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Choir Ninja, with Ryan Guth


Mar 31, 2017

Some of us barely get to see our students individually for any real length of time, so today I’m going over my short process for classifying voices as soprano, alto, tenor, or baritone/bass using examples from my own high school choir. We will dig into what to listen for, ideal characteristics of each voice part, actual exercises to use during classification, and more.   Listen: Click to download episode! Show Notes: Disclaimer: These are my opinions. Take what you want and leave what you don’t. :)

  1. When to classify
    1. upon entering the program
      1. Trust no one! Do it yourself.
    2. beginning of the school year
    3. mid-year
    4. as needed on a student-by-student basis.
      1. Student comes to you and asks
      2. You feel the need
  2. Pyramid of sound
    1. Bottom heavy
    2. ⅔ approach
    3. 6 Basses, 4 Tenors, 9 Altos, 6 Sopranos
  3. What does a quick and dirty high school voice classification sound like?
    1. 2-3 exercises
      1. Descending: S, F, M, R, D - on [di]
      2. Legato: D, R, M, R, D - on [ja]
      3. Range extension/flexibility: S, D1, S, M, D - on [i a - - -]
    2. Main things to listen for (ranked from most - least important)
      1. Tone color
      2. Range
      3. Break
      4. Ability to modify to modify vowels at range extremes
  4. What is a high school ___________?
    1. Gentlemen (range matters more)
      1. Baritone/Bass
        1. Strong F/G2 - D/E4
        2. Generally darker tone color
        3. Baritones (Bass 1’s) sing consistent high E4’s
        4. Basses (Bass 2’s) sing consistent low E2’s
      2. Tenor
        1. Strong D3 - G/A4
        2. Generally brighter tone color
        3. Tenor 1’s float
        4. Tenor 2’s bring core tenor sound
    2. Ladies (color matters more)
      1. Alto
        1. Strong G3 - E5
        2. Generally darker tone color
        3. Alto 1’s need better musicianship
        4. Alto 2’s need “bring the beef”
      2. Soprano
        1. Strong C4 - B5/C6 (some coaching may be necessary)
        2. Generally brighter tone color
        3. Soprano 1’s float
        4. Soprano 2’s need better musicianship
  5. Other items to consider
    1. Musicianship: What do you do when you have a voice that can sing soprano or alto, but the struggle with aural skills?
      1. Put them where they’re needed most.
    2. Odd qualities in female voices (folds don’t come together, due to overuse of chest dominant speaking/yelling)
      1. Raspy - alto
        1. Refer for checkup
      2. Breathy - soprano
        1. Could be a confidence issue
        2. Could be used to chest-heavy singing
    3. Can girls sing tenor when needed?
      1. Sing healthy notes only. Don’t allow egos to mess with vocal health.
3 Key Takeaways:
  1. Bottom-heavy choirs are great choirs
  2. Classify on color with female voices
  3. Classify on range with male voices
Resources/links Mentioned: Sponsored by: Sight Reading Factory (Use promo code “NINJA” at checkout for 10 free student accounts!) srfLogo 4