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Guest Article
Originally printed in Alabama's ACDA newsletter, "Reprise"
SNARL & SNORE in Choir!
by Ken Berg, Alabama ACDA President

kenHow do we help our choirs make their best sound? Lots of tricks to this trade, but here's one of my favorites! What we're trying to do is get the little darlings to listen to the sound they're making...and to realize that the dynamic spectrum requires different SOUNDS as well as VOLUMES. So...

I have the choristers lift their hand up in a claw shape facing away from their body and say "snarl"...a couple of times to get them to think about the forward or "frontal" placement of that sound...then turn the hand toward their face and say "snore" a couple of times to let them hear the difference in these placements.  All of this, by the way, is modeled by me or you or whomever is teaching...which raises a very important thought...we teachers must be VERY careful to make sure that EVERY sound that comes osnarlut of us is a sound that we want the kids to imitate...because they WILL imitate it, whether it's a "good sound" or not! We must constantly monitor our own sound and listen critically to ourselves. How can we expect them to listen critically when we just bellow mindlessly? Modeling counts.

Anyway...back to "snarl & snore." We should model this carefully for them. Now, once they grasp the idea that these are two different placements for sound, let's get them to substitute "piano" for "snarl" and "forte" for "snore." The idea being that in the soft/piano dynamic range, they need to keep a more forward or frontal placement to be understood textually and to aid in singing in tune. In the loud/forte range, they need the backward or internal placement to keep from getting too brassy and to again aid in singing in tune.

Let me pause once again and also recommend that we be very careful about terms like "forward and backward." They are useful, but can lead down some inappropriate pathways pedagogically speaking. Occasionally I'll substitute terms like "front - back" or "outside-inside." Often I'll return to the "snarl-snore."

Then the fun part is to have them hold their hands forward in a snarl placement and sing the word "piano" softly on a given pitch (maybe even a chord), then gradually turn their hand while singing the word "crescendo" and actually doing the crescendo on their given note, finally ending with their hand in the "snore" placement singing the word "forte." It takes a couple of times doing this to get the hang of it. Everyone has to start at the same dynamic and end at the same dynamic AND CHANGE dynamics at the same time. Very advanced!

Then, just for fun, reverse it! Have them start on a forte (snore hand placement), make the descrescendo and end at the piano (snarl hand placement).

It can really be a lot of fun...part of the weekly drill. I always did it on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and right at the end of the warm-up, before we started literature and applied it immediately to some part in a song on which we are working that requires them to crescendo or descrescendo and sustain a forte or piano sound.

WOW! That's a lot of words. It works for me and I hope it helps. If not, just drop it and don't worry about it! Keep on keepin' on.

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