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.

Lay-out of Vocal Scores

makeitpretty2As an arranger, I try to make my scores look as beautiful as possible. I really like a good layout. My arrangements are made with the music notation software Finale. But I definitely do not use its standard layout, because for me that layout looks rather bad.

In my view, the music publisher using the best layout in vocal scores is the Oxford University Press. Here is an example from the book In the mood:

Parenthesis in Chord Symbols

ParenthesisSome musicians tend to write all extensions after the first extension between parenthesis. Thus, they would write G7(>9) instead of G7>9, and D7(<9<5) instead of D7<9<5. This way of notating can be seen in The New Real Book. But apart from that publisher, not a lot of books use this method. Here is een example of Take the A Train:

Abbreviation for Minor

mmmmMost musicians agree on the notation of a minor chord. Just an m will do, so we will write DM and GM7. Unfortunately, some musicians use min instead. And in some books, like the New Real Book and the Latin Real Book (both published by Sher Music), mi is used.

Sharp-Nine or Flat-Ten

sharpThe chords consisting of the notes C, E, G, B-flat and E-flat (or D-sharp), how is it notated? In the States most musicians will write C7>9. In The Netherlands however, it is common to notate it as C7<10. And in the early days of jazz, the latter way of writing seems to have been more common in the States as well.