Sunday, March 20, 2011

Why tenors shouldn’t sing on their own

Many community choir members enjoy practising at home. And so they should!


Ernest Williams, tenor, Croydon Male Voice Choir by Philip Talmage

They sing out loud whilst washing up or mowing the grass, re-living last week’s choir session and hearing the full glory of all the other harmonies in their head. Trouble is, we can’t hear what they’re hearing!

It’s like when people sing along with their iPods. They can hear the guitar solo, the backing group and the other singers in the band, but we can’t. They’re lost in the midst of a glorious mix of sound which we can’t hear. We just get to hear their part on its own with a tinny “tsh tsh” backing coming from the earphones.

It’s the same when a single choir member is singing their part on their own. If we’re lucky it might be a recognisable melody which is pleasant to listen to. But there’s a 75% chance that it’s not. It will be a harmony they’re singing and we can’t hear the main tune so it doesn’t make much sense!

The worst is usually tenors and basses who often don’t have recognisable melodies. Basses at least tend to follow the chords and can have a nice bouncy fun line. But tenors very often have just one note for ages, or those strange accidentals which make for weird chords when put with the other parts. But we can’t hear the other parts so it’s often not very nice.

It’s also not that nice to sing on your own unless you can really hear the other parts simultaneously in your head. Many’s the time I’ve had a tenor complain that their part is boring or tuneless. But when they get to hear a concert (usually only when they’re ill and can’t take part) or listen to the CD they realise that they’re an important part of the mix and that their part makes so much more sense when heard with the others.

So, hats off to the tenors who have a difficult job of it most of the time. We couldn’t do it without you!


Chris Rowbury's website:


Chris Rowbury


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