As a choral conductor, there are certain aspects of the choral sound that must be performed well to create for me a truly pleasing performance. One of these is good intonation, which can also be described as singing in tune. I have always found poor intonantion to be a deal breaker when I am evaluating a. choral performance, either mine or someone else’s. The bad news is that “out of tune” singing is so common – the good news is that “out of tune” singing is fixable. As is the case with most everything in choral singing, it is very important what each individual singer contributes. Each singer must do his or her part to help create a beautiful choral sound, and for good intonation that requires theunderstanding of how to sing in tune. Much of the responsibility for singing in tune obviously falls with the choral director, but the best choral intonation will always be the result of the singers and director working together.
So, what can we do to improve our intonation? I would suggest several things:
* Use Good Choral Posture with Firm Breath Support Slumping or slouching and shallow unsupported breathing will all contribute to poor intonation, which will usually result in singing flat. The singer who thinks about his posture and tries to breathe fully and deeply, followed by firm support, will have taken an important first step toward good intonation.
* Understand Correct Vocal Technique Correct vocal technique can include many things, but for singing in tune it especially requires appropriate tonal placement, good vowel color, and a sensitivity to dynamics. Knowing whether to use your chest or head voice (or a combination of the two); understanding how to produce each vowel sound and how and when to modify it; and being sensitive to the level of sound required in the music and also being produced by the singers around you – these are all components of vocal technique that will help result in good intonation.
* Hear the Sound Before You Sing It One of the most important things we need to do as singers is “hear” the pitch before we sing it. The human voice, more than any other instrument, requires the performer to actually know what the next pitch is before it can be sung, unlike a piano, where the player can press a key without actually knowing what the resulting sound will be. Singers can improve their skills by engaging in ear training exercises, both individual and group. Singers should also use their minds when singing. Although singing may appear on the surface to be primarily a physical activity, excellent singing requires the vocalist to “imagine” each sound before it is produced. In other words, it is important to think how one wants the note to be heard by others. This will ultimately become a subconscious activity, but in the early stages of learning a piece the singer always needs to “think before he sings.”
I am certainly not suggesting that my comments above cover everything that could be said about singing in tune. For example, while good intonation is available to singers of all ages, there are different things to consider that can improve our intonation as children, teenagers, young adults, mature adults, and senior adults. I’ll cover some of those things in future blog postings. In the meantime, what things have you discovered that have helped you with intonation?