As I watched and listened while the technician adjusted first the neck, then the bridge, and then surveyed the frets, I thought about how peculiar it was that two people were spending serious time on a Thursday afternoon, focused on the maintenance of tone quality and intonation. As that thought crossed my mind, right behind it came the thought that this is all I have been doing since I discovered my ears–striving for good tone and intonation.
As one of our imminent choral conductors has said, the primary reason choirs sing out of tune is because the director allows them to sing out of tune. We know, however, that poor intonation and poor tone quality are toxic to our art. Yet, it is one thing to diagnose a problem, and quite another thing to correct the problem. There are several pedagogical reasons, all underneath the “director allows them” problem, that contribute to poor intonation and poor tone quality. And this brings me to the bottom line for this blog–the person that knows how to fix those problems is a person trained in choral and vocal production.
The reason I took my banjo to a technician is simple–I recognized the problem, but I did not have the skills to fix the problem. People other than chorally trained people may hear a problem, but can they fix the problem? It is my hope that as choirs are shifted to new types of directors during a time of budget concerns and budget cuts, that those making the decisions know the difference between a technician and a substitute. A choir can be an instrument of beauty, if the tone is pleasing and the singing is in tune. That takes a leader that knows what they are doing.