Basic skills for singers: Chord tuning
Thanks to the many who responded to my request for help with vertical
tuning in my high school choirs. ChoralList is a fantastic resource! Many
great, practical ideas, which is what I need. Here is the compilation of
A number of people recommended "Choral Ensemble Intonation" by James Jordan
and Matthew Mehaffey. There is a a book, VHS Video, and two exercise
booklets. All are published by GIA. I have the video and the two exercise
booklets. I must confess that the video left me a little perplexed. It
was hard to imagine doing that kind of work with my large high school choir
at lunch rehearsals. However, so many people recommended this resource
(and I have great respect for James Jordan) that I will watch it again to
see if there are things that I can adapt.
Nancy Telfer, "Singing in Tune" (Kjos, 2000), ISBN 0-8497-4187-4.
Check Your Intonation. Tom Wine. (April 2004) Choral Journal, Vol 44, No.
9, pp. 25-28
Exploring the whys of intonation problems. Doscher, B. M. (1991). Choral
Journal, 32(4), 25-30.
Choral Intonation: More than Meets the Ear. Steven Powell. May 1991.
Choral Journal Vol 77 No. 9, pp. 40-43
From Edie Yaeger:
Two things, which seem overly simplistic but really DO work wonders:
You can't sing the scale on solfege enough! Sing it in a round, sing it in
funky ways, any way you can think of. Just sing the scale on
solfege...solfege works by far the best, because of the vowel placement.
Play it on the piano (make sure the piano is in TUNE) , find listening
examples of other famous choirs, if you can?
Also, two crucial intonation problems happen on the 4th of the scale: fa
and the 7th 'ti'.
Make sure that they have a 'tall' enough mouth on fa, and even though it
leads to 'mi' or the 3rd of the scale, if the tone is flat, their eyes
should be bright and cheeks should be lifted slightly (this helps the soft
palette remain lifted).
Same principal for 'ti'.
From Susan Quinn
I've done alot of research on choral intonation and I can offer briefly:
1. Before placing the third of the chord make sure the fifth is perfectly
tune (slightly wider than the equal-tempered 5th) like the open strings of
2. Place the third so that it balances and in no way over-powers the chord.
The major third is actually slightly lower than the piano third and the
minor third is slightly wider than the piano's minor third.
From Mike Wade
Tune octaves carefully. Also the fifths. Remove the thirds and tune the
Sing "high" thirds sixths and sevenths.
modify vowels in the soprano high range.
Continue to ask if the singers can "hear" the problem. Don't allow them to
do it! I have found most high schoolers can be taught to become aware,
then it drives them crazy!
Sally B. Murphy
Oak Bay Secondary
2101 Cadboro Bay Rd
Victoria BC V8R 5G4