Large Group Performance Evaluations are coming up for my choirs, and the first item on the judge’s sheet will be “tone”. I talk about tone almost every day in rehearsal, and I have realized that I continue to use the same words over and over again, year after year.
“Sopranos, sing lightly!” “Altos, darken your tone!” “Support your sound.”
These are just a few of my go-to phrases. I use them daily, along with words like “covered” and “mature”. I have a list of descriptive words that I have heard from other professionals over the years when talking about tone, and so they are ingrained in my mind. I think all choral directors have them. Naturally, I regurgitate these words when working with my own choir.
Just like students have different methods in which they learn new material in our classrooms, they have different ways of grasping how to create just the right tone in their singing. This point was made clear to me yesterday in class. I found some recordings of fantastic choirs whose sound is one I would like my students to achieve. I told the students to listen specifically to the sound of the choir and come up with words they would use to describe the tone. They came up with an incredibly long list and had some really interesting ideas. Some of my favorites were:
Graceful. Free. Floating. Moving. Flowing. Celestial. Ringing. Rich. Like the whistle of the wind through the hills. If calligraphy had a sound. Elevating. Oceanic.
All together, each class came up with about thirty-eight words. We put the words on the board and will be leaving them up as we continue to rehearse our music in the coming days.
The students now have words of their own to connect to when striving for a beautiful tone. Perhaps these words translate my ideas to the singers better than others. The words will remain at the front of my classroom as a visual reminder of sounds we are striving for in our ensemble.
What are other words that you use in describing a quality tone? I would love to hear some tips and tricks for improving tone in the choral rehearsal!