Must Read: Attributes Of Progressive Music Technique -Effiong Ekpe

Attributes Of Progressive Music Technique By Effiong Ekpe

The  Choral or Singing society exist or should exist primarily for the realisation of an ideal, the flower and fruit of this being a performance ( ministration) as perfect as possible. In this ministration there should be faultless technique and artistic expression. The former to give intellectual satisfaction, the latter to stir the emotion, the entire ministration to transport the hearer to that exaltation of spirit, free from baser passions, which is the duty of music to produce and glory returned to God.
To the question, what is the new singing or choral Technique? The answer may be given that it embraces all the splendid qualities,grand, rich tone, broad effects, and thrilling climaxes of the old style plus the more refined expression and greater dramatic import demanded by the more advanced and much more critical audience of today. These added attributes of progressive singing or choral training may be briefly summarized as follows:

(a) Greater vocal control on the part of the singers.

This must be shown in homogeneity of tone, so that each vocal part, however numerous, sound like one huge voice and not like a congeries of conflicting voices.
Further, the voices must be able to produce different qualities of tone. In modern singing or choral works, variety of tone quality is absolutely necessary. Therefore numerous tone tints...the white, the impersonal, the ethereal, the dull, the dark, the breathy, and many other colouring must be available. There must be also characterization of tone to exemplify the sob, the exclamation, the snarl, the laugh ...playful, mocking, derisive, or fiendish... the shout of triumph etc. In fact, the whole gamut of dramatic emotion has now to be portrayed by the subtle shading of the tone quality of voices.

(b) Expression of a more refined and artistic character must be shown.

 Of the many factors which go to make a pleasing and successful musical performance, the most important is that combination of colouring, intensifying, and shading which we term Expression in music. A composition may be so cleverly written, but its vitality often depends upon the way it is presented... Whether the spirit of the work is revealed, the proper atmosphere caught, the crisis well arranged. This pre-eminence of musical expression is so universally felt that singers and instrumentalists take their rank more from possessing the power to sing or play with expression than from possessing a good voice or digital dexterity. To emphasize the importance of expression it will only be necessary to recall to mind the present day vocalists who occupy leading or front- rank position, whose voices are of very mediocre quality, but who, by virtue of their emotional, temperamental, and expressive interpretation, carry conviction to their hearers, and thus make their artistic position secure.

Musical expression may conveniently be said to consist of three main divisions:

1. The regulation of rhythm.
2. The application, variation, and control of dynamics ( tonal) and emotional force.
3. The portrayal of various mental states, extreme moods, and fancies.
4. Management of words, diction, verbal shading by emphasis, tone colour etc.

(c) Words and their articulation call for supreme attention.

 The new technique predicates greater care in securing correct vowel quantity and clear definition of consonants, whether they be initial, middle, or final. In addition to this technical perfection, vitalising of the words and sentences by proper tone and emphasis is demanded, so that the dramatic sense is never in doubt, the result being the attainment of good diction...that Pearl of great price which is a Perfect ministration.

(d) In phrasing

it exacts careful marking of the breathing places so as to secure a natural grouping of the words. Further, the musical phrasing, when not controlled by the text, is not left to haphazard treatment, as has been to often the case.

(e) Rhythm is exalted to a high position.

Means are adopted to secure such a control of accents and stresses...regular and irregular... that each distinctive phrase maintains its individuality while not interfering with the other parts, thus avoiding the muddiness and jumble which one often hears, in contemporary gospel music or classical music when badly rendered.

What is rhythm? We all know that music moves in beats or pulses, and at regular intervals... Say at every two, three, or four beats... Some of these beats are stressed or accented. It is these accents which produce rhythm; therefore rhythm may be defined as a pattern of accents, or a phrase of pulses made characteristic by the effect of its contrasted strong and weak accents. Rhythm may be regular, as when they follow the time signature; and irregular, as when syncopation are introduced. Of all the branches of music, I think that the study of rhythm is the most neglected, and its possibilities least understood.

(f) Breathing

Breathing must be dealt with systematically, not only to secure power to phrase, but to get control of breath pressure, so as to produce those extraordinary fortissimo effects which suggest illimitable power of voice.

1. What is the best way of taking breath?
2. What is the best way of giving it out?

As this lecture is not a physiological treatise, but a guide to the practical application of approved methods, I shall only deal with breathing as a medium for obtaining the best vocal results in the development of artistic phasing, and  incidentally as a source of health to the body, a brightener of the spirit, a foe to indigestion, a beautifier of the complexion, and a promoter of good carriage.

There are two chief methods of breathing

(1) The clavicular, or collar-bone, so called because in this method, the collar-bone is raised at each inspiration and
(2) The Diaphragmatic, so called on account of the important part played by the diaphragm, or midriff, in controlling the style of  breathing.

Diaphragmatic breathing may be used in two different ways

a) the abdominal ( stomach)
b) the costal ( rib) now generally spoken of as the lateral costal ( side-rib)

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(g) Voice.

 In most singing or choral societies, even in those where the voices are tested, there are a great majority of untrained voices, which may be roughly classified as follows: weak and quavery, worn and tinny, harsh and shrill, strident, metallic, shouty,throaty, cavernous, hooty, scoopy, and nondescript.

First let us see what qualities of voice the choral or singing society should possess.

1. They should have  a fair amount of power.
2. The voices should be properly produced.
3. They should have some flexibility and agility.
4. They should be under good control.
5. When used collectively they should be homogeneous; that is each part should sound like one full, glorified voice, and not as an assortment of voices.


The subject of how to conduct rehearsal is of vital importance to the artistic and incidentally to the success of the choral society.

There are three methods of taking rehearsals:

1) The conventional Generalizing
2) The Critical or Hypercritical Particularizing.
3) The Compartmental Specializing.

These methods may be used at both full and sectional rehearsals.


The conventional generalizing method is the one to be followed chiefly as the foundation of all rehearsals. It consist of going through the music time after time until the general outline of it is mastered, and the spirit of the composition fully grasped by the singer. Theoretically, a great majority of choir directors follow the foundational method.


The critical or Hypercritical Particularizing method consist on striving for perfection in each detail of a song- (ie) music, words,expression,diction,blend, breathing, etc. to attain which the method is absolutely necessary. Music directors should avoid unnecessary pressure on vocalist and instrumentalist. Avoid exciting irritation instead of giving irradiation or illumination, and thus killing all pleasure in the rehearsals.


The little known and little practised compartmental specializing method consist in taking some special point or topic, and concentrating all attention on it, and for the time being, ignoring everything else. For instance, if note- perfection of a difficult phrase of music is the object sought, all faults of time quality, words, breathing, or expression are passed over. The same rule is a served if the topic of study be the development of a fugal subject, or obtaining fluency in lyric, dynamics, etc.
Amongst the many feature that call for specialization we may include the working up to a musical climax; the polishing of a pianissimo phrase; the obtaining of perfect attack; the management of the crescendo and the diminuendo; the realising of the dynamic and emotional sforzandos and pressure notes; the clarifying... to the listeners... Of close imitation; the development of marked entries; the perfecting of vowels and consonants; the marking of breathing places; the unifying of tone- quality; the development of characteristic tonal effects etc.
Of course, care must be taken not to give too large doses of this method at one time.

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It will be seen from the above that by on one of the three method alone can the highest results be achieved, and as the success of the rehearsals depends upon the music director's or conductor's mental grasp of the three methods, and his power to blend the trinity rehearsal methods into a unity, it is necessary to consider how and when to use the methods singly and in combination..

First in order comes the General conventional method. This should be used almost exclusively for the first two or three rehearsals, and, combined with the other methods, should continue to the final rehearsal.

When the music and the words have been roughly buy firmly outlined, and the " hang" of the piece fairly grasped, then specializing or particularizing treatment should supplement the general coaching.
Thank you!

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