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Consonants: The Key To Intonation

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Consonants are the key to intonation. Learn about basic phonation and the importance of consonants in music. Jo-Michael Scheibe, DMA, USC Thornton School of Music.

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Consonants: The Key To Intonation

  1. 1. CONSONANTS: THE KEY TO INTONATION Jo-Michael Scheibe, DMA Professor and Chair Department of Choral and Sacred Music USC Thornton School of Music scheibe@thornton.usc.edu
  2. 2. CONSONANTS: THE KEY TO INTONATION •  Basic Principles of Phonation •  The Importance of Consonants •  Technical Considerations for Articulating Consonants •  Consonants in Music •  Music in the Body So many of us have been taught to work on vowels as conductors that we forget that most words begin and end with consonants!
  3. 3. BASIC PRINCIPLES OF PHONATION From the work of W. Stephen Smith
  4. 4. BASIC PHONATION (From Smith) •  Train air to flow freely •  Sound quality & longevity of voice depend more on use of voice than physical gift of singer •  Good technique •  It’s NOT: knowing what is going to happen when we sing •  It IS: being very clear and sure what we are doing and the parameters in which the action occurs •  Vulnerability •  Spontaneity •  Constant motion •  Creativity
  5. 5. BASIC PHONATION (From Smith) •  Technique •  Moves through time •  Seems natural •  Just open our mouth and speak •  Exactly what we should do when we sing •  Lips are best shapers of color •  Use of the [n] before all the five pure vowels •  Keeps the voice speaking •  Requires no movement of the lips of jaw •  Only slight movement of the tip of the tongue
  6. 6. BASIC PHONATION (From Smith) •  Resources •  The Naked Voice •  W. Stephen Smith •  What Every Singer Needs to Know About the Body •  Melissa Malde, Kurt-Alexander Zeller, & MaryJean Allen
  7. 7. THE IMPORTANCE OF CONSONANTS From the work of Willard Zemlin, William Vennard, & Allan Zester Laino
  8. 8. IMPORTANCE (From Zemlin, Venard, & Laino) •  Definitions •  An obstruction of the vocal tract •  Characterized by place and manner of articulation •  Voiced or unvoiced; Sonant or surd (Venard) •  Differ from vowels due to their noise
  9. 9. IMPORTANCE (From Zemlin, Venard, & Laino) •  Importance •  Comprise 62% of all English speech sounds •  1.5 consonants occur in each syllable •  Carry more “information” than vowels •  Intelligibility in a large hall due to consonant noise carrying as consonants •  Consonants should bring out the vowels •  Consonants increase intelligibility, incl. vowel intelligibility
  10. 10. IMPORTANCE (From Zemlin, Venard, & Laino) •  Vocalization •  Choral vocalizations often target proper vowel production •  Lack careful consideration of consonants •  Carefully analyze mechanism which produces the vowels and the consonants •  Articulate with ease and energy •  The secret of keeping in the voice the development and equality obtained in simple vocalization
  11. 11. TECHNICAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR ARTICULATING CONSONANTS From the work of W. Stephen Smith, Richard Miller, & Allan Zester Laino
  12. 12. TECHNICAL CONSIDERATIONS (From Smith, Miller, & Laino) •  Become aware of what certain sounds do to the average singer •  http://www.seeingspeech.ac.uk/ipachart/display.php? chart=1&datatype=1&speaker=1
  13. 13. TECHNICAL CONSIDERATIONS (From Smith, Miller, & Laino) •  Process •  Begin by using vernacular speaking •  In the mother tongue •  First invention – simply speaking simply •  We start with the vernacular speech •  Less entangled with typical singing •  Consonants interrupt the airflow •  Use for clarity •  Minimal interruption to airflow
  14. 14. TECHNICAL CONSIDERATIONS (From Smith, Miller, & Laino) •  Consonants Grouped by Airflow During Phonation •  [ h ] - highest rate •  Voiceless fricatives [ f, s, θ ] •  [ v, z, ð ] •  Higher degree of laryngeal tension •  Glottal involvement •  Semivowels [ m, n ŋ ] •  Add a puff through the nostrils before singing consonant sound •  Lateral [ l ], retroflex [ r ] •  Glides [ w ] and [ j ] are also considered semivowels •  [ r, l ] - slightly lower rate
  15. 15. TECHNICAL CONSIDERATIONS (From Smith, Miller, & Laino) •  Consonants Grouped by Airflow During Phonation (…continued) •  [ b, d, g ] •  Stopped air and sudden release •  Locating articulatory sensation for the singer.] •  [ p, t, k ] •  Fast burst release •  Slower return to airflow •  Airflow velocity of consonants should approximate the airflow of preceding or following vowel
  16. 16. TECHNICAL CONSIDERATIONS (From Smith, Miller, & Laino) •  Rate of Airflow Through Consonants Lower airflow rate <——————————————————————————> Higher airflow rate voiceless plosive voiced plosive voiced fricatives alveolar nasal “semi- vowels” voiceless fricatives p b v r m f h t d z l n θ   k g ð        
  17. 17. TECHNICAL CONSIDERATIONS (From Smith, Miller, & Laino) •  Quick Tricks •  Mouth, lips, tongue and jaw must be sufficiently supple to provide timing of movements for each successive sound •  Dentalize consonants [ d, n, t, l ] •  As in Italian •  Helps free resonance •  Allows tone to continue with “minimum interference”
  18. 18. TECHNICAL CONSIDERATIONS (From Smith, Miller, & Laino) •  Resources •  http://www.seeingspeech.ac.uk/ipachart/display.php? chart=1&datatype=1&speaker=1 •  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfoRdKuPF9I •  http://www.voiceinsideview.com/docs/Phonation.pdf •  http://www.yorku.ca/earmstro/ipa/consonants.html
  19. 19. CONSONANTS IN MUSIC From the work of W. Stephen Smith, Richard Miller, Allan Zester Laino, & Richard Duane Karna
  20. 20. CONSONANTS IN MUSIC (From Smith, Miller, Laino, & Karna) •  Philosophical Statements •  In summary, the most important principle in defining both vowels and consonants is maintaining the legato line . … minimize interruption in every way possible. (W. Stephen Smith) •  Singers that failed to “support the expiration “or allowed consonants to interrupt the flow of air weakened the continuity of sound (Allan Zester Laino) •  “The consonant, whether voiced or unvoiced, need not play the villain to the heroic vowel, but can serve as a beneficial agent in delineating the vowel more plastically than would otherwise be possible were one continuous string of vowels be sung.” (Richard Miller)
  21. 21. CONSONANTS IN MUSIC (From Smith, Miller, Laino, & Karna) •  Execution •  Rapid movement from one vowel position, through the consonant, to the following vowel •  Neither vowel is affected by consonantal articulation •  Consonant must have enough duration to possess undeniable entity •  Consonant must complement the vowel •  Shorter duration •  Never be of lesser importance
  22. 22. CONSONANTS IN MUSIC (From Smith, Miller, Laino, & Karna) •  Execution (…continued) •  Move rapidly within the rhythmic framework •  Flexibility of jaw, lips, mouth and tongue •  Slightly before each point of the beat to permit the vowel to sound on the beat •  Every consonant must be slightly anticipated by the proper preparation of the articulators
  23. 23. CONSONANTS IN MUSIC (From Smith, Miller, Laino, & Karna) •  Execution (…continued) •  Vowel formations and articulations of consonants improves •  Vowel uniformity •  Pitch accuracy •  Ensemble blend and intonation •  Articulation •  Enunciation and clarity of the text •  Rhythmic precision •  Control of dynamic levels and tone color •  Efficient use of breath management and a better, regulated support of tone •  Eptimal resonance potential for each singer and ensemble
  24. 24. CONSONANTS IN MUSIC (From Smith, Miller, Laino, & Karna) •  Modification •  Vowel modification •  Deliberate shading of sung vowels with respect to the frequency location of vowel formants •  Notated pitch (i.e., the fundamental frequency) or one of its harmonics receives a boost in acoustical output by being near a formant
  25. 25. CONSONANTS IN MUSIC (From Smith, Miller, Laino, & Karna) •  Modification (…continued) •  Consonant modification •  Intentional de-emphasizing, altering or even substitution of consonants •  Assist vocal production or text expression when singing •  Consonant modification •  Pasaggi areas •  Extreme ranges •  Extreme dynamics •  Expressive purposes & onomatopoeia •  Problematic consonants •  Stop plosives and lateral [l, g, k, d, b, t], especially in higher passages •  Solutions •  Substitute fricative consonants •  Keep consonants forward •  Avoid interrupting breath stream
  26. 26. CONSONANTS IN MUSIC (From Smith, Miller, Laino, & Karna) •  Modification (…continued) •  Pitched consonants •  Certain consonants can be pitched •  [ f, v, z, ʃ, θ ] •  Certain consonants can produce sub-glottal pitch •  [ b, d, g, k, p, t ] •  Teach students to move air through consonants
  27. 27. CONSONANTS IN MUSIC (From Smith, Miller, Laino, & Karna) •  Modification (…continued) •  Vowels & consonants modification •  Enhances diction and intelligibility •  Increases the intensity range available for the singer •  Improves legato and the comfort level of the singer •  Aids in vocal production
  28. 28. EXAMPLE 1 ‘i carry you in my heart’ by David Dickau Measure Words Modification 9 carry eliminate first ‘r’ 9 your move ‘r’ to next word: ‘(r)heart’ 9 heart eliminate ‘r’ and move ’t’ to next word: ‘hea (t)with’ 9 with add ‘oo’ before ‘with’ and move ‘th’ to next word: ‘(oo)wi thme'
  29. 29. EXAMPLE 2 Measure Words Modification 11 carry eliminate first ‘r’ 11 it move ’t’ to next word: ‘(t)in’ 11 in my move ’n’ to next note, move ‘m’ in ‘my’ back one note: ‘mn’ sung on the second tied eight note: ‘nm’ sung on second tied eighth note; only the vowel in ‘my’ is sung on the pitch above ‘my’, i.e. ‘nm ah’ 11 heart eliminate ‘r’ and move ’t’ to next word: ‘hea (t)i’ 13 am never move ‘m’ to next word, move ‘v’ to next note, move ‘r’ to next word: ‘a (m)neh (v)eh (roo)with’
  30. 30. EXAMPLE 3 Measure Words Modifications 18 ever move ‘v’ to next note, move ‘r’ to next word: ‘(r)is’ 18 is move ’s’ of ‘is’ to next word and sing as ‘z’: ‘(z)do’ 18 done move ’n’ to next word: ‘(n)b’ 18 by move ‘y’ to next word: ‘(y)o’ 19 only soprano sings the ’n’ on the A: ‘yo(n)’; bass moves the ’n’ to the next word ‘(n)ly’ 19 is final sound ‘z’ moves to next word: ‘(y)our’ 19-20 your move ‘r’ to next word: ‘(r)doing’ 20 doing move ‘ng’ to next word: ‘(ng)my’
  31. 31. EXAMPLE 3 (cont…)
  32. 32. EXAMPLE 4 Measure Words Modficiation 31 fate move ’t’ to next word: ‘(t)fo’ 31 for eliminate ‘r’ 31 are eliminiate ‘r’ 32 fate move 't' to next word: ‘(t)my’
  33. 33. EXAMPLE 5 Measure Words Modifications 35 world for eliminate both ‘r’s, move ‘ld’ to next word, shadow vowel after ‘d’: ‘wo (lduh)fo’ 36 world my elminiate ‘r’, move ‘ld’ to next word, shadow vowel after ‘d’: ‘wo (lduh)my’
  34. 34. EXAMPLE 6 Measure Words Modifications 54 knows eliminate ‘w’, ’s’ is sung as a ‘z’: ‘kno (z)’
  35. 35. EXAMPLE 7 Measure Words Modifications 61 which add ‘h’ before the ‘w’, move ‘ch’ to next word: ‘(h)wi (ch)gro’ 61-62 grows eliminate ‘w’, move ’s’ sung as ‘z’ to next word: ‘(ch)gro z’ 62 higher eliminiate ‘r’ 62 than soprano do no move ’n’, sing it on the A; bass move ’n’ to next word: ‘tha (n)the’ 62 soul can soprano move ‘l’ to next word, do not move ’n’ of ‘can’, sing it on the G: ‘so (l)can’; bass sing ‘l’ of ‘soul’ on G#/D#, move ’n’ of ‘can’ to next word: ‘soul ca (n)hope’ 63 hope move ‘p’ to next word: ‘ho (p)or’ 63 or eliminate ‘r' 63 mind can soprano sing ‘nd’ on C#, sing ’n’ on E above ‘can’: ‘mind can’; bass move ‘nd’ to next word, sing ’n’ of ‘can’ on B/G# above ‘can’: ‘mi (nd)can’
  36. 36. EXAMPLE 7 (cont…)
  37. 37. CONSONANTS IN MUSIC (From Smith, Miller, Laino, & Karna) •  Precision •  Demand precision from the lower voice parts (basses, baritones and altos) •  More flexible with vowels and consonant adjustments in the higher voice parts
  38. 38. MUSIC IN THE BODY From the work of Willard Zemlin & W. Stephen Smith
  39. 39. MUSIC IN THE BODY (From Zemlin & Smith) •  Mythology •  Things we say to improve sound, but have the opposite effect •  Lifted soft Plate •  Raise the eyebrows •  Smile when you sing •  People often do funky things with their mouths in an attempt to make their voices bigger or stronger. •  This practice infuses extraneous tensions into their voice •  Results •  Facial tension •  Stop of breath •  Artificial resonating space •  Vocal production in back vs. front
  40. 40. MUSIC IN THE BODY (From Zemlin & Smith) •  Importance of Flow •  Abdominal tension results in a stronger sound due to over-adducted vocal cords •  Stiffening the muscles while singing inhibits the flow of air •  What most people feel as support is actually subglottal pressure •  Use of term “support” almost always causes increased air pressure •  Singers need airflow not pressure
  41. 41. MUSIC IN THE BODY (From Zemlin & Smith) •  Healthy Singing •  Singing is not staid or stiff •  Let go of illusion of stability •  Usually leads to stagnation and tension •  Vowels and pitches ring in different, changing spaces •  Body alignment •  Static body = static breath = static sound •  Flexible body = flexible breath = flexible sound •  Most common faults •  Tuck and roll •  Chicken necks •  Facial tension •  Shoulders
  42. 42. MUSIC IN THE BODY (From Zemlin & Smith) •  Healthy Singing (…continued) •  Posture and “Onset” •  Release abs for full, relaxed breath •  Vocal line is only as good as the first note •  Breathe for the climax of the phrase •  Alignment of body when seated going to standing •  Most lean too far back •  Hyper-extended knees •  Sway back •  To check for good onset establishment •  Palm in front of mouth •  Singing and breathing are one motion •  Roll pencil between hands
  43. 43. ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS From years of experience…
  44. 44. ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS •  Facilitating Consistently Accurate Intonation •  Conclude each warm-up with a tuning exercise •  Encourage the mental & physical engagement of the singer •  Perhaps through singer gesture, movement, or imagery •  Not simply “adding energy” •  Conductor’s ear & gesture are inextricably linked •  Audiate the desired sound •  Find a gesture that elicits this sound
  45. 45. ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS •  Facilitating Consistently Accurate Intonation (…continued) •  Placement of singers •  Sensitive to voice type •  Sections or mixed •  Beware of the perilous piano •  Tempered instrument •  Grooving of pitch •  Conductor’s understanding of various tuning systems
  46. 46. THANK YOU Jo-Michael Scheibe, DMA Professor and Chair Department of Choral and Sacred Music USC Thornton School of Music scheibe@thornton.usc.edu

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