World Choir Games Flanders 2021

10 Techniques to Improve Choral Intonation



    1)   GOOD MODELS– Most the students in our choirs have not grown up listening to exceptional choral singing.  Obtain great recordings, listen to them regularly and share them with students.  Youtube, Itunes, Spotify, Rhapsody and Naxos Music Library are all excellent sources of great recordings at a nominal cost.


    2) DOMINANT AND TONIC PEDALS– During warm-ups and any time intonation is problematic, have a section hold a dominant or tonic pedal.  This creates a harmonic reference.  


    3) SLOW DOWN– Slowing down quick passages helps with the vertical tuning of chords.  Go back and forth between two chords that are problematic.


    4) BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND– Sing a cadence, ask the choir to ‘hear’ the final chord throughout.  


    5) DOMINANT FUNCTION CHORDS– Leading tones should be VERY high, Fa should be VERY low.  


    6) CHANGE STANDING ORDER-  Especially when singing loud passages, difficulty hearing other parts causes significant intonation issues.  See the chart of various standing orders for ideas. 


    7) TUNE TO THE MELODY– Tell singers to ‘make the Sopranos sound great’.  When singing A Cappella literature, tune to a specific part.  


    8) NEVER LOUDER THAN BEAUTIFUL, NEVER SOFTER THAN EFFECTIVE– When working with immature singers, make sure enthusiasm doesn’t exceed their ability to maintain a healthy and quality tone.  The voice is not capable of singing a quality tone below a certain volume.  This is especially apparent in extreme ranges.  Focus on producing a quality and healthy tone, even if extreme dynamics are sacrificed.


    9) SYSTEMATICALLY IMPROVE VOCAL TECHNIQUE– An ever present challenge to intonation is the technique of the singers in the ensemble.  Every rehearsal should include specific exercises chosen to improve the singer’s ability to reproduce the elements of the score.  Breath support and freely produced sound may have the greatest impact on intonation.


    10) STAY RELAXED– The atmosphere of the choral rehearsal has a radical impact on intonation.  Remember our singers showed up to do a great job.  Put people first and stay focused on the musical challenges.  Proper posture and movement will help reduce tension in large muscle groups.  Sequencing the rehearsal with a variety of activities can help maintain energy and focus.  Insure that the jaw and tongue are relaxed.  Keep conducting gestures clear, low and free of excess tension.

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