Idler Ensemble Singing week 5

Hello Idlers!
I’m looking forward to Friday! Here is a copy of all the music which should download as pdf when you click. I have amended the layout of Malaika to be on 2 sheets. Also the translation on ‘Malaika words’ doc. The music of Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child and the words to Bright morning star are there. I’ve got half a mind to see if Jenny Bennett wants to collab on singing ‘Oh dear Oh’, because she and I could do some harmonies and put some folky baroque violin in, and anyone who wants to join in singing could do so, so I’m just going to put that up too. Check back later as I want to put up new recordings for you to practice to later that are a bit slower than the recordings in the blog post below for last week.

Malaika 2 pages

malaika words

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child

Bright Morning Stars

Oh Dear Oh

In case anyone didn’t see the week 4 post, it’s here http://www.keytomusic.co.uk/idler-ensemble-singing-week-4/ and it has the recordings of parts in it which I am putting up again in this post.

motherless child higher voice

motherless child all voices

motherless child lower voice

Malaika all voices

Malaika melody soprano

Malaika lower

Bright Morning Stars Feb 2014 mid part

Bright Morning Stars Feb 2014 top part

Bright Morning Stars Feb 2014 low part

Idler Ensemble Singing week 4

Lots of sliding this week, as per the hand-out. Keep everything super relaxed and aim to get used to the sensation of the released, relaxed face rather than worrying too much about the note. All the sliding will be very good for the little muscles and for flexibility.

We talked about which songs to do at the end of term party, and I think we were in favour of Motherless Child, Malaika, Bright Morning Star and possibly This Train?

I will put Motherless child up as we sang it and it’ll be on this same post. Feel free to post any comments/other suggestions about song choice in the comments box. NB-we changed a few of the notes, so if any readers amongst you see a discrepancy, go with the recordings below as that’s what we decided to do.

motherless child lower voice

motherless child higher voice

motherless child all voices

malaika words (this is just a guide to pronouncing the second and third verses-don’t pay attention to the pitch). Translations are below.

Verse 1

Malaika, nakupenda Malaika – Angel, I love you Angel

Malaika, nakupenda Malaika.

Nami nifanyeje – And me, what can I do?

Kijana mwenzio – My young companion

Nashindwa na mali sina we – I am defeated by wealth (lack of money).

Ningekuoha, Malaika – I would marry you, Angel

 

Verse 2

Pesa, zasumbuha rohoyangu – Money troubles my heart

Pesa, zasumbuha rohoyangu

Nami nifanyeje – And me, what can I do?

Kijana mwenzio – My young companion

Nashindwa na mali sina we – I am defeated by wealth (lack of money).

Ningekuoha, Malaika – I would marry you, Angel

 


Verse 3

Kidege, hukuwaza kidege -Little bird, I dream of you, little bird

Kidege, hukuwaza kidege

Nami nifanyeje – And me, what can I do?

Kijana mwenzio – My young companion

Nashindwa na mali sina we – I am defeated by wealth (lack of money).

Ningekuoha, Malaika – I would marry you, Angel

 

 

Idler Spring Ensemble singing course Week 3

During this session we examined our ranges. You’ve now all marked your ranges in on the appropriate line, and to expand the usefulness of this as a point of reference, it would be a good idea to take a different colour and within the ends of your range, mark in your comfortable range. To find it, you can use this online keyboard which has the notes marked on the keys. Experiment with that and fill that in on the diagram. If you missed the session, the hand-out which will explain what we looked at is here: Participants Idler Ensemble Singing week 3 17 Feb 2014

Next week we’ll look in more detail at the different registers of your voice and what to do in order to work towards connecting the registers and moving smoothly between them. If increasing your range is something you want to work towards, or if you want to make a certain part your range more useable, the mmmmmm-vee va vee va veee exercise and nee nay nah are really good.  Here some reference clips for Malaika, I could also put an explanation and the rest of the lyrics up later in the week. Make sure to enjoy my phone beeping with a text, miraculously in the right key and kind of in time!

Malaika all voices

Malaika melody soprano

Malaika lower

Idler Spring 2014 Ensemble Singing week 1

Well done all singers on a great first session!

In a general sense, setting a goal or intention for the course is great way to make sure you’re getting the most out of it. Wherever you start from, whether it’s from a position of never really having sung, or whether you’ve sung a lot in the past but are coming back from a time of no-singing, or whether you want to develop more confidence in a particular aspect of singing, it’s helpfully to make a mental or actual note of it. Doing so will help you to formulate the questions most beneficial to you at your current stage of development, and will give you a means of measuring your progress, which you might otherwise not be aware of.

In terms of the key content from week 1, think about bringing the sound forward into the front of the face. I will go over this in the video-but from the perspective of someone who engaged with vocal technique after years singing with no formal training, this is the thing that has made the single biggest difference to my own vocal confidence and consistency. If you were to concentrate on one thing for the moment, make it the ‘mmm’ ‘nnn’ ‘ng’ buzzing exercises. If you do a few scales with them every day, you should soon start to feel the difference between singing from the throat (tires you out quickly and can strain your throat) and sending the sound forward where you can shape and control it. To start with, if you’re not used to thinking about it in this way, it might feel/sound strange, but stick with it.

Confidence is related to feeling sure about what sound is going to come out when you open your mouth; and recognising how it is going to feel physically to produce that. The more you sing, while directing your awareness to what is happening while you’re singing,The more you sing, while directing your awareness to what is happening while you’re singing, the more you’ll start to discern different things happening to produce the sound and the more in control you will become. Don’t worry if you can’t distinguish very much at the moment – to a non-farmer, a field of cows look the same, but once you spend some time around them you start being able to tell the difference. Same thing with starting to recognise how things feel.

Vocal parts-if you click on the links below, they should open in a different page and play. * Caveat * they are intended to help get you really clear on the notes; and are not the most musical recordings I have ever made! When we sing the songs together, eventually we will want to make the rhythm a bit more swinging and add more dynamics, so treat these as a reference for the notes.

 

Bright Morning Stars Feb 2014 low part

Bright Morning Stars Feb 2014 top part

Bright Morning Stars Feb 2014 mid part

Bright Morning Stars Feb 2014 ALL parts

This train part 1

This train part 2

This train all parts

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Feel free to post questions, comments, song suggestions etc below.

 

Idler Ensemble Singing Week 5

For anyone that missed 17 Dec session, I’m copying the hand out below. We went through Gaudete, Sway and Carol of the Bells and decided where to put the dynamics in. There will be a run through on Friday before so you’ll have a change to hear where they are.

We also talked about nominating a favourite carol for a general sing-song after our specific songs. I’ll put up a video tomorrow as requested for It Came Upon The Midnight Clear, and I’ve also put in a video below for a lady who has some quite nice diction and articulation warm ups (which we also talked about.)

Idler Academy Ensemble Singing Week 5

The hard work of learning the notes has been done. Now it’s time to enjoy the feeling of singing with other people, and jointly communicating a mood and a meaning to the audience.

There’s going to be a difference in the way you sing Sway and the way you sing Gaudete. The first is a rhythmic appeal to dance, and will sound great with a relaxed but rhythmically confident delivery. The lyrics are about creating intimacy and connection with someone, and this invitation needs to come across in the way you sing. Gaudete on the other hand taps straight into all the cultural associations we have with Latin, church music, and a more reverent atmosphere; although it is celebratory, even cosmic, in mood and so retains a joyous quality.

 

Carol of the bells is bright and lively and the repeated motif lends itself to a crystal-clear sparkling delivery-imagine the sound of bells bouncing off frosty ground. When you’re concentrating on the notes and holding your parts with the other parts, the meaning of the words tends to fade, but when it comes to performing, it’s important to revisit the words and hold their meaning in your mind when you’re singing. Decide what meaning the song is intended to convey.

 

In addition to revisiting the lyrics with this in mind, and holding the meaning in the forefront of your mind while you are singing, there are some technical points that will greatly enhance your performance:

 

  1. Dynamics.  Today we will go through the pieces and decide where the music suggests crescendos and diminuendos. Contrast creates drama and interest in a performance and shapes a piece of music. For singers, it’s useful to distinguish between volume and ‘loudness’. If you try to sing loudly or go for a big sound that’s forced, it can result in over-singing which isn’t good for your voice and might sound rather harsh.

The dynamics of a piece would also include the places where the narrative intensity as indicated in the lyrics or the arrangement, builds and releases. If we sing at the same level all the way through, the audience will have trouble identifying with the song.

  1. Phrasing.  We’ve talked about where to put breaths in already, and for these pieces the phrasing is fairly intuitive. A phrase, in music, is the smallest musical unit which conveys a musical thought. You wouldn’t want to take a breath half way through a phrase. So the main motif in Carol of the Bells is a phrase, even thought it’s short. Even though you are probably already instinctively phrasing in the right way, it’s worth actively bringing your attention to bear on what you are doing, if only to notice your natural musical instinct!
  1. Articulation/pronunciation.  When you are singing in an ensemble, to get the lyrics across it’s vital to pronounce the words very clearly. There are some words that are a bit more awkward than others, and going through the music to pull them out for separate attention is well worth doing. For example, if a group of people sing a word that ends in ‘s’ and everyone finishes at a different time, it sounds a bit untidy and detracts from the beautiful sounds you are otherwise making. Confidence with notes also needs to be backed up with confidence articulating the words-even more so if they are in Latin.

Once you’ve given your consideration to these things, the most important thing is to enjoy yourself!

Practice sessions are the time to think about these elements and experiment with them, and performance is time to let go, enjoy the music and throw yourself into it. A mood of enjoyment will communicate itself very infectiously to your audience, who will thank you for brightening their day.

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Here’s a video on It Came Upon The Midnight Clear

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Idler Ensemble Singing course week 4

In session four, we discussed the break point between your chest and middle voices, how to find it; what exercises to do to develop and explore that. I’ll be going over that, (and the hand-out is here if you missed the session; Week Four Idler Ensemble Singing hand-out) but if you are very pressed for time, the most important thing to do this week is to latch on to your parts. I’ve put them all in this post, and if you have any time to go over them that would be brilliant. The best way to practice, once you’re happy with your part, is to sing it along with the all-voices part, and then to try singing it against each of the single other parts in turn. If you get used to that, you’ll be rock solid on your parts together. You might also really enjoy the different way the music sounds when you break it down into its constituent parts. The lowest video goes over the Latin pronunciation for Gaudete, as we only covered the first verse in the session.

If anyone wants to isolate bits they find tricky or slow them down, there is a brilliant piece of software called Transcribe that is free for 30 days and lets you loop bits of music and slow them down without changing the pitch. It’s really simple to use-if you’d like me to show you, post below and I’ll do or source a short explanation.

The first video goes over the break point, and has a reminder on how to locate your soft palate and identify whether it’s up or down. If you’ve never thought about your soft palate (!) before, it may take a little while to tune in to where it is and how to feel it. If this is the case, don’t be alarmed-the extra info is for reference and if it doesn’t immediately make sense to you, just keep on singing!  This diagram might help give you a rough idea of where your break is likely to be-I think quite a few of the ladies were in the C/C#/D zone; men may find they’re an octave lower. (The diagram uses ‘high voice’ instead of ‘head voice’.) (Click on the image to enlarge.)

voice range

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I’m also putting in a short reminder of the vocal tension exercise. We could devote an entire session just to tension and posture-this is an exercise I love because I think it releases much more tension more quickly than equivalents. Do give it a go-five minutes of it will transform how your head and neck feel.

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Here is the translation of the lyrics to Gaudete:

GAUDETE TRANSLATION

And here is a quick overview of how to pronounce the Latin.

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Parts! (Gaudete has first two verses; feel free to insert the others)

Gaudete all voices

Gaudete Soprano

Gaudete Alto

Gaudete Tenor:Bass

Carol of the Bells

Carol of the bells all voices

Carol of the bells soprano

Carol of the bells alto

Carol of the bells tenor:bass

Sway

Sway all parts

Sway soprano

Sway Alto

Sway Tenor:Bass

The music is all here if you missed this week or mislay it:

Guadete

sway p1 

Sway p2 

Carol of the bells

Idler Ensemble Singing course week 3

Greetings!
Firstly I have parts for Carol of the Bells that have guitar and singing; I had thought organ would be more forgiving on the ear than my high ‘G’ on the soprano part, but hopefully even if that’s not the mellowest part of my range it’ll be clear enough to serve as a reference. I’ve put the higher part in as I know some sopranos can get there; and anyone who finds it a bit too high can take the octave below.

For the tenor/bass part-I dropped the vocal out on a couple of notes that I couldn’t get to-but the guitar is in there.

Carol of the bells all voices

Carol of the bells soprano

Carol of the bells alto

Carol of the bells tenor:bass

I’ve also done parts for a really nice piece called Gaudete that we might look at in week 4-you’re welcome to preview.

Gaudete all voices

Gaudete Soprano

Gaudete Alto

Gaudete Tenor:Bass

And to pick up Daniela’s focus on rhythm, there is a short video on reading rhythms for beginners below.

Rhythm is probably the most important building block of a successful performance. If the rhythm is confident but there’s an occasional uncertainty about pitch, the overall effect will be more convincing than if the pitch is exact but the rhythm faltering. Building a strong time-base is possible even if you are not that confident with rhythm to start with; I can prescribe some activities working with a metronome and clapping out rhythms. In the meantime, I hope this is useful to those of you who are new to reading music.

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Idler Ensemble Singing Course Week 2

This week we talked about range: how to identify your range and what to do if you want to work with it.

I go over it in the video below. (Note to self-don’t say ‘yesterday’ in videos, as that makes a very short sell-by date for it). In the video I also recap the difference between chest/middle/head voice, and revise the particular exercises to do if you are interested in working with your range.

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The parts to Sway are also in there for ease of ref and the parts for Carol of the Bells. For the latter, there are sound files generated by the scoring programme; if it would be easier to have sung parts I can organise that. The scoring programme doesn’t read repeats very well. I will discuss what we’ve done with Daniela.

I’m working out how to extract audio from video, so I’ll edit this post in a few days when I’ve figured out how to do that. If you post on the blog with any queries and I don’t get back to you within 24 hours, you are welcome to email me at diana dot decabarrus at gmail. Hopefully posts should get through-I’m testing it. The clips for Carol of the bells alto and low parts have some seconds of silence at the start as they are cued from the beginning where it is just the sopranos singing. To download any of the mp3s, right click on them and select ‘save link as’ and they should download.

Carol of the bells low

Carol of the bells alto

Carol of the bells soprano

carol of the bells all parts

Sway Tenor:Bass

Sway Alto

Sway soprano

Sway all parts

 

Singing for Ukelele and recap of Fairy Tale of New York

Hello Ukelele players!

Here are some bits and bobs that may be useful – the gist of the hand-out was all about bringing the sound forward, a downloadable copy of hand-out, a quick recap of parts of Fairytale of New York with an extra chorus part for the altos (first vid), warm up with explanation on bringing the sound forward (second vid) and series of warm ups with no chat (third vid).

In a nutshell, the most important way of thinking about the sound you’re creating is that you are always seeking to bring the sound forward from the back of your throat where it can be shaped. We’re going to examine how this feels and what exercises to do to start getting an awareness of where the sound you’re producing is resonating. It may feel weird if you’ve never experimented with the sound in this way-stick with it, because it will give you much more freedom with your voice and confidence

The whole hand-out should download from here: Singing for Ukelele players 25 Nov 2013

03-Fairytale_Of_New_York_(Feat._Kirsty_MacColl) Copy

Fairy Tale of New York:

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There is a 14 min video that recaps the idea of bringing the sound forward and talks about tone here, and explains the warm up exercises.

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Once you’re au fait with that, if you want to just run the exercises without any chat in between, you can do so via this shorter 10 min clip.

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Why everyone has the capacity to sing-Idler Singing course week 1

This is a re-post of the first session I’ll be doing at the Idler Academy later today. Stay tuned for video recap on daily warm ups!

A quick word about talent and ability, or why it’s important to slay the inner Simon Cowell. The only capacity that it helps to have if you want to learn to sing, or improve your singing, is the ability to tell the difference between two notes of different pitches; i.e. to be able to hear which note is higher and which is lower. The vast majority of people can do this. True tone deafness -when, after a period of repeated ear-training, you can’t hear which note of two different notes is higher or lower-is very rare. As long as you are able to distinguish this, everything else can be learned and developed. The vocal cords are muscles and respond to training just as other muscles do. The volume, resonance and tonal quality of the sound you produce is a function of how you use your voice. If you start using it differently, the sound that you produce will change. All of which is to explicitly underline the fact that talent is not a useful concept when considering your potential as a singer. Anyone in the public eye that you may admire has spent years training their voice or developing their performance style.

In the same way that you don’t stop to consciously consider where to place your hands to catch (or in my case, miss) a ball that is thrown to you,  you don’t deliberately ‘tell’ your diaphragm to send a certain volume of air up and your vocal chords to shorten or lengthen in a certain way. Your brain learns to co-ordinate it through practice. Another comparison would be driving a car. To start with, we do execute the desired sequence of movements very consciously. Then we repeat them enough times until hopefully by the time the licence is granted, the sequence of actions to start, go, turn etc runs automatically. I may seem to be labouring this point, but the reason for this is that lots of people really under-estimate how much they can enjoy singing from a feeling of inhibition that they aren’t very good, or very musical, or ‘talented’, which is a great shame! Music in general and singing in particular has all kinds of proven physical and emotional health benefits, which I may go into in more detail another time. Life is better with music, and we don’t need to kow-tow to self-appointed ‘experts’ to tell us what our entertainment should be and by whom it should be mediated.

Week 1:  Importance of warming up; bringing the sound forward;  resonating spaces.

Every time you prepare to sing, check your body for tension. It can be a good idea to do some stretches to release tension. When standing up to warm up, make sure your weight is comfortably balanced between ball and heel of foot and that your knees are relaxed.

Once you’re relaxed, do a couple of breathing exercises to shift from chest-breathing to abdominal breathing.

In the exercises we’re about to do, focus on developing an awareness of where the sound is travelling from and to. We’re aiming to get an awareness of placing the sound in the front of the face, and becoming familiar with how that feels. The voice is moving from a different position to the position it is in when we speak.

Warm up exercises.

  1. Mmm Nnnn Ng/Buzzing  (2 mins)

-Encourages the sound on to the front resonators; builds the habit of bringing the sound out of the throat. Go up 5 notes from your starting point and down again. If you have never explored this part of your voice before, spend a few minutes doing some scales on one of these sounds. Spend enough time so that your awareness and the sound has migrated comfortably forwards. (eg 5 semitones – start Bb)

  1. Ma/mi/mo – waking up the diaphragm. Ideally you’re working towards completing a cycle of all three in a breath – up five notes and down, then moving up a semitone. (8 semitones-start Bb)
  2. Arpeggios-up 1,3,5 and down the scale. Keep the sound forward. Bb to Ab, 11 semitones.
  3. Diaphragm (rrr7r222, etc). On ‘ah’  (Bb and D)
  4. Vocal chords reaction-smooth out previous exercise ©
  5. 1-2-1

These are the kinds of exercises to do at home if your voice is coming out of a period of little use.

Diction – this is a great aspect to focus on right at the beginning as you will develop good habits. Good diction immediately lends an ensemble performance more conviction.

Exercises:

O what a geek am I

Johnny has a head like a ping pong ball / Merry Men