Posted by: thebylog | September 21, 2004

Be Nice to the Girls!

I suppose there are many types of harmony. Harmony with lots of fifths, lots of open chords, a big spread. Then there’s jazz, choral, and much more. I really don’t know enough about music theory to talk intelligently about it.

But then there’s close harmony, which I have more experience with. When you’re talking “men’s music”–male four-part harmony–you most often have a “tight stack” which means that in the top three parts there’s no gaps in the chords. Like you could be stacked do-mi-so, but probably not do-so-mi.

Ok.

But then you get these books with old gospel songs in them, arranged for mixed voices. Often, they give the alto or bass a lead in the chorus, and almost invariably, the soprano will be sent to the rafters while the tenor pokes along on some mid-range set of notes. There’s several problems here. One, it’s not close harmony. That may not really be a problem, I guess, because in normal mixed music (outside of, say, Southern Gospel and Sweet Adeline), the status quo is spread harmony. Not my preference, so I guess it’s a problem. But the other, bigger problem is that it’s very difficult for most sopranos to make five high E-flats in a row sound good. You know? Or then they hang them out on a re-mi-fa sequence that is incredibly hard not to flat. It’s almost like these gospel songs were in men’s music and they translated them over to mixed music and for whatever reason gave the sopranos the nasty line. It would be much better to give the tenors the higher notes and give the sopranos a break.

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Responses

  1. Thank you very much. I appreciate it when someone acknowledges that “Yeah, that’s a tough spot. Try handling it like this…” Good directors know what a female voice struggles with, and knows ways to help them handle the tough stuff.

    Crystal

  2. Excellent observation By! More posts like that!

    Tom

  3. However, for sopranos that sincerely dislike singing soprano, because it is so easy and boring, such a line is a welcome break….
    Lauren

  4. However, for sopranos that sincerely dislike singing soprano, because it is so easy and boring, such a line is a welcome break….
    Lauren


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