Welcome


Welcome to Renate's Baton. This blog is mostly for and about my choir, The York Region Community Choir.

But, While I'm holding the baton, I'm in charge. So, if I want to talk about other parts of my life, I will. :)

The choir itself is a community and I'm discovering that we have a lot in common with one another besides our love of music and singing.

When I go off on a tangent, there is always a crowd coming along. Join us!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Articulation: little marks above notes

This is a theory post for the YRCC about articulation.
Articulation is, like, pronouncing things clearly, right?

In speech, articulation refers the act of giving voice to your thoughts, or to clear enunciation.

In music, it's about giving a note a special effect and those special effects are marked with articulation marks which are often called accents.

My favourite one is the fermata. I call it the mark of power. It looks a bit like an eye. When you see a fermata, think "watch Renate". It kind of rhymes.
The Fermata indicates that the note can be held indefinitely, and I get to decide how long. It's the last one in the example below.



Now let's look at the rest, starting with the first one.
1. The dot is a Staccato mark. The note is shortened to detach it from the next note.
2. The line is a Tenuto mark. The note has its full value.
3. The sideways arrow is an Accent mark. The note is louder and attacked, or accented. Bah!
4. The arrow that points up is the Mercato. The note much louder and very strongly attacked so that it ends up staccato too. Bam!

There are a few more, including the Breath mark ' that we talked about last time, which really shouldn't affect the note much at all, and the Caesura which is called a cut-off to describe what it does or railroad tracks to describe how it looks. The Caesura doesn't go above a note, but after it. Like the fermata, it indicates something that the conductor has power over. When you see the railroad tracks //, stop and watch. I get to decide when we start again.

Examples:

Look at Carol of the Bells.
Above bar 9, where Mary Ellen starts to sing, it says pp (pianissimo), so it's supposed to be very quiet and detached throughout.

Above the first note there's the tenuto mark and above the next 3, you see staccato marks. We have to pay attention to the fact that the whole thing is detached but make the first note longer than the other 3 notes.

The pattern continues, and then at bar 13 it says pp sempre cres. which means keep getting louder.

Then at bar 14 it says simile. That means they're not going to mark everything, just keep going the same way (long, short, short, short and louder and louder). So, the whole song has that long-short-short-short feel, but we just have to remember it.

Look at all the fermatas at the end! I practically control every note! Wow! That's power. But, with power comes responsibility. I have to figure out not only how I want that to sound, but I also have to figure out how to let everyone know when to sing and play all those notes that come after the fermatas (yup, even Sapphire's piano part is marked with fermatas).

For examples of accents and mercatos, look at Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves. Tons.

For examples of breath marks, look at Let There Be Peace on Earth. Tons.

For an example of a caesura, look at the bottom of page 30 of Mamma Mia. We don't actually observe that cut-off, because we have experienced the audience clapping there, so we make sure they understand we're not done by going straight to bar 228. The combination of fermata and cut-off there makes it clear to me that I can do whatever I want, whatever I think is best.

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