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I sing in a small volunteer choir (12-15 people) in which we have women and men singing together on some parts. (Aside from the common tenor-shortage problem, sometimes we sing three-part songs, and lower altos and higher tenors end up together.) What techniques can we use, either individually or as a section, to make those voices blend better? Everyone's on pitch and (mostly) singing in the same register, e.g. we're all in head voice.

I have noticed that the blend "naturally" sounds better on some songs than on others; would doing some sort of analysis of those songs help, and if so what should I be looking at?

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Can you elaborate slightly on what you mean by "blend"? Is the problem that the men and women sound too distinct, or that they clash with each other? –  Matthew Read Dec 5 '12 at 17:14
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Men and women sound distinct -- like the effect of two different instruments playing the same part (versus two of the same), but not as pronounced. I think it's something about timber or voice coloring or something like that. –  Monica Cellio Dec 5 '12 at 17:44
    
A sound sample would be helpful, if you have one. –  neilfein Dec 5 '12 at 21:28
    
@neilfein thanks, that's a good idea. I will attempt to procure a sample at our next rehearsal. –  Monica Cellio Dec 6 '12 at 3:18
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2 Answers

Head voice or falsetto, light voice quality particularly for the male singers. Get rid of the Heldentenoring. A strained chest voice has lots of harmonics and some disharmonics. It does not even blend with other strained chest voices: too much individual coloration in it. The more flute-like a voice is, the more it is focused on its fundamental pitch. And as long as the intonation is good, you get a good blend.

At similar pitch, a fundamental-focused voice sounds more female. Practice descending scales starting solidly above the break, in a light, heady voice quality and try keeping that quality while going down.

The worst thing for blending is male voices staying in chest voice, "in character" for tenors (or the more common baritone somehow managing the tenor range) while going up. You have to realize that going into head voice is more jarring to the singer himself (because the sound conduction from the larynx changes a lot) than the audience. Singers need to become blasé about going through the break in both directions.

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I'm no expert on this, I'm only speaking from my own experiences singing in choir. d One of our conductors did this to help our voices blend better. He would ask individuals from a section to sing their part, and he would choose the one he thought had the most suitable sound/tone for the song. Then he would bring the other section members one by have them to try and sing the same exact tone as the chosen example. It was really more of an listening exercise then anything else. It did help us all "blend" better.

Another conductor once told us, that to sound as one, we have to check the pronunciation, especially the vowels. If everyone is using the same technique to pronounce the words, everything blends better.

I am no expert, so someone else might be able to provide a better idea.

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+1 for a good, practical answer that emphasizes break-outs into a small group of voices to let the blend develop through listening. –  Kristina Lopez Dec 8 '12 at 22:46
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