Enhancing choral intonation in unaccompanied tonal music: a curriculum and pedagogical approach to teach choirs to sing in just intonation
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Poor, unreliable, inconsistent intonation is a problem for choirs and their directors. As a chorister, I observed many conductors attempting to correct issues with a range of ‘quick-fix’ solutions; what seemed to be missing was a proactive way of approaching intonation that would yield long-lasting results. A demonstration of different tuning systems at the 2007 International Summer School in Choral Conducting made it apparent that a partial solution to the problem could be the use of just intonation; an approach in which notes are tuned to overtones of the harmonic series. By tuning this way, beats are avoided, and the sound is perceived as more consonant, resonant, and in tune. This is not the case for temperaments, which evolved from just intonation so instruments could be used in varying combinations. While there are approaches for teaching just intonation to choirs, they are generally complicated, too advanced, not easily transferrable to different contexts, and often written in languages other than English. Therefore, the aim of this research was to create a systematic, comprehensible curriculum and pedagogy to teach just intonation to the New Zealand Secondary Students’ Choir and the University of Canterbury Chamber Choir, Consortia. Data was collected and analysed using multiple sources of evidence. The results indicate that the approach was effective as it enhanced the overall tuning of both choirs. Despite these findings, a revised model was created for future implementations. This methodology would be useful to other conductors in addressing intonation issues with their choirs, and it is anticipated that this approach will become part of choral pedagogy as a partial solution to solving intonation problems.