Let’s Hear it For the Girls
As Austin has already freely admitted (ain’t he grand), making the All State Choir is very difficult….and even more so for the gals… Like most things in life, *sigh*.
Anyway, the issue here is numbers… there are more girls auditioning, and they’re no slouches! We’re talking highly motivated, hard-working talented Divas all vying for just a few spots in the top choir.
I will reiterate that an All State voice is an All State voice. Many of them could probably make the choir in multiple rooms (meaning voice section) because it has little to do with the voice and a lot to do with hard work and musicianship. (I had one student who made it as Alto I one year and Soprano I the next.)
I digress…. being the right room has it’s advantages. First, it will keep you healthy: vocally and mentally. Struggling for those low or high notes can damage your voice and your ego. We want you to feel confident in your audition and never wonder if this or that note is going to happen on a given day. Second, it can be strategic since some audition rooms just have fewer people. The middle voices tend to have more and the outer voices tend to have fewer.
In our Region, here are approximate percentages of treble voices we see in each section
Don’t go running from the Soprano 2 room: the numbers don’t tell the whole story. I very rarely allow my first year auditioners (Freshman or not) to audition in the S1 or A2 rooms. They may have done fine in that section in 8th grade but know that the Middle School region music is basically composed specifically for that contest and is recycled every few years. High School All State music is the kind of thing collegiate and professional choirs with classically trained adult professionals spend weeks preparing. Consequently, the Soprano 1 room may be an unsafe or uncomfortable place for inexperienced singers to be, driving more girls to Soprano 2. This means that there are more people in that room who have never done the process before… which doesn’t guarantee they won’t knock it out of the park, but we’ll just say it’s less likely they will be tough competitors.
To sum up: numbers do not mean you are competing against the same level of talent and experience as other sections.
Steps for selecting your voice part for all-state auditions:
Start again with the usable range test. A teacher can guide you in exercises to see what notes are in your comfortable range. Luckily, female voices do not have falsetto. (Please let the celebrity singing show judges on the TV know.) This means that there isn’t really a question about range…you either are comfortable singing a note or you are not. You don’t have the option of just “flipping to falsetto” for a high note.
Next, have your teacher assess your comfort level at the outer extremes of your range. You may have a high note occasionally but can you sing it again and again? This is what we call tessitura…how long you hang out in a certain part of your range.
General descriptions for the timbre and weight of each voice part:
Soprano 1: Sweet, lyric, “hooty”, able to float high notes and move quickly. Intonation is absolutely key and vibrato should be kept tight and spinning. High notes can be big but not wild. I will reiterate: this room is, in my opinion, safest for experienced auditionees and/or girls who are in weekly voice lessons.
Soprano 2: Bigger (dare I say, more operatic) voices as well as unique voice timbres thrive in this room. More dynamics will be expected of you throughout the range than the Soprano 1s, but you will not be asked as often to “float” or sustain high tessitura. It can also be a safe place for developing sopranos who are not comfortable with the outer reaches of their range yet or are working on bridging the passagio (break).
Alto 1: Another safe place for a young developing voice, especially if they are still working on head voice. Sneaky sopranos who choose this room sometimes have an advantage because they can sing in tune better around the passagio (C above Middle C and a step in either direction) than some Altos. On the flip side, they may have trouble tuning in their own passagio which is also a common place for the music to lie in the Alto line but not the Soprano. In my experience, the type of voice that makes All State in this room is less defined by an alto “range” but has more of an alto “color” like an operatic Mezzo-Soprano, and is not scared of high notes.
Alto 2: Lovers of chest voice, rejoice! If you are a Broadway Baby this may be the room for you. But remember, you still have to sing just as high as the Alto 1s, so keep working on that mix register. There are two types of voices who like to hide in this room: belter types who may struggle up high and airy/wobbly voices. They’ve all got the range, but the most consistent voice is going to rise to the top. One thing is for sure: you need to show those dynamics down low… hitting the notes is not enough.
In the post about male voices we went through a lot of examples of this year’s music and how you can decide what voice part to choose. Women generally have the same range but different comfort level and ability to do dynamics throughout their voices, so I’ll just point out a few concepts:
- Soprano 1’s. If you cannot accomplish a “hooty” meaning pure, tightly spinning (or even straight) sound on Ave Generosa, you may consider moving to Soprano 2. That kind of sound expected for this style and you’ll need it for Celebremus at Area. If you feel confident that you’ll be moving on to the Area music then look at Signs of the Judgement to make sure you have a High C…or will by January.
- Soprano 2’s. Don’t be afraid of To Thee Cherubim: the tessitura is high for all of you. However, if that feels terrible PLUS the high notes in the Gloria are too much, you probably should move to Alto 1. The difference is: The high notes in Gloria are quick and you generally get to sing them really fully, so a real S2 shouldn’t find this problematic.
- Altos: It’ll be important to check the Ave Generosa and make sure you can do dynamics at the bottom of your range. Looking ahead to area, you may want to check Signs of the Judgement but since you get to sing that with a full, fun belty sound, that shouldn’t be an issue for any alto.
Okay my little Divas. I believe that you can do hard things. Believe in yourself and you will nail this!