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This module discusses the importance of ensemble intonation and provides methods to achieve excellent intonation in a choral ensemble. Techniques of correcting improper intonation and poor pitch are listed and explained.

Ensemble pitch

Ensemble pitch is an important part of the successful choral performance. Very little can be said of a performance if the choir cannot sing in tune. This is one of the reasons a pitch retention test in the audition is important. There are a number of factors to which poor intonation is attributed including: climate, tessitura of a part or parts, repeated notes, vocal fatigue, room acoustics (affecting one's ability to hear others), seating arrangement (both within the choir and within the sections themselves), part assignment, but the most likely causes are inattentive minds. Singers may compensate for issues not related to the mind and the ear. While it may be generally accepted that hot, humid days affect pitch this does not necessarily mean that all singers will be affected, or that poor intonation must be accepted on such days. The conductor can be aware of the problem and do everything possible to neutralize it. A conductor's attitude at the first of a rehearsal on such a day, if enthusiastic, bright and cheerful, can provide an immediate deterrent to the problem. If, on the other hand, the conductor, by his attitude accepts the fact that the rehearsal will not be good, that intonation is likely to be poor, and, in fact is expected, there is little doubt that the choir will accept and display the same attitude. With more and more rehearsal rooms air-conditioned, the effects of the outside environment are greatly lessened, since part of the problem is psychological anyway. However, in situations where the rehearsal environment is not controlled, heat and humidity can be factors that lead to poor intonation during the rehearsal. This author has conducted hundreds of rehearsals in unairconditioned rooms and can attest that productive rehearsals con be held. The director can compensate for conditions by the pace of the rehearsal, resting as necessary and being careful how the choral pieces being rehearsed are sequenced. See the module on pacing a rehearsal for more information.

Most important to good pitch is one's mental concentration. Pitch is a problem mostly of the mind and ear. One's ability to perceive pitch has more bearing on intonation than any or all of the above factors. All of the above problems can usually be overcome by mental (or pitch) concentration. A lazy, inattentive mind causes most poor intonation. Most experienced choral conductors have had rehearsals on a dark, gloomy or hot, humid day that turned out to be excellent rehearsals with no pitch problems. One should not attribute all pitch problems to such factors, and in fact, one should concentrate exclusively on pitch concentration and correct vocal production. The latter can affect pitch even with excellent pitch concentration. A singer may be producing too heavy a tone, for example; heavier than his breath control is capable of supporting. It will cause pitch problems and the production must be corrected. The two most important factors then for good intonation are mental concentration and correct vocal production. The following discussion contains information that will aid in developing good mental (pitch) concentration.

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Source:  OpenStax, Choral techniques. OpenStax CNX. Mar 08, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11191/1.1
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