Tuning Your Choral Pipes: An Organist's Manual for Choral Sound
Doctor of Musical Arts
As choir masters, many organists have the responsibility of hiring and working with paid singers as well as a dedicated group of volunteer singers ranging in experience from novice to advanced. The similarities of the human voice to the pipe-organ are numerous. Using these similarities and scientific analysis of the two instruments, organists can familiarize themselves with the tuning system of the human voice. Like the pipe organ, the human voice is capable of wide variety of sounds, qualities, textures, pitches and levels of volume. Unlike an organ pipe, the voice is not a fixed resonator. The voice is the most flexible of all musical instruments. Instructing an ensemble of singers to shape their sound simultaneously is the beginning of “tuning your choral pipes.” It will be important to establish terminology with your singers in order to successfully communicate with them despite their varying levels of ability and pronunciation differences. Becoming familiar with the mechanics of the voice and an alphabet of pure vowel sounds can help organist-choir masters achieve a greater degree of success when working with singers. The stops, pipes and expression pedal of the human voice are defined by the laryngeal muscles as they relate to registration, the vocal tract shape as defined by the vowel, and the amount of volume created by the air pressure. This guide for organists covers these topics and contains exercises for the reader to apply during choral rehearsals.