Choral Dream: Clear And Bright Harmonies

Choirs are different and so are their sounds. It’s common for all the choirs and ensembles that they pursue clear and bright harmonies no matter the music style. Here are a few things to try out to improve the choral sound and the harmonies further.

Mutual Habit To Use The Voice

Singers’ voices blend together easier if they share a more or less similar habit to use the voice. If a very softly singing person is singing together with a singer with a lot of twang it’s clear that the latter dominates the sound and harmonies are hardly heard at all.

This example is not choir singing and also the differences in using the microphone influence the outcome, but the video shows how demanding it is to create a balance with two totally different ways to sing.

Different voice qualities however can blend beautifully together if they share enough similar elements.

In this example classical and pop voice qualitites are used together. Both singers sing with a free voice, have a good closure of the vocal folds and use their body for support. However there are differences in the size and shape of the vocal tract.

Free Voice Is Fundamental

Creating clear harmonies start with free voices which means that the true vocal folds can vibrate without disturbance in the larynx. High notes, ends of phrases, uncertainty of the part, too much air pressure and singing with a loud voice are all risks for vocal constriction. Breath support is typically used to prevent constriction from happening.

“Roundness” Of The Voice

Roundness of the voice means that the voice is heard as a little soft even when it is loud. It is produced by streching the vocal folds a little.

The roundness of the voice is widely presented in classical choir singing.

The Pitch

It is obvious that good harmonies require precise pitches. Besides practicing the ears choirs benefit from learning to produce pitches without pushing too much air especially in a very high range. Pushing the air leads easily to constriction in the larynx which makes the voice tired or hoarse and has an unfavourable effect to the harmonies (unless that sound is desired).

Equal Vowels

Also lyrics have an effect to the pitch. The pitch may change with the vowel (back vowels tend to become flat) if a singer is not aware of it. Therefore it is necessary to practice to control the movements of the tongue.

There are different versions of vowels. These little differences may effect the pitch but they can also create slightly different overtone series. When fine tuning the harmonies and the choral sound this is also taken into account by equalizing the vowels. The vowels are modified by the tongue, by the velum and by the lips. The shape of the vocal tract has an influence to the vowels too as it regulates the brightness and the darkness of the voice.

Different Sounds And Harmonies

Different choral sounds are artistic choises. A breathy voice is used to create more transparent sound and on the other hand a good closure of the vocal folds is necessary for a richer sound. It also depends on the music style and on the performance praxis what kind of sound is used for harmonies. Equal vibratory patterns create usually clearer harmonies than mixing different ones but a choir’s unique sound still can be a combination of many things.

An example of a lot of twang in the sound.
En example of harmonies built on different vibratory patterns of the vocal folds.
En example of harmonies built mostly on a voice without incomplete closure of the vocal folds but still not heard as very breathy.

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