Thursday, November 18, 2010

Singing in a Group

Luke gives some tips on working as a musical group

In improvised shows, a lot of our singing is with other people. Duets, trios and choruses abound, where we join forth in a unified sound of genius... or something to that effect. But, unless you are doing regular music jams together, sometimes it can be hard to get into the swing of things. So today we will be looking at a few tips at getting into your groove a bit quicker.

A Strong Opening

In improvised group songs, normally someone will lead out with a chorus or verse. If you are the one leading off the song it is important you establish a clear structure for everyone else to follow. It is a lot of responsibility, but you will need to set up the initial tone, melody and structure of the song. Once people can clearly see it’s an AA BB rhyming structure with a rousing double time feel it will give them the hook to reinforce it (with, say, a chorus or tilt such as a sad character coming in with a half time feel).

It is important with the opening stanza to platform; a song, like a scene, is only as strong as the foundation it is built on.

A Chorus Line

When it comes to singing in the group setting, you will almost invariably come to a chorus. If the opening has established the chorus we should all be on the same page as to the melody and the lyrics of the song. So if we aren’t thinking about what to sing we need to think about how to sing it.

The trick with good choral singing is not to have a multitude of people singing the same thing at the same time really well, but to have a group of people singing well together. It may seem to be a case of splitting hairs but it is a subtle and important distinction. Generally you should not be able to pick out a specific voice in any choral piece.

So, with that in mind, there are a few things you can do to help out with the blend. If you have a louder, more powerful voice, you could be mindful of holding back a little bit so your voice doesn’t stand out as much. Also if you know your voice is a bit brassy you can aim to soften it out a bit for the choral pieces. Naturally warmer voices will generally find it easier to find this blend as their resonances and harmonics generally will fit into a wider range of vocal tones.

An important part of finding this group cohesion is to ensure you do your vocal warm-ups together, and make sure you get your bodies nice and loose. If you are fully warmed up and the voice is relaxed you will find that your voices will blend more naturally.

Big Finish

Its always nice to have a big tag on a group song but it is very easy for a great song to be ruined by a lacklustre or incoherent close. It is usually best to let one person take the lead and for everyone to yield to their idea for the close. It is important that the person taking the lead clearly signifies this either physically or vocally. This can be achieved simply by stepping forward or by coming in louder on a chorus. A big dynamic close can be a great way to cap off a brilliant song or to bring the audience back after an uninspired offering.

In conclusion

While some of these simple tips might get the ball rolling, the best way to working on group singing is, unsurprisingly, to sing in a group. If you can get together with your fellow improvisers and musicians to work through some ideas and sing together, you will notice an improvement in your group songs.

Photo by Joe Moore


LudusLudius said...

I jibber jabbered about how long it would take to be able to improvise songs, but mostly everyone had expressed interest in singing in the show, so I ran over some facts and we did it. One guy in the video linked here didn't even make the session when I spoke about it, but we quickly mentioned some bits before this clip.
Click here for youtube clip

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