Choral Caffeine: More Pitches
Date: April 24, 2013
One has come to despise B-flat.
An explanation is in order. Adjacent to one’s office at ACDA is a room containing all of the electrical switching equipment for the entire complex. One of the devices generates a continual B-flat drone. One. Long. Unending. Hellish. B. Flat. Drone. It’s like living inside a bagpipe.
Often, for amusement (to say nothing of sonic sanity), one will sing with the drone. And now, thanks to David V. Montoya’s article, “Music In-Between the Notes and from Other Cultures” (California Cantante, Vol.22, No.2), it appears that there are more pitches to use against one’s sonic nemesis. According to David:
There are at least 30 recognizable, singable pitches in the space of a chromatic octave. Learning to sing some of them apart from equal tempered piano tuning can be a great experience for any musician.
For example, choirs can easily sing an equal tempered major third (as in C to E) when the piano is sounding, but learning to sing the major third which comes from the overtone series (which is 386 cents out of the equal-tempered 400 cents, or 14 cents fl at to the piano) can be a surprise and a deeply satisfying experience.
Let’s try it! Play a C-G drone an octave below middle C. Sing a major third and feel the resonance of the pure third (with no help from the piano). Then play the E on the piano and notice how it is actually sharp to the note you were singing. Bingo! There’s another pitch you can sing within an octave!
(For additional articles on a dazzling array of choral topics, visit ChorTeach.)