Resonance + vocal exercises

Over the past few weeks I have seen marvellous advances in the vocal prowess of my workshop participants. And it is not only their voices that are improving but also their musicianship. Why? Because once you start working with your “instrument,” whether it be saxophone, piano, or voice, you begin to understand how things fit together, how musical things work with each other. As you work to “fit” your voice – your instrument – into the musical landscape, knowingly or unknowingly, you begin to ask questions – questions about timing, harmony, pitch, etc. This is a wonderful and fulfilling journey. Thank You.

Last week we did some exercise on resonance. Resonance is very important for a singer. VERY! Resonance is that magic tool that adds warmth, color and a beautiful tone to your voice, as we’ll as giving it power. Your vocal chords vibrate to produce sound but it is your resonators that give that sound depth and individuality. Each voice is unique due to a variety of factors, resonance being one of the most important. Resonators are the areas of the throat, mouth and nasal cavities. Think of reflecting sound. Imagine vibrations that reflect, bounce and amplify. Work on your resonance and watch in amazement how your voice improves. As always it is important to support the breath and to keep the mouth cavity relaxed and wide with the soft palate lifted, but not so high that it creates tension. Find a position that is expanded and relaxed.

I am including some exercises to get you started. (They are in french.)

vocal resonance

Happy singing, every day



Sweet Honey

There are so many great vocal groups, old and new, still together or dispersed. Over the next few weeks I will post some of my favorites. Today it is Sweet Honey In The Rock, an american female vocal group founded in 1973 by Dr. Bernice Reagon. “The name of the group was derived from a song, based on Psalm 81:16, which tells of a land so rich that when rocks were cracked open, honey flowed from them.” Although contemporary in style, their music is rooted in the spirituals and hymns of the African-American experience.  But let them speak for themselves.

N.B. I have updated the music files as well. so check it out

The Art of Jazz Group Vocalese

Vocalese is a style of jazz singing in which words are set to an instrumental composition or improvisation. The style was developed by the great Eddie Jefferson (1917-1989) although he admitted that he was greatly influenced by drummer, trombonist and singer Leo Watson (1898-1950) who mixed both scat and vocalese. What’s the difference? While improvised singing, or scat as it is commonly known, uses nonsense syllables such as dee, bop, bah, doo wop,”  etc. in solosvocalese uses lyrics set pre-existing instrumental solos. Although the style was originally associated with solo singers , it soon became a stylistic component for some vocal groups. Lambert, Hendricks and Ross are probably the best known of these groups. Jon Hendricks wrote the lyrics for the melodies as well as the solos. Vocalese lyrics tend to be syllabic, i.e. one syllable for each note of music.

Below is their rendition of Horace Silver’s “Doodlin’,” as well as Horace Silver’s original verso, for reference. Also I have included the brilliant version by Sarah Vaughan. Listen for when the solo starts on the Silver version and then listen to the singers vocalese over that section.

The 4th video is a fantastic vocalese version of Miles Davis’s “Tutu,” by the Manhattan Transfer.

So what does this mean for my vocal group? We are going to try “Doodlin’ this term. The arrangement included in this post is only for the melody. If someone wants to tackle the vocalese for the solo section, that would be wonderful, but for now we can just work on the melody.

Lambert,Hendricks and Ross – Doodlin’, 1960

Horace Silver – “Doodlin'”

Sarah Vaughan – Doodlin’, 1958

Manhattan Transfer “Tutu,” 2004

doodlin 3part alto 2 final doodlin 3 part soprano doodlin 3 part alto 1 melody

(Our current repertoire : “Feelin’ Good,” “Somagwaza,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” “Iko-Iko.” We need to continue work on these songs, as well as individual solo pieces. A lot of fun work to do this term. I’m looking forward to hearing these songs take. See you hopefully Friday.)