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A Life Without Passion is Just Another Job

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Greetings, Fellow Musicians;

This will be my first weblog. Please wish me well at this.


I am a passionate sort; one of my greatest passions is good singing. Over time I expect to elaborate on just what I think good singing to be. For me, I like a lyric message construed and presented with human emotion delivered with a sound quality that convincingly supports the feeling of the music. I enjoy music of many styles, of serious, dramatic, lighthearted or comic content, but with major emphasis on THE SONG. More on that topic in the future. That's enough of a beginning for now.

Of several statements on TMV I've read, I'd like to expand on Steven Fraser's description of formants and vowels. Well done! Let me amplify that message with attention to the needs of singing groups who wish to sound well. I regard Mr. Fraser's description as most worthily presented, and hope my comments reflect appreciation of his knowledge.

When I talk about formants and vowels, I care to begin with a brief recognition of the work of Hermann Helmholtz. On the Sensations of Tone (1885), wherein he makes clear that a fundamental tone struck, blown or voiced also creates many upper harmonics, all integer multiples of the fundamental frequency. (Stick with me here, we're going somewhere important soon). In producing vowels, as Fraser mentioned, certain of these upper partial tones are emphasized by conscious and unconscious configurations of the vocal tract heard as a group of tones we call vowels.

So, when you sing the fundamental, the pitch you want to sing, many other pitches are also heard. (We're almost there!) These various additional pitches comprise what we call vocal quality or timbre. When several singers produce the same vowel sound, it sounds great if they are all on the pitch intended and if THEY ALL SING THE VOWELS EXACTLY THE SAME! If they don't, the singing sounds out of tune. In fact, it is; some of the upper partials may be so close to another partial, that dissonance results. Not good; unless that's what you want.

This is why many a cappella singers care to practice singing duets and listening to the vowel matching. The whole group: chorus, quartet or choir wants to do this. When this is done well, it's magic, and often a sound other singers have not yet heard.

Try this: get a friend to sing a vowel with you at the same pitch (AH, perhaps). Listen to find if you sound good together. Listen intently as you try to make your vowel sounds exactly the same. Play around with this a little, maybe with another listener to give an opinion. Then you're on your way to better singing.

Thanks for Listening.......... Musiker


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