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Thread: Questions for vocalists

  1. #1
    Senior Member Argus's Avatar
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    Oct 2009
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    Default Questions for vocalists

    I'd like to write a piece for a vocal ensemble and myself being a technically terrible singer I thought I'd ask some people who know how to use their vocal chords.

    I plan on doing a (sort of) choral microtonal composition, but I know enough about vocalists that they can find these kind of things quite difficult, so I'm thinking about recording each voice individually and making the parts as simple and melodic as possible, but when they are mixed together the composition will come together. If possible I'd like for it to be realistically sung live but I'm not sure if it will get too confusing in places and the singers will 'latch on' to close tones other singers ar producing.

    So, firstly, how rigidly are the note frequencies drilled into singers minds? By that I mean if they see a written C, will they without reference automatically hit what would normally be a C, or do they you have the control to say play a C an eighth-tone sharp, for example. If this isn't possible, what if a drone tone (to be taken as the root), say 20 or 30 cents sharp of normal middle C was played into the singers ears via headphones, would they then rearrange all other scalar notes (major 3rd, perfect 5th etc) around this drone tone without a problem?

    Also I know lots of leaps and chromatic lines are more difficult to sing, but what about 'inbetween' notes like neutral thirds and neutral seconds? I know steps like these are used in Arabian maqams but would a proficient singer be able to handle these kind of things?

    I'll add I don't intend for the singers to sing words at all, so it'll just be various vowel sounds.

    Any information, whether general or tangential, is welcome.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    Mar 2011
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    My experience in choir is that most singers do not have perfect pitch, so you can play your drone tone and the singer will attempt to rearrange the pitches around that tone. However, other elements to consider if the singer can sing a pitch correctly are whether the melodic line is moving up or down, intervals (affected by the tempered scale), what pitch in the other parts the singer is singing against, and even the vowel being sung.

    I hope that someone with knowledge of vocal pedagogy can give you more information.

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