keeps us all from learning from the expert.
- When the Director is speaking to the chorus, don’t pass the time singing or reviewing your part. It makes it difficult for all of us to pay him proper attention and to learn, because we’re instead paying at least some attention to you.
- When the Director is working with another section or sections, don’t sneak-sing your part with them. You may think no one will notice, but it’s guaranteed the Director will notice, and be distracted by it.
- Listen, Don’t Hum or Sing: When the pitch pipe is sounding, don’t hum the pitch. It keeps you and everyone else from hearing the pitch accurately.
- Wait: If you need to step down for any reason, stay on the risers until there’s a break in the singing, then step down and leave quietly. If you need to cross to the other side of the risers, walk behind the risers if possible.
Singing requires lots of air. Each time we take a breath the lungs should fill completely. Unfortunately, we are accustomed to breathing for the purpose of talking, which requires much less air and much less support.
As we improve our singing technique, we will notice that the lungs are filled to capacity every time we breath, even if the phrase is short and soft. Try breathing through a yawn. This relaxes the throat, raises the soft pallet and provides a larger tube through which to intake air and also to sing through. See if you can keep that same relaxed yawning sensation of the breath as you sing.
That is another way to get the same effect we get when we hold our arms in front of us imitating a barrel. Add support to combine that "spin" or "ring" to the warmer, fuller and rounder sound and we sound like there are twice as many of us singing.
Understanding Your Passagio
By: Antonio Lombardi
A few members of the chorus were talking after rehearsal one Thursday night, and someone stated, "that’s on my break, I can’t sing that high"... I then asked them where their vocal break was... They had no clue what I was talking about! I then said, "do you know where your passaggio is?"... Still they had no clue.
This month's vocal tip understands the term "Passaggio".
The Passaggio (an Italian word meaning passage) is a term that denotes the mid-point between your chest voice and head voice.
NOW WAIT… “Antonio, I don’t know what a chest voice is or a head voice”… No problem:
- Chest Voice - The chest voice is the natural singing voice of many singers. If you begin singing and feel your voice vibrating from your throat or chest, that's singing in your chest voice--hence the name. (Normal speaking voice for men) It's the most comfortable way of singing for many of us, as it's the natural voice that we use when speaking.
- Head Voice - The head voice, when used, can be felt vibrating in the head or nasal area of the singer. It actually is the same voice; you don't have three sets of vocal cords, after all, but the way that it resonates and feels is different from your chest "voice." The head voice can be found by airily singing past the point where your chest voice ends. The real trick to combining both voices into one voice is to make the vocal "break" between the head and chest voice disappear, and make the head voice sound as strong as the chest voice.
- Combining the Two - You can combine the head and chest voice; it's just a matter of practicing correctly and singing correctly. You'll need to sing the "break” or “passaggio” between the two registers as often as possible to get your voice used to making the switch, until it's effortless. There are a variety of vocal exercises to help singers do this; most rely on exaggerated sounds, for instance singing in a very nasal voice, like the Pee Wee Herman voice.
Commonly referred by untrained singers as the “vocal break”, the Passaggio is probably the biggest nemesis to singers. The inability to sing through the Passaggio without constricting or breaking the sound column is probably the #1 problem for all singers.
Singing technique is a lot about, how do we win the battle of bridging the Passaggio successfully. The process of phonating from one vocal register to the other is referred to as “bridging the Passaggio”.
Bridging the Passaggio without constricting or experiencing a break in your singing is very difficult. It requires very excessive practice, namely, training your voice over and over again. Practicing various workouts will train your “muscle memory” (remember this term?) to develop great physiology and acoustics for bridging, which care the two most important components to understand and appreciate when it comes to the business of bridging from your chest voice to your head voice.
On this page you can find a great video I was able to find online, when you have some time, take a watch he knows what he’s talking about.
I am more than willing to show you examples of this next time I see you. Feel free during a break to pull me aside and ask questions!
General Tips on Learning our Repertoire
By "learning" we mean - get off the paper. Our style of music requires that we not feel locked in to a particular piece of paper, a particular way of singing. We sing in a rubato style, with subtleties of emphasis. Over time, this can change. No piece of paper, no CD track, no MP3 can ever, as a result, be in total conformity with the current interpretation. To the extent possible, we keep our materials up-to-date, most especially if we have made major changes from the previous learning materials. When that happens, we will regenerate the learning materials so that new members will have something as close as possible to our current handling of the song.
This also applies to Stage Presence (SP). We move while we sing - another reason that we cannot be holding a piece of paper. On one level, the movements add entertainment value to the piece. On another level, the SP reinforces the interpretation.
We need to be ready to respond instantly to the Director's leadership. That is why we must be off the paper and ready to stretch in some direction away from the initial learning. For this reason, many directors call all of the learning materials "Road-Maps." That's all they are and should not be taken as chiseled in stone.
General Tips and Information:
- We work on songs during rehearsal, but it is expected that each member work on their music at home.
- Most of our songs have learning tracks for listening to your part or a full mix version of the song.
- Most people have computers and internet access, so our learning "media' in the form of MP3 files is on our website. (the site you're on now)
- We will accommodate you if you do not have a computer or internet access.
- It is recommended that you have either a CD player or MP3 player (computer) for listening to your learning media.
- Looking at the music and listening to your part is recommend.
- Listen a few times (5) before trying to sing along. Even with learning media, singing a note wrong several times makes it permanent.
- Try your part in a quartet or small group at rehearsal.
- Record yourself and listen. (nobody likes the sound of their own voice, but it is the best way to learn)
- If you are struggling with a certain part of the song, ask for help at rehearsal from anyone on the Music Team, especially your section leader.
How to be the best and most effective singer...
Written by Don Kahl
Rural Route 4
1986 International Champions
Describing how to sing great Tenor is a bit like demonstrating how to dry one's back without using one's hands. You pretty much learn by doing and not by reading. Does reading an article in a golf magazine help your game? There are, however, some tips that are translatable to your Tenor-singing techniques. Sometimes, in our attempt to conserve enough air to maintain support through a phrase, we don't achieve preparatory breath well in the first place. Make the breath part of the release while forming the next intended target.
Barbershop performers are always behind the focus of the ensemble sounds we create. Listen carefully:
- Shift body weight at appropriately frequent intervals.
- Maintain shoulder posture, and keep chin and Adam's apple in a comfortably low position.
- There is no such thing in justly-tuned barbershop Tenor singing as a half step. Tenors need to work diligently to sing in tune with the Lead. Be alert to the need for lifting or settling certain intervals as you rehearse and perform.
- The chord that the audience perceives as ringing is because of instantaneous adjustments. A Tenor and his Lead can never duet too much.
- Imagineering or looping one's performance is excellent for creating a consistent and positive frame of mind. Run through your entire performance in your mind. The more you prepare yourself the more confident you'll be. Rehearse not just enough to get it right, but enough to never get it wrong.
Every Tenor I ever heard, to a greater or lesser degree, was and is one of my favorites. But there are three men who are at the top of my personal list. Each of these men was blessed with consistently accurate melody singers. (Tuning is less a problem when the melody is well sung.) Two of these men may not be as well known as the third, but they are giants to me and taught me well.
- GENE COKECROFT was flawless as he sang with the Suntones, and he has an unbelievably beautiful voice. For his unfailing artistry in every performance, he tops my list.
- ED ROOKER sang with the Central States District's legendary Merry Mugs quartet in the early days in my barbershopping life. The happiness that filled Ed's eyes when they performed has been a beacon to me during some of my most stressful performances.
- DALE RADFORD possessed a crisp, lyrical and clear, almost Irish Tenor quality. I recall his voice atop more than one Southwestern District foursome. Watching him taught me much of what I now describe as instant matchability.
But, as I said earlier, and I mean it, every Tenor is my hero. To Gene Cokecroft, Dale Radford and the late Ed Rooker, my everlasting thanks for what you taught and gave me. Now, if anybody wants to know even more firsthand how we pass on the gospel of great barbershop Tenor singing, come to Harmony College someday, and I'll see you in class.
Top Eight Habits of Highly Effective Tenor Singers:
- Breathe to consume air, not to conserve air;
- Finish phrases with a breath;
- Listen harder;
- Move feet to stay fresh;
- There are no half-step intervals;
- Duet the melody;
- Rehearse until error-free -- then do it again;
- Loop your performance;
Written by Joe Connelly
When the audience is leaving the auditorium after a show or contest, what will they be humming? The melody, of course (music judges excluded, for reasons we can't explain here.).
It is the Lead singer's job to execute (no pun intended) each melody line with precision and flair. It is this "recognizable line that is familiar to audiences and puts them at ease. Although this makes the Lead part the easiest to learn, it also means that the Lead singer is the most vulnerable. When you sing melody, you can run, but you can't hide.
So, what does it take to be an awesome Lead singer? Let's take a look at three of my personal favorites, and observe what I consider to be their most outstanding qualities. (Keep in mind that these all-time greats were blessed with phenomenal harmony-part singers who helped support and showcase their talents.)
- RICH KNAPP-- 1980 International Champion Boston Common. Rich embodies the very best of singing naturally and believably from the heart. Listeners fall in love with his no-nonsense delivery. We can all learn from Rich to trust our feelings and emotions when we perform each and every song.
- KEN HATTON -- 1978 International Champion Bluegrass Student Union. Never before or since has there been a Lead singer who commands the stage with more vocal energy and visual excitement than Kenny. His stage personality also evokes a positive rapport with any audience. We can all learn from Kenny to sing and perform every note with intensity and a commitment to be the best.
- BOB FRANKLIN --1961 International Champion Suntones. Bob is the consummate professional showman. He is always prepared and always disciplined in his performance. He is also extremely adept at singing harmony when called upon to do so. We can all learn from Bob to be aware of our vocal role in every tune we present to an audience, and to strive to perform it flawlessly.
Top Ten Habits of Highly Effective Bass Singers:
- Learn basic barbershop chord structures to be aware of proper balance;
- Diligently study successful leads' strengths and adapt them to your own voice and personal style;
- Plan ahead for maximum mental focus in each rehearsal and performance;
- Be fully prepared in every aspect of your music;
- Be consistent -- sing each song the same way every time;
- Practice singing the melody against a continual fixed tonal center -- an electronic pitch pipe works great;
- Always rehearse as though in front of an audience;
- Develop a physical exercise plan that works for you;
- Drink a lot of water every day to keep your body and vocal cords hydrated;
- Find a great bass, baritone and tenor whom you trust musically, and who in return, have faith in you to lead them onward and upward.
Written by Bill Myers,
1998 International Champions
The Bass singer delivers the essence and character of the barbershop sound. I just love to sing along with recordings featuring good, quality Bass singers and from there develop my own style of singing Bass. It's fun and you learn a lot from the experts. You learn how to sing intervals with ease and accuracy, how to balance chords and how to sing with quality all up and down the scale. Why wouldn't any Bass singer want to sing along every day with the best we have? It's difficult to pin down just three of my favorite barbershop Bass singers, but here's a start. These three are also genuinely nice guys and fun Barbershoppers to be around. What a wonderful combination!
- JIM HENRY - Here's a guy who puts more of his personality in the music he creates than any other barbershop Bass I know. I respect his commitment to a quality sound all up and down the scale. Jim gives enough of his ego away to complement his quartet with just enough sound to blend and match to perfection. Yet his dominant Bass color is always evident when The Gas House Gang (1993 champion) sings. I sing Bass with him by tape every day.
- DON BARNICK - Really not a Bass singer, by his own admission, but probably the very best at making the vocal apparatus work for the job; he was a Gold Medal Tenor with Grandma's Boys in 1979. However, using all of his resonators, Don was able to command the rich, quality, up-front ping in the Bass sound all up and down the scale with the 1992 International Champion Keepsake. You will not find a finer example of one using what the good Lord gave him to work in his favor. I sing Bass with him by tape every day.
- RICK STAAB - One of the all-time greats. Here's a guy who was born with a golden Bass voice. He'll be the first to tell you, "It was a gift from above." I think he sang a bad note once in 1977. Not sure which note it was, but at least one. Always, always, with quality and richness, always resonant, always accurate. Just the kind of Bass singer most leads pray for. His voice was made to order for the legendary 1978 champion Bluegrass Student Union. Ah, I remember them well! I sing Bass with him by tape every day.
Top Ten Habits of Highly Effective Bass Singers:
- Sing every note with a quality sound;
- Sing with full face vowels;
- Sing every day;
- Vertical "Ahh" on the inside of every vowel;
- Every five seconds, energize;
- Get a coach;
- Step into the picture the lyric creates;
- Sing on top of the air;
- Resonant, warm spin in the sound;
- Always be working on a new song.
Written by Ron Knickerbocker
1974 International Champions
There are only two things one must do to be a great Baritone: use proper vocal production and understand (and obey) the Baritone's job description. For purposes of this discussion, let's pretend we all produce sound correctly and focus on the job. A quartet Baritone or Baritone section in a chorus has three basic responsibilities:
- Tuning chords
- Balancing chords
- Staying out of the way. (Some people, mostly Basses, feel that the Bari has a fourth job -- making the Bass sound good -- but I won't address the impossible here.)
In both tuning and balancing it is critical to know what part of the chord you are singing. For mathematical reasons, fifths should be sung a tad sharp, and minor (barbershop) sevenths need to be tuned a bit flat. Thirds should be sung sharp, because we habitually sing them way too flat). As a general rule, it is easier to tune to the Bass than to the Lead.
A Bari's balance responsibility is dictated by two things:
The first is where your note is with respect to the melody. Bari notes above the melody need to be sung somewhat softer (how much softer depends on how far above the melody your note is), while notes below the melody should be sung relatively louder. Some coaches maintain that balancing isn't necessary as long as your quality matches that of the Lead. I agree that a Bari can sing a bit more loudly if he matches the Lead well, but the melody must still be predominant. Thus, balance is no less important than it used to be thought, just a little easier to do.
The second factor in balancing chords is the part of the chord you are singing. As a general rule, sing roots and fifths more loudly than other parts of the chord.
Staying out of the way means the Bari must do whatever he can to enhance the musical flow. Maintain vowel integrity, energize singable consonants and soften hard consonants. Most of the time it is desirable to substitute softer consonants for the hard ones, like using d instead of t. The substitutions must be subtle, however. Don't hit the listener over the head with the fact that you are using a different consonant.
Most rules have exceptions, but if you adopt these general suggestions, you will be well on your way to becoming a great Baritone. Now, if we could only find a Bass that deserves you!
Top Ten Habits of Highly Effective Baritone Singers:
- Produce sound correctly;
- Balance to the lead, but...
- Tune to the bass;
- Know what part of the chord you are singing;
- Sing thirds and fifths a little sharp, AND
- Sing minor (barbershop) sevenths a bit flat;
- Balance to the melody;
- In general, roots and fifths should be a little louder than other notes in the chord;
- Extend the duration of vowels;
- Reduce the duration and percussiveness of consonants.
A Glossary Of Commonly Used Terms Within The Chorus As Well As The Barbershop Community.
- AFTERGLOW- Informal harmony singing after a performance usually at convention and prelims.
- BARBERSHOP SEVENTH- The chord which is the hallmark of the style, made up of the root (keynote), major third, fifth and flattened seventh notes (not the major seventh) of the chord, which is particularly suitable for producing 'expanded sound' (see below).
- BALLAD- A word used to group songs which usually have a strong emotional lyric, and may be sung either in tempo or freely.
- BELL CHORD- A succession of notes sung by each part in turn usually starting with the bass or tenor note.
- CHEST VOICE- A term related to imagery, not reality. The feeling of sympathetic vibrations in the chest
- CHINESE SEVENTH- A dominant seventh chord voiced with the fifth in the bass and the root and seventh in the top two voices, the higher note being the root.
- CHOPSTICKS- A Chinese seventh chord.
- CLOSED VOWEL- Singer's term for a vowel which has a smaller opening, i.e. "ee", "Aih" or "oo".
- CONVENTION- An annual event held for the competing choruses and quartets.
- CHOREOGRAPHY- Movements integrated into a song in order to enhance the performance.
- CRESCENDO- A gradual increase in volume.
- DECRESCENDO- A gradual decrease in volume.
- DIAPHRAGM- Large, dome-shaped muscular partition separating the chest and stomach cavities. It is the principal muscle involved with breathing.
- DIPHTHONG- A sound composed of two consecutive vowels in a single syllable.
- DISTRICT- One of the 17 geographic and administrative regions of the Society.
- DOWNBEAT- The first beat in a bar.
- DOWN THE TILES- When the ensemble stares and faces straight towards the audience down the tiles of the floor.
- EASYBEAT- A word used to group songs sung to a strict tempo, in a relaxed style.
- ECHO- An arranger's device used to enhance a song musically and lyrically usually with the leads holding on to a word whilst the harmony parts change notes and repeat words from the end of the phrase.
- EMBELLISHMENT- Decoration within an arrangement, to make it more interesting. eg »Swipe »Key Change »Bell Chords
- EXHALATION- Breathing out. In singing it is the act of managing the release of breath needed for the length of a phrase.
- EXPANDED SOUND- The effect created from the combined interaction of voices sung with accurate intonation, uniform word sounds in good quality, proper volume relationships that reinforce the more compatible harmonics producing an effect (greater than the sum of individual voice parts.
- FALSETTO- The thin, upper range of the voice where only the extreme outer edges of the vocal folds vibrate.
- FIFTH- The fifth note of the scale (e.g. G in the scale of C).
- FIFTH WHEELING- A cardinal sin! Singing along with a quartet. This is never done. Avoid at all costs unless advertised as a "gang sing"
- FORWARD FOCUS- The sensation of producing sound in the facial area.
- GANG SING- An approved opportunity to join four or more guys to sing a song or tag.
- GLISSANDO or GLISS- A sliding, pitch effect either downward or upward to a destination.
- HARMONY COLLEGE- Usually an annual event held by our district for intense training purposes for ALL members.
- HARMONY HALL- Barbershop Harmony Society Headquarters in Nashville, TN
- HARMONY UNIVERSITY- An annual event held by the international society as a bigger/longer version of Harmony College.
- HARMONICS- Another term for overtones. Tones of a higher pitch that are present in every musical sound though are not sung or played.
- INHALATION- The act of breathing in.
- INSIDE SMILE- A mental imagery concept that aids in lifting the upper lip away from the front teeth. It assists in extending the vocal tract, raising the soft palate and adds animation to the face.
- INTERVAL- The distance in pitch between two notes.
- INTONATION- The singing or playing in tune, either good or bad.
- IMPLOSION- Compression of air between the closed glottis and the closed oral and nasal passages, forming the voiceless consonants "p", "t" and "k".
- LARYNX- The "voice box'' - It contains the vocal folds.
- LEGATO- Smooth singing with no apparent interruption from articulation.
- MASK- A mental imagery term used to indicate the forward area of the face.
- MUSICAL PHRASE- The natural division of a melodic line.
- OPEN VOWEL- Singer's term for a vowel which has a wider opening, i.e "oh", "ah", or "aw".
- OVERTONES- See Harmonics.
- PICK-UP- An arranger's device, starting a phrase on the upbeat with one voice part only, usually lead or bass, joined by the other parts on the downbeat of the next bar.
- POLECAT- A program was promoted of a selected group of easy arrangements that everyone should learn so that it would be a common repertoire for all barbershoppers. A common phrase around the time was "hep-cat" - which implied that the person was "hep" and really "cool". With the thought of real cool cats gathering around a barbershop pole singing, the name "Barberpole Cat" was adopted for the common repertoire programme. This has been distorted since to simply "Polecat"
- REGISTER- The classification of parts of the vocal range according to the method of production chest, mixed, head and falsetto.
- REPERTOIRE- The songs that the singers are prepared to perform publicly.
- RESONANCE- A body of air that vibrates. The singer attempts to control the 'container' which holds the air, thus affecting quality.
- RESONATORS- Any of the parts and cavities of the vocal instrument that acoustically reinforce sound. Principal resonators are the throat and mouth, with sympathetic vibrations in the upper chest and nasal area,
- RISERS- Raked staging used at competitions
- RISER TIME- Short rehearsal period at Convention for competitors on the stage where the competition will be held.
- ROOT- The first note in a scale. Also known as the key note, (e.g. C in the key of C).
- SCOOPING- Starting a tone off-pitch (usually below pitch) and adjusting to the correct pitch after initiating the sound.
- SING-OUT- The term used when singing repertoire for the general public, as a show or part of a concert.
- SPEBSQSA, Inc.- Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America. The legal name of the Barbershop Harmony Society.
- STAGE LEFT- The left-hand side of the stage when facing the audience.
- STAGE RIGHT- The opposite of the above.
- SWIPE- An arranger's tool which enhances a song. A series of chords sung whilst sustaining one word.
- SYNCHRONIZATION- Precision in singing which includes attacks and releases of words, uniformity of word sounds and rhythmic exactness.
- TAG- The coda or special ending added to an arrangement of a song. Sometimes they are sung on their own for pure pleasure!
- TEMPO- The rate of speed of a musical composition.
- THIRD- The third note in the scale, (e.g.. E in the scale of C ).
- TONAL CENTER- Giving preference to one tone, so that the tonic becomes the centre to which all other tones are related. The tonal center should remain constant, barring a key change, until the song's conclusion.
- TONE- A musical tone having a definite pitch and regularity of vibration rate. Also the interval between two notes comprising of two semi-tones. (e.c,. C and D are a tone apart).
- TONIC CHORD- A major triad built on the key (or root) note of any given scale. In the key of C major, the tonic chord is C-E-G.
- TREMOLO- Excessively wide or fast vibrato that leads to a loss of a distinct sense of central pitch. Usually caused by poor breath support and a faulty control of the singing muscles.
- TRIPHTHONG- A single syllable consisting of three consecutive vowel sounds. (Examples: Hour or Fire)
- TUNE-UP- The notes sung (usually creating a chord) which allow the singers to reach their first note of the song
- UNISON- The combined sound of two or more voices at the same pitch.
- UPTEMPO- A word used to group songs sung to strict tempo at a faster pace than easy-beats.
- VIBRATO- A regular, periodic pitch oscillation above and below a tonal centre. A natural phenomenon when used with a minute variation in pitch to give warmth and colour to the tone quality.
- VOCAL FOLDS- Two muscular bands in the larynx cavity which vibrate and create varying pitches by adjusting tension against the upward flow of air.
- VOWEL- A speech sound uttered with voice or whisper characterised by the resonance from the vocal cavities.
- WOODSHEDDING- Informal singing while singing without music or, more specifically singing by ear.
Sheet Music Markings:
Below are the basic explanations of dynamic marks in sheet music.
p or piano, meaning "soft"
f or forte, meaning "loud".
mp, standing for mezzo-piano, meaning "moderately soft".
mf, standing for mezzo-forte, meaning "moderately loud
pp, standing for "pianissimo" and meaning "very soft".
ff, standing for "fortissimo" and meaning "very loud".
ppp, standing for "pianississimo" and meaning "very very soft".
fff, standing for "fortississimo" and meaning "very very loud".
sfz, standing for "sforzando" and meaning "suddenly soft then louder"