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West Midlands Barbershop Harmony Club

Submitted by John Eardley on Tue, 29/03/2016 - 11:28

Originally submitted by George Badland on Mon, 04/05/2015

One of the requirements of good ensemble singing, whether it be a capella or accompanied, is that no individual voice should be heard sticking out. That is not to say that sections should not 'stick out' from time to time, clearly we always need to hear what the leads are singing and also the various embellishments that the harmony parts have to perform, but no individual should ever be heard sticking out.


So, what makes voices stick out? Well, there are a number of reasons and some of which are easier to deal with than others. For example:

1.  When individuals are too loud. It is great to have a decent set of pipes but in ensemble singing you should never exploit those pipes to the point where you stick out from the rest of your section. That doesn't mean hat you should never sing loudly but that when you do that, your voice should blend in with the rest of your section. The remedy therefore is firstly listen to yourself more intently and secondly back off if you are too loud.


2.  Wrong notes and wrong words will always create a distraction so the simple remedy here is to learn the right ones.


3.  Poor individual intonation ( poor note accuracy). 1.e where you sing a note(s) that are not quite in tune. Remedy listen more actively to yourself and adjust your pitch accordingly. Better breath support will help also.


4.  Poor voice quality. The problem here may be quite difficult to cure but could also be a temporary problem. In that case the effect can be mitigated if you just back off to the point where you don't distract others.. Active listening is again a required.


5.  Last but certainly not the least, is vibrato. This tends to increase in evidence with age and can be due to the breath pulsating due to poor breath support like when you are running out of breath.. It can be quite difficult to cure but there are exercises that can mitigate the vibrato if not get rid of it altogether.


Some techniques and exercises that can help are as follows.

a) Perform exercises that reduce tension in the neck a jaw.

b) Establish a sense of breath flow rather than oppositional breathing.


c) Think of the stomach as a balloon then practice long 'f's, 's' and 'th's to get this feeling of a continuous even flowing of air as you squeeze your balloon


d) Perform vocal exercises by imagining you are blowing over the neck of a coke bottle. It's amazing how well that one works.


e)   Practice straight singing whenever you can.


Any others to add anyone ?