Dr. Beeken (of the many things he did in the past two days) presented an ICACDA workshop called "Pitch is a Specific Address, Not a Zip Code." His focus was how to address pitch issues in developing choirs and how to use effective but engaging techniques to build the sound you want. The workshop was very entertaining, informative, and not surprisingly participatory -- not to mention we had over 25 people attend the workshop! Dr. Beeken talked about various topics including:
- Vowel modification and understanding how your tongue, jaw, and lips are engaged differently for each vowel
- Breath and the "quality" of exhalation
- Different gestures/movements that takes away tension and gets their breath and energy moving (including something he calls "Shake the Monkey")
- Breathy, chesty, or swallowed tone: using nasal exercises as well as using falsetto or pitch slides from the top-down in order to bring that flexible/ un-pushed sound onto the note they need to sing
- The importance of audiation -- stop playing the piano and "pounding parts"! (Also, training your choir to be able to sing in multiple keys is not only a great ear-builder but it's fun!)
- Tuning chords: (from order of highest importance) root, then 5th (because of the overtone series), then 3rd
- Literacy: use solfege (with la-based minor) and music theory, and when someone asks, "Can you play the soprano line at measure 19?" respond, "No. But let's read it together!"
I can't possibly do proper justice in explaining the valuable information he gave to us in this workshop (and I'm definitely not half as hilarious!), so I'll give you the next best thing: a video and his PowerPoint! You'll be able to listen and watch the different exercises he had us do, see us run in place with "fire feet," hear us sing "My Country 'Tis of Thee" in 4 different keys at the same time, and even see Dr. Beeken almost throw his shoe at Dr. Fox (!).
The screen is a bit washed out on the recording, so be sure to download the file that is provided underneath the video and follow along. I highly encourage you to watch it and gain something out of it!
-Sunhwa Reiner, ICADCA President-Elect