Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lovers' Duets - Bringing It Together

Luke wraps up this series on Duets.
Over the past few weeks, we've presented Separated Duets and New Lovers' Duets. While these formats can be used quite effectively in an impro show, there are some general ideas and techniques that Lovers can use in their duets to make them more successful.


Blending is the ability for singers when performing in unison to come across as combined, coherent sound rather than just multiple people doing the same thing at the same time. It’s a difficult concept to explain, but an easy one to spot when not done right. You have all probably heard people singing together some time and can pick one person's voice out the chorus - they are the ones not blending. It comes back to the basic impro concept of yielding. It is not the idea of showing that you are the best singer in the duet or group, but that the group of singers is best at singing.

The reason this is particularly important with Lovers is that it shows musically that they are together, in a much stronger and subconscious way than just stating the fact. In West Side Story’s imaginary wedding scene One Hand One Heart shows this to a tee. It is the apex of their relationship and they show this, not only in their acting but in the way they sing this short song.


On a singing front there is musical technique that is quite prevalent in lovers' songs. The term legato refers to musical phrasing that is smooth with no notable breaks in the notes. This is a way we can approach our singing love duets that the audience will immediately will understand and give shape to the phrasing of the lyrics. On a technical front you want to create the elongated sounds on the vowels rather than the consonants as not only is it less stressful on your voice, it is easier to give emotion on those sounds.

So try singing
I willlllllll lovvvvvvvvvvvvvve you!
As opposed to
I will loooooove yoooooou!

And you will immediately see the difference. A great example of this legato style is A Little Fall of Rain, from Les Miserables. You can see how they keep their phrasing long and smooth and hold the notes on the vowel and despite not using the full dynamic range of their voices they create a quite touching love duet.

If you are the musician playing the music for a love duet, it is important to realize that they are big emotional songs and a lot of the drive for the song will come from your playing. It is important to listen to the song and hear when the sings what to cut lose in a big swelling build or if they want to pull it back into a quieter softer moment. As the musician you can also drive these changes, if you feel the characters need to go there with key changes and way you attack the melody from verse to verse.

Kris Anderson is particularly good at this in song from One Bride I Can't Believe What's Happening Now. Tristan Ham as Golly is singing about his favorite park being destroyed - he starts it in a very plaintive tone which is matched by Kris' playing. On the word Give, Golly changes the tone to be much angrier and aggressive, and you can hear Kris play root chords into the next line with much more attack which really supports the choice the singer has taken. This allows the music to become another character, which scaffolds the action and emotion and gives another clue for the audience into the character's state of mind.

Happily Ever After

And that brings us to the end of the Lovers' Duets. I hope this helps next time you are a dashing romantic lead in your next musical scene and gives you some other ideas on how you can approach these songs.

Got a question about structure or techniques for Lovers' duets? Leave a comment and we'll look at it for a future article.

Coming soon, we will explore the Fools' duets, and see how they differ in intent and structure to the Lovers'.

Photo by FadderUri

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