3 Practical Ways to Unlock an Amazing Choir/Vocal Sound
Ever feel like your performing to rows of empty seats? This Blog gives you some great tips to communicate with your audience and engage them in your performance. Choirs and singers are in the business of communicating text with an audience so it’s really important that your audience can understand the words you're singing. Two little tricks I’ve found to ensure that the message gets across is to:
A choir will never sing in tune or produce a convincing sound or tone until every member is singing the same vowel sound. The key to unlocking an amazing sounding choir is a unified vowel sound – this will produce great tone, good intonation (tuning) and amazing blend. The technical term for enunciation in singing is called ‘diction’ – where we get the word “dictionary” Funny that!
There’s a whole list of International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) Symbols for vowels and consonants. This list includes single vowels, two vowel sounds (diphthongs), three vowel sounds (triphongs) and consonants.
For example lets look at vowel ‘o’ and the different pronunciations we could use in different words: Go, Obey, Top, For, Lose, Took, Boot, Our, Boy or Now.
Wow! That’s 10 different ways of singing the vowel ‘o’. In contemporary singing like the sort we do with my choir ‘Melbourne Contemporary Choir’ we don’t want to produce a classical choir sound but it is still important that everyone is singing the same vowel sound.
So here are my top 3 ways to unlocking an amazing choir/vocal sound!
1. Keep the Jaw relaxed (think dental examination mouth opening)
Tension in mouth and jaw is no good for making a consistent, beautiful tone and it takes time and practice to perfect this. The reason is that when you talk normally you don’t need to make much room in the mouth. Typically Australians tend to use little or no mouth effort when talking and hence many of our words get shortened or are difficult for foreigners to understand. We tend to be pretty self conscious about opening our mouths during singing for fear of looking funny.
When singing the mouth needs to be open approximately twice as much as for normal talking!
So in choirs we ask singers to “drop the jaw” so that it’s free of tension. Make sure your face muscles are loose and lips relaxed. Obviously the jaw will change to make various vowels but it should be kept open as much as each vowel will allow. The bonus with using a more open mouth is that the choir will produce more volume without having to yell or strain!
2. Relax your tongue
A great default position for the tongue in singing is to rest the tip of the tongue so that it touches the back of your bottom front teeth. As you experiment more with tongue position you will find that as you raise or lower the back part of the tongue you will produce different tones. This is because the mouth is a resonating chamber and repositioning your tongue affects this resonance. For a contemporary sound you don’t want the tongue pulled back low into the mouth or the tone will be throaty and muddy.
For a contemporary sound lift the tongue and sing with a smile and cheeks lifted – this brightens the sound.
3. Make Room In Your Mouth
There’s a difference between relaxing your jaw when singing and making sure there is enough room in the mouth to make a great vowel sound. For example when you sing the word “Me” you need the least amount of room in your mouth but sing the word “Father” and you need a lot more room. Try it! Where is your jaw position when you sing these words?
The answer is for “Father” the jaw is low and the tongue is at the bottom of the mouth and the soft part of the back of your mouth is lifted.
For “Me” the jaw is high but not too high – practice putting your pointer in between your teeth when your singing “Me” I bet if you’re like most people your mouth isn’t open enough! There’s still no tension in the jaw but the back of the tongue is high with the tip of the tongue touching the bottom teeth. The edge of your tongue should touch the upper teeth.
So I’ve only touched the surface of producing an amazing sound with your choir or when singing to engage your audience, but these tips should really make a difference and help you produce electrifying performances at your next gig. Good luck.
Melbourne Contemporary Choir
Jason or (Jase) as he likes to be called is Founder & Creative Director of Melbourne Contemporary Choir (MCCHOIR) and is a passionate musician who wants to bring his love for music to a broader audience.
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