World Choir Games Flanders 2021

10 More Techniques to Improve Intonation

  • 10 More techniques to improve intonation

    Frank F. Eychaner- University of Texas of the Permian Basin


    1)     CONSONANTS- Executing consonants clearly and allowing the vowel to sound on the beat improves intonation by avoiding the ‘noise’ of a lack of rhythmic unity.  This was a pet peeve of Robert Shaw.


    2)    LISTEN- Intonation can be improved by simply asking singers to ‘Listen to one another’.  Be careful, many singers think this means ‘sing MUCH softer’.  Encourage each singer to contribute no more or no less sound than their neighbor.


    3)    UNIFY- Unity is a prerequisite of in tune singing.  Essentially, we’re unifying pitch, placement (resonance), vowel shape, volume and the rhythmic execution of each.


    4)    RESONANCE- Matching the placement of the vowel between singers, bright/dark is essential for in tune singing.  Because each vowel creates its own overtone series,


    5)    UNIFY MOUTH SHAPE- The shape of the articulators; lips, tongue, teeth, palate and their relative placement change the overtones and our perception of pitch. Unify and intonation will improve.


    6)    TONGUE PLACEMENT - The tongue should be flat on the bottom of the mouth with the tip touching the bottom front teeth for all vowels.


    7)    FIX BALANCE- In tonal music, the root and fifth of the chord need to be louder than the third, sevenths and extensions. Poor balance will cause perceptions of poor intonation.


    8)    CHANGE STANDING POSITIONS- Intonation problems are often caused by inattention or an inability to hear other parts. Mixed or semi-mixed formations will make singing in tune easier.


    9)    CHANGE THE CONDUCTING GESTURE- Bring the gesture down and in so it is relaxed and facilitates good breathing. Remove slashing, weight and rigidity. Trust the singers.


    10) HAVE SINGERS MOVE- Intonation problems are often the symptom of tension or apathy. Movement, ideally the whole body, is an easy fix for this. Use specific gestures to tackle individual problems. 

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