Beyond The Fundamentals


Aside improving our vocal production and other fundamentals such as  rhythm, tuning, etc., there are goal considerations that will need our attention to truly “Sing Better”.  On the foundation of “Accuracy” and “Contrast” we build the key area of “Communication”.  Notice the diagram below.


Though our primary goal is “Clear Communication”, it’s a mistake to feel that we can’t work on Communication before Accuracy and Contrast are completed.  In fact, we should never complete the work in any of the 3 areas.  That being said, we usually start with the Foundation.  We work on Accurately singing the right notes and words.  We work on Uniform Vowels and other accuracy aspects.


While working on the 3 areas, it’s easy to lack a proper balance.  We make mistakes in both directions.  Some emphasize the Technical areas (especially “Accuracy”) and never get to the Communication part and become a boring group.  More commonly others go for the Emotional before they have a decent foundation of the Technical and thus never produce quality singing.  The balance between the 3 areas will depend on what our performance objectives are:  If we have a performance coming up soon we will need to emphasize Communication perhaps at the expense of accuracy but if we are preparing for Contest the Foundational aspect may take prominence - though if you are working on higher level ratings, all 3 areas should be a serious concern.


Another consideration is that there are two reasons why we sing:         1. For our own enjoyment and    2. For other people.  Barbershoppers recognize this as we sing “Tags” and “Woodshed” for our own enjoyment.  These specific activities are NOT for listening ears but rather because we like to ring and discover chords for our own pleasure.  In these cases, we don’t care about Communication.  Yet when we perform for others,  communication becomes paramount. 


    We work on Accurately singing the right notes and words.  We work

    on Uniform Vowels and other accuracy aspects. This area of

    Accuracy is dealt with in other topics on my website.  In barbershop

    we often say we need to get “Off the Page”.  Actually we need to get

     “Beyond the  Page”  That’s what the other two areas are about.


    We also need to work on Contrast.  We work hard at working on 

    getting accurate notes, tuning, vowels, tone production, etc. but

    frequently we do not develop our ability to sing softly and loudly.

   We should develop the ability to sing well at various dynamic levels

   and at various Tempi.  Also note that in dealing with dynamics, the

   pitch of a given voice will make a drastic difference and so we need

   to work at dynamic contrast at different pitch levels.  For most, it’s

   hard to sing low notes loudly and high notes softly.

    Also take some time to explore what contrasts can do for a song. 

    Notice what effect each has on communicating the Emotions of the

    Message.   You see, Contrast is actually what Interpretation is all

    about and we need to develop these skills as a foundation of our


    We’ll deal with “Facial Expression” on the “Visual” page.


    Understand that the Emotions of the Message should be the starting

    and ending point of all we do.  This is what we will discuss on

    subsequent pages.

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