Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Singer's Revenge Garageband

Pity the poor professional singer.  Theirs is an unhappy lot and although instrumentalists, composers, accompanists are given every help possible the singer is left to make the best of a very difficult job. In the musicial stakes the ordinary professional singer comes off worst.

Since the advent of new modern instruments the orchestral tuning has got higher and higher. If Mozart, Bach and Beethoven were alive today they would never believe their ears as the pitch of the modern orchestra has gone up and Up and UP. Modern steel frames and strings have made this possible. Also some instruments do not like certain keys and pitches and all tuning revolves around the oboe.

Consequently the keys that singers are expected to sing in has gone up and Up and UP too. Unfortunately when they invented  modern strings and frames they did not invent steel human vocal chords as well. In Mozart's time a choir of sopranos would not be expected to sing above a G above the stave (G4 in Midi terms) but today the poor things have to reach for a top B Flat below top C. A Queen of the Night in Mozart's Day would have sung a Top C (C5) but today modern sopranos have to sing a top E (E5). Sopranos who can do this are as rare as a Unicorn.

For most of my professional life I have been at the mercy of instrumental musicians,composers and producers who never keep their word. I know how high I can sing . I have a breathtaking top B (B4) and a non existent Top C. Whenever I went for a job I would tell the management that and all promised to have the part taken down. On this provision I accepted the jobs only to find the producers broke their word. Even Benjamin Britten broke his word. I had to sing the Top C and I can just about make it but not in the way It ought to have been sung. I would have been sensational with a Top B preferably flat for those not so brilliant days that all singers have and the audience would never have known. It would have sounded glorious.

The reason was expense. The producers found that writing the re-orchestration and copying  was a just too expensive or the key that it had to be transposed into was difficult for the orchestral players to cope with. I missed out to my detriment.

Then the orchestra's are mean and  will not rehearse with the singers. They want to be paid a performance fee if a singer wants to rehearse and obviously the management won't stand for it. Many a time my first sing through with the orchestra was on the first night. I used to go to their rehearsals and sometimes I was appalled at what I was supposed to sing to.

Composers and pianists look after themselves. There are certain keys they find difficult and so instead of modulating into a difficult key the song is just left to languish in one ordinary key for convenience. Even if you ask for a semitone modulation if it hits a difficult key like B Major with lots of sharps and double sharps you can forget it. Many pianist can only play from music and cannot transpose at sight so one has to sing songs in uncomfortable keys for the singer but easy for the pianist. Life is just not fair.

Wrong notes are a singer's nightmare too because it is the singer who takes the blame. A poor pianist can wreck a singer's performance with a handful of wrong notes.

All pianists are the same. Some like Benjamin Britten who actually played for me at a huge concert hated rehearsing. He left it too late to have a complete run through. He also would not transpose a part for me although he knew it was too high and he had promised to do so. My husband could only play from sheet music and I had to sing Schubert in some horrible keys for me but OK for him. He could, bless him, play a handful of wrong notes in the difficult bits but we never sang in public which is just as well. When he died I lost my accompanist and I resigned myself to never singing again.

Six years after his death it happened. I had played with Garageband on and off and I wanted a certain tune. I discovered I could write it out quite easily and then I had an idea. Why not write out my accompaniments? It was a revelation. Not only could I write out my accompaniments but I could choose my key and eventually I learned to orchestrate and now even do four part Harmony. My lessons of 50 years ago have come in useful.

I could sing every day with a sympathetic accompanist. No wrong notes, tempo of choice and best of all key of choice even if it is C Sharp minor. For the first time I learned to sing as I like to sing. From hating my voice I now started to like it. To my surprise I like the way I sing and my voice improved by not being forced. I enjoy recording. I don't have to shout to fill a 3000 seater theatre. That I still have a voice is a miracle. 

I can also sing music that no pianist wants to play as it is too hard like Cantaloupe's Songs of the Auvergne. Tried unsuccessfully to get a pianist to play this for years.

So singers learn a Midi programme like Garageband and give yourself the chance you deserve. No more expensive pianists, no more worrying about rehearsals, sing anything you want with a full orchestra and enjoy.

No comments:

Post a Comment