Voices…they are a changin’
Natalie does most of the blogging around here but when it comes to bro-time, she passes the buck to Austin. Here’s his take on how young men can decide which All State voice part to sing.
While auditioning for the All State Choir can be insanely competitive for girls, for guys (I admit it regularly to my dear wife,) it is less competitive simply because there are fewer people trying out.
I believe it is very possible for boys to make All State while they are freshman and sophomores in high school if they choose the right voice part and have a voice teacher to help them through their voice changes. Hour-long weekly voice lessons are best, since this will allow boys to spend ample time working on technique in lessons and the rest of the time to apply technique to the repertoire. When guys are in the phase of life where each morning they don’t know what their voice will sound like, consistent work with a good teacher will help smooth that transition and make it more predictable.
Steps for selecting your voice part for all-state auditions:
Consult your voice teacher once the music is released and do a usable range test. Usable means you can easily hit these notes on any day without going to falsetto up top or sounding like you’re belching on the bottom of the range. While falsetto might get you into the region choir, most boys have trouble qualifying for area or making all-state while using falsetto since they are competing against voices who can sing consistently throughout their range.
Once you’ve established what range you can sing in fully, move on to determine if you can sustain in the upper part of my range without pushing or lots of effort. You may have one or two high notes in you, but can you sing them repeatedly without tiring out? A teacher can help you determine if this is a challenge you can grow in to, or if you simply need to choose a different voice part.
General descriptions for the timbre and weight of each voice part:
Tenor 1: Bright, sweet, easy high notes, not expected to project in lower range. There may be unchanged voices and women who fit this criteria.
Tenor 2: Darker and stronger low range than T1, bold, brassy high notes, in general, a larger voice than T1. (If you choose T2 you should not have to flip to falsetto for high).
Bass 1: Lyric, consistent healthy tone. Accurate intonation around ‘breaks’ in voice, wide range of dynamics, easy but quieter low notes without vocal fry or rumbling.
Bass 2: Richer and darker timbre than B1, warm instead of edgy. Able to project dynamics at lower extreme of range.
Check these areas in the 2017-2018 music when determining voice part:
If deciding between T1 or T2– Try out sustained parts in Gloria and She Walks in Beauty (area). Ask yourself: Can I easily sustain the range around F# through A? Sustaining is more difficult than singing the occasional high note. (If so I would definitely choose T1). Can my range project in the B1 range? (If so maybe T2 is a better fit.)
If deciding between B1 or T2- Learn/sing both parts on Gloria movements, to try out the high tenor range. Ask yourself: Am I comfortable singing repeated E/F? Can I sing in falsetto occasionally to rest my voice but then go back to singing fully? If so, T2 may be for you. If it is a constant challenge or is painful at all, you may choose B1.
If deciding between B1 or B2– Sing O Vos Omnes (region) both parts, Signs of the Judgement (area) both parts. Ask yourself: Can I project my low notes well enough to compete at area? (If so, B2 is for you) Do my high notes sound easy, do I sing in tune the majority of the time, and am I great musician? (If so, sing B1)
If you’ve tried it out and feel comfortable in more than one room, it may be time to play the numbers. Traditionally, the Bass 1 room has the most auditionees and Tenor 1 has the fewest. I wouldn’t say that going with the smaller room guarantees you a spot in the All State choir versus another room… if you have an All State voice, you would probably make it either way! But you may be able to push through an extra round or two if you can avoid the bigger rooms.
As always, do what feels the best and listen to your voice teachers.
Good luck gentlemen!