Voices and vocal techniques


GCSE Music (AoS1: My Music) Note on Voices and vocal techniques, created by Rosa Brookes on 13/04/2014.
Rosa Brookes
Note by Rosa Brookes, updated more than 1 year ago
Rosa Brookes
Created by Rosa Brookes almost 10 years ago

Resource summary

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Female •Soprano (high female) •Mezzo soprano (mid range female) •Alto / contralto (low female)

Male •Treble (boys’ voice before it ‘changes’) •Tenor (high male) •Baritone (mid range male) •Bass (low male) •Counter –tenor ( a male singing in the high ‘falsetto’ part of the voice) See video on right

Vocal techniques •Syllabic (where a singer sings one syllable per note) •Melismatic (where a singer sings lots of notes per syllable) melisma. See this example of melismatic singing in a piece of choral music by Mozart, and how the singer sings several notes to the word ‘Alleluia’

Word PaintingWords imitate the lyrics"You raise me up" - the pitch goes up"It's going down, I'm yelling timber" - goes down on "down"."She's so high"

Pop Ballads •Ballads are usually sad, slow songs that tell a love story •They often have a structure of verses (same music, different words) and choruses (same music, same words) •Sometimes songs can have a bridge section (sometime called a middle 8), in the middle for variety. •Songs can have an intro or outro as well, and modulate (change key) up a note in the final verse

Singing Techniques in Pop Ballads •A capella – singing without a backing •Vibrato – a slight wobble in the voice •Falsetto -  the high part of the male voice (e.g. The Beegees in Stayin’ Alive) •Portamento (sliding from one note to the next) •Riffing (decorating, or adding bits to the tune)

Backing singers As well as the lead male or female in a pop ballad, backing singers are often used to fill the harmonies.  The main ways they do this are: •In harmony (singing in chords) •In unison (singing all the same notes) •Adding a descant (another higher part, like a counter melody) •Call and response (repeating what the soloist has sung or answering it with another tune)

Descants •Have a listen to this hymn sung by a SATB choir. •There are three verses.  1.How are the verses different in their textures? 2.The final verse has a descant.  By listening can you identify what a descant is (and think of another term for ‘descant’) 3.Is this hymn syllabic or melismatic?  How do you know?

The Great Choral Classics •Choral (choir) music begun in churches and monasteries in Mediaeval times •Later choirs of mixed voices became commonplace.  The main sort of choirs are known as SATB choirs: •Soprano •Alto •Tenor •Bass

Oratorios •An oratorio is a piece of choral music with orchestral accompaniment based on a Bible story •The most famous oratorio is The Messiah by Handel which tells the life of Jesus.  It was composed in 1742 (the Baroque period) •The best known passage of The Messiah is the Hallelujah Chorus : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76RrdwElnTU •It is worth listening carefully to the different textures in this piece. 1.Describe the texture at the start (monophonic, polyphonic or homophonic) 2.Describe how the texture changes later in the piece around 0.42 on the clip (monophonic, polyphonic or homophonic)

Modern Choral Music •Choral music has remained popular •Carl Orff, the German composer, wrote Carmina Burana in 1936.  It is based on Mediaeval poems about money, gambling, drinking and lust! •It is for choir and orchestra •The best known part of the piece is the opening movement, called O Fortuna •http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhG-d_YnhhU# •The piece has lots of changes of time signature to make it dramatic and expressive •How could you describe the texture?

 •Jazz originated in the USA in the early part of the 1900s   •The earliest jazz musicians were black descendants of slaves (Jazz (and Blues) have many features that can be linked back to the slaves’ African ancestry).

•Based on The Twelve Bar Blues •The walking bass is a bass line (low part) that moves up or down a note at a time •Bends and glissando (slides on notes) may be found (especially on the guitar).

Scat (nonsense syllables) is a common feature of both jazz and blues (At about 1:06).

As is improvisation

As is improvisation ( making it up on the spot)

Voices, Vocal Techniques, Word Painting and Pop Ballads


The Great Choral Classic and Modern Choral

Jazz and Blues

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