So far, all of our Prompts have been possible with just one voice. Sometimes—rarely, at first—we’ll encourage you to try something that prooobably takes two or more voices to accomplish, either with friends, or computer recording software*, a mobile-device app**, or a looping pedal***. Starting now.
Explore the possibilities of what you can make using parallel harmony.
That’s very open-ended, on purpose. We’ll narrow it down to some specific options in the Options (which are always… um, optional). But we want experienced vocal improvisers to take what they know about parallel harmony and play with it in new ways that they devise and that are meaningful for them. For those relatively new to vocal improvisation, we invite you to get your feet wet with it and observe how it affects the parts you create in a musical piece.
By parallel harmony, we simply mean two or more parts that start on different notes and move in the same direction at the same time. There’s a bit of leeway in that definition, so don’t get too strict with it. Also, nothing in there says they have to move the same distance. Just the same direction (most of the time), at the same time (most of the time).
Here’s a demo response from and Amado, but don’t feel like you should follow his thing too closely, because he kinda did his own thing. (Jascha is teaching in SF this week, and returns next week to take the reins for the next couple of weeks.)
Here we offer ways that you can meet this prompt right where you are; or, alternatively, ways you can challenge yourself more deeply with it.
Option A: Simply loop the loop – For an easier stretch, here’s how you can narrow this down to something more straightforward. Sing a phrase that’s 2, or 4, or 8 measures long, and repeat it enough times that you’re sure you know it well. Keep that part going by either giving it to a friend to sing (circle-singing style), or recording it in your recorder or loop app or loop pedal. Then sing a second phrase, of the same length, that starts on a different note and moves at the same time as the first phrase, in the same direction. Keep that part going as you did with the first part, then either add a third (or even fourth) part in the same manner, or sing a non-repeating solo over the harmonized phrase you’ve made.
Option B: What does it mean when all the parts move together? For a deeper stretch, we presume that people stretching deeper with this are accustomed to other strategies for adding interest to a piece (interlocks, vocal percussion, bells and whistles). For you, the challenge is in the limitation. Confining yourself to parallel harmony (thus creating a homophonic cadence) creates a certain kind of sound. Work within that sound, that constraint, to try to make something that is as musically interesting to you as what you make withyour usual tools. Try to surprise yourself.
The steps are as follows:
- Step 0: Sign up for a free SoundCloud account here. Join the SSS group.
- Step 1: Record yourself singing your Parallel Harmony recording.
- Step 2: Upload to SoundCloud and post the track to the SSS group.
- Step 3: Listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow singers. (Play nice!)
Deadline: Your tracks should be uploaded by midnight wherever you are on Monday, February 23, 2015.
Length: The length of your finished work should be as long as you want, within reasonable limits. Try to go for at least a minute.
Description: It would be awesome to include a short description of where and when you sang your piece—and how it felt.
Title/Tag: When uploading to SoundCloud, put “[sss-parallel]” in the title of your track. Also include the term “sss-parallel” as a tag. This will help us find it.
Group: Once the track is uploaded, click on the “Add to group” button below the waveform and make sure to select the Society for Spontaneous Singing group. (This option will only appear if you have already joined the group! So do that now.)
Linking: You are welcome to include this info in your description:
This track is a reply to “SSS Prompt 4: Explore Parallel Harmony.” More on the Society for Spontaneous Singing at http://singthis.org . You can join the SSS at https://soundcloud.com/groups/society-for-spontaneous-singing
Multiple Responses: If you find that this Prompt inspires you to make multiple recordings, great! AND, let’s not make anybody to feel like somebody else is being over-represented in the group. If you make more than one response to this Prompt, make a Playlist of all the sounds you record, pick the response you like most, add this favorite to the Group, and include a link to the Playlist in the description of that favorite.
Thank you, sweet singers!
Jascha & Amado
* For Mac there’s GarageBand. For PC there’s Reaper.
** For iOS there’s Loopy and VoiceJam. For Android there’s LoopStack.
*** There’s the RC-30 and the RC-300 from Boss; there’s also the Ditto from TC Helicon.
But if you’ve got friends, that’s always really nice too.