The Intonation of the Major Third

At the conservatoria, I often hear singers and conductors argue that the major third should be intonated low. The reasoning behind this claim is this. Modern instruments are tuned according to the equal temperament. In that system the major third is higher than the just third according to the overtones. That is, a just third a lower than the equal temperament third. And – according to this line of thought – a just third is ‘more natural’ than an equal tempered third and it sounds purer and better. Thus, the conclusion is that major thirds should be intonated low. In the same train of thought we should intonate minor thirds high.

Warming-Up ‘Swan’

A long time ago I learned the Dutch canon Als de zwaan zingt (‘If the swan is singing’). This canon is very well suited for warming-up. Inspired by this, I created a warming-up exercise which can be used in several ways. The melody is like this:

Warming-Up Exercise ‘Unison – Harmony’

In this warming-up exercise each sentence is starting in unison and at the end of the sentence the voices diverge to a harmony.

The basic melody of the exercise is the following:

Clapping Exercises

For improving the counting of singers, I developed clapping exercises. These canons are meant to do without sheet music. The singers will learn to internally visualise the different beats of the bar.

Three-Part Warming-Up Exercise with Mediants

For my female vocal group, I wrote a three-part warming-up exercise. At first, all voices are singing the melody in unison once. Next, you may sing the exercise in three parts. The lower voice is singing the exact notes from the melody, but a fourth lowered. The high voices are singing in harmony with the melody a third above:

Four-Four Time

vier-vierdenThe time signature used most often in pop and jazz is four-four time. But in writing music, musicians often choose the note values in a bad way, so the backbeat isn’t right. According to drummers, the backbeat consists of the accents on the second and fourth beat of a four-four time. If you notate a piece of music, you should choose your notes in such a way that the second and fourth beat coincide with the backbeat.

Arranging for Women

vrouwenkoorThere are a lot of choirs with only female singers. Writing for such choirs is challenging. How do you go about writing for women’s voices? Is it possible to take an arrangement for men and simply sing it an octave higher? And if you do, does it sound the same as the men’s version? Or do other rules apply to arranging for female voices?

Advantages of Homophonic Arrangements

schoolHomophonic arrangements are worthwhile for a choir. In such scores, all choir members sing the same lyrics at the same time. In this way, there is a strong connection between the singers and the choir will have a strong unified performance on stage. Below are the advantages of homophonic pieces.

Rehearsing in Rotation

circleIn the past months, I using a new teaching form in my conducting lessons. Students used to take turns, standing in front of the group. But instead of that, now the group is forming a circle and each student gets a few minutes to work on the music. Below, I’m describing this work form in more detail.

Music Paper for Arranging

muziekpapier-2Most arrangers that I know, use music notation software like Sibelius or Finale, to make scores look nice. But most of the writing we tend to do at the piano. (At least, I hope so, because arranging behind the computer is a bad habbit.) Thus, writing for choir starts on paper.

If you’re writing for choir regularly, it’s handy to have music paper on which the voicing is printed on forehand. For that purpose, I created music paper for the different voicings.