Monday, July 15, 2019

How slow can you sing? – using speed as a rehearsal tool

Doing anything too fast can result in errors and inaccuracies.

By slowing a naturally fast song down, you can reveal all kinds of mistakes and problems.

We all know that rushing something can result in a bad job. But what if a song is inherently fast? Does that mean we have to put up with lots of mistakes?

I often notice in the warm up that certain quick vocalises always go badly flat. The singers are going so fast that they tend to underestimate the size of the intervals.

By slowing it down, the accuracy improves dramatically. When we go back to the exercise, it’s always better.

The same applies to fast songs.

Speed can hide a multitude of errors and inaccuracies. The energy of the song carries the singers along (often getting faster in the process!) and less and less attention is paid to accuracy.

One way to help this is – once the song has been learnt – to really slow it down. And I mean really slow.

You will almost always find that the song starts to fall apart. This is not just to do with the unfamiliarity, but because it reveals all those places where singers were just busking it and rushing onto the next thing.

Slowing a song down can reveal inaccuracy in both intervals and timing. It can also help with how lyrics and individual syllables fit the melody. And you can really hear the chords work as the harmonies progress.

It’s especially helpful when it’s not block harmonies, i.e. each vocal line has it’s own timing and rhythm.

It’s a very simple technique, but very powerful. When you go back to the ‘right’ speed you will notice huge improvements.

The opposite works well too. If you have a very slow song, it’s a good idea to sing it much faster than usual. By doing this you highlight the rhythms and structure. And also whether your singers really know it that well!

There are many other similar rehearsal ideas that involve being playful and singing a song in an ‘inappropriate’ way.

You might find these posts useful:

10 ways to breathe new life into old songs

Stuck in a rut? 10 ways to revitalise your choir

Re-booting your choir: shake things up for a new season

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Chris Rowbury




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