Monday, November 11, 2019

The long and the short of it: height differences in singing groups

I was teaching a group about what might affect the vocal blend when singing harmony in small groups.

Somebody pointed out that it’s much easier if everyone is the same height. This got me thinking …

I’ve written before about The 7 elements of vocal blend and how to control them.

What I hadn’t realised at the time was that differences in height between singers can make it easier or harder to achieve blend.

I used to lead a women’s ensemble of 12 singers. One of the women had a bad leg and had to sit in a chair during a performance. She remarked afterwards that it had been really hard to hear the other voices as they sailed over her head.

I ran a harmony singing retreat the other weekend and we found that, when singing in quartets, if the singers were of a similar height it made it easier to blend.

It’s obvious really, but had not occurred to me before!

What are the implications for this?

  • When singing harmony in a small group, it makes life much easier if you sing with people of a similar height to you.
  • If that’s not possible, see if you can use chairs or risers to ensure that singers’ heads are at a similar height.
  • The same applies to a larger choir. As well as putting voices together which blend well, be sure to place singers of a similar height together. If you have large differences in heights, you can use risers to distribute singers more effectively.
  • If somebody needs to sit in rehearsals or performances when everybody else is standing, be aware that they will not be able to hear the other singers as well. I have used bar stools in the past so that seated singers can be at almost the same level as those standing.
  • If you’re leading a group and there are quite a few singers who need to sit, perhaps you might get the whole group (or at least one section) to be seated so that heads are at the same height.

Next time you are leading a singing session or choosing a small group to sing with, try thinking about height. It opens up a whole new dimension!

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Chris Rowbury




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