Selecting Appropriate Repertoire for Developing Singers Dr. Marvin Latimer Chair, Music Education Department Dr. Susan Williams Assistant Professor of Voice University of Alabama Characterize These Songs Premise • “You are the only voice teacher that most of your students will ever have” (Rene’ Clausen, c. 2008). • Presumably, therefore, as with any voice teacher, one of the most important decisions you will make (on a fairly regular basis) involves the repertoire you ask our students to sing. • Yet both research findings and anecdotal observations reveal that often choristers, especially in schools, are presented with voice parts that they shouldn’t (or even can’t) sing. Aesthetics • Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the the creation and appreciation of beauty. • Arguably, both music education in general and choral music education specifically, still suffer from the post Sputnik I Music Education as Aesthetic Education Movement. • Music teacher training programs, which evidence a profusion of theoretical and historical course content, support that notion. Repertoire Characterization • Music educators, therefore, are trained to characterize songs in certain ways most often using specific aesthetically motivated criteria. • For example: – Structure – Character – Texture – Harmony – Form Repertoire Selection • It comes as little surprise, therefore, that research has shown music educators tend to select repertoire based primarily on musical/aesthetic constructs. • For example, David Brunner, DCA at the University of Central Florida, suggests the following “Directors Checklist”: – – – – – Melody Form Expressive Content Harmony Accompaniment – MEJ, Vol. 79, No. 1, Sept., 1992 Paradigm Shift • But what if we instead characterize songs that our students will sing in a way that more accurately addresses the demands that the song will place on them? • Remember, vocal sound is simply an integration of larynx and breath function that creates expressive singing and speech. • Our students must make (with their bodies) the sounds required by the specific song. Myoelastic-Aerodynamic Theory • Myo- means muscle; the vocal folds, after all, are mostly comprised of muscle tissue. The -elastic suffix serves to remind us that the vocal fold is elastic and that we have active control over its elastic properties. • Aerodynamic means that the theory deals with the motion of air and other gaseous fluids, and with the forces active on bodies in motion (such as the vocal folds) in relation to such fluids. • The bottom line is that we can conclude that at least some, and perhaps a great deal, of the singing process is muscular. Ingo Titze, National Center for Voice and Speech Sound: A Quick Review • Pitch is the frequency of a sound as perceived by human ear. • Quality of the sound is created by the fundamental pitch, which possesses the greatest amplitude, combined with overtones or harmonics. • Articulation includes the sharpness of the attack, the amount of sustain, and the length of the decay. • Loudness is a physiological sensation. It depends mainly on sound pressure but also on the spectrum of the harmonics and the physical duration. What Should We Expect (developmental)? Naturally, we stay aware of the significant developmental occurrences during adolescence: • Larynx growth • Vocal fold length growth • Hormonal changes • Body changes • Range changes • Register breaks • Cracking • Breathiness (“mutational chink”) What Should We Expect (pitch)? • Generally in tune • Comfortable range (minimize extremes) • Comfortable tessitura (avoid prolonged high or low) What Should We Expect (quality)? • • • • Generally pleasant to listen to Vibrato emerging Healthy tone (no hoarseness) Evenness throughout range (as much as possible) • Clarity (some breathiness is expected) • Warmth, roundness (space, reduce nasality) What Should We Expect (articulation)? • Can be understood • Has had assistance with foreign language diction • Clean onsets and offsets (no harsh glottals) • As legato as possible What Should We Expect (loudness)? • • • • • Can be heard Not pushing or straining Ease of production Stamina Managing breath over phrases What Should We Expect (artistry)? • Musicality – Desire to communicate – Do they like what they are singing? • Preparation – Select repertoire early – Memorize early – Nerves • Repertoire – Classical or traditional folk selections – Not too ambitious – Simpler piece well done is more impressive than aria learned too soon What Should We Expect (aural skills)? • • • • • Sight singing (intervals, rhythm, solfege/numbers) Pitch recitation passages Key signatures Time signatures Chord quality recognition Keep Assessing Alignment Keep working with breath Janice Chapman’s chapter order Vocal Athletes • The analogy of the "vocal athlete" is commonly made when referring to professional voice users. • Persons who use their voices extensively or who need highly detailed or exacting sounds place demands on their voice in much the same way as athletes place demands on their bodies. • Although there is no bone in the larynx the muscles, cartilages, and ligaments act like those elsewhere in the body. Vocal Function Exercise (VFE) • The notion behind VFE as described by Stemple and colleagues is this: – It should be possible to treat laryngeal muscles just as any other muscles of the body are treated in physical fitness programs. – That is, it should be possible to increase the bulk, strength, and coordinated interaction of laryngeal muscles through a program of systematic exercise. Stemple, J.C., Lee, L., D’Amico, B., & Pickup, B. (1994). Efficacy of vocal function exercises as a method of improving voice production. Journal of Voice, 8, 271-278. Muscle Fatigue and Injury • Nutrition – Maintain a well-balanced diet that includes complex proteins, fruits, vegetables, and carbohydrates. • Hydration – Drinking water throughout the day and is crucial to prevent dehydration, electrolyte loss, and muscle fatigue. • Endurance – Improve your aerobic capacity. One way to improve your endurance is to gradually increase your workout expectations. • Body Mechanics – Use correct form when exercising. • Rest/Recovery – Complete a warm up and cool down for 5 to 10 minutes each time you exercise. • Workouts – Carefully choose workouts that are appropriate to your physical ability. Back to Repertoire • If the repertoire is the stuff of the vocal workout, what specific musical attributes would you look for in each of the areas earlier discussed (you tell me)? – Pitch – Quality – Articulation – Loudness Ideal What attributes should choral songs possess to be ideal for developing young voices? • Limited range requirements • Limited dynamic requirements • Fosters a blending head voice tone concept • Offers linearity in all parts • Available in many voicings • Copious examples from which to select Arguably, early music (especially Renaissance music), folk song settings, some pop arrangements, and light vocal jazz arrangements are among the styles that are most singable for young voices. Less than Ideal Are there some genres of choral music that can ask too much of young singers? • Extreme range requirements • Extreme dynamic requirements • Encourage one register (or high glottal) singing • Lacks linearity in parts (repetitious and vocally taxing) • “You get the picture” Arguably, some styles that we must be very careful of when programming for developing singers are opera choruses, musical comedy, large concerted works, most Romantic music, most rock music, some spirituals, some gospel music, some multi-cultural music. Marvin’s Rules • Organize your ensembles by vocal skill level. • Let each group make its own music-avoid combining with other groups. • Include a variety of styles of music in every folder, but tend toward styles that encourage healthy vocal development. • Sing more easy songs rather than singing fewer hard songs. • Select songs that you can know all of the notes no later than half way through the rehearsal process. • Let the students develop their singing voice. Don’t tinker with it in order to suite a particular aesthetic. • Do not give a student a part to sing if they can’t sing ALL of the notes.