Thursday, January 5, 2023

Rehearsal Preparation Sheets: TTBB


Rehearsal Preparation Sheets for four-voice choral voicings (SATB, SSAA, TTBB) assume a greater level of music knowledge and skill in the singers. The process of Successive Approximations (Simple to Complex) is utilized for the RPS, as possible difficulties in an octavo are identified and addressed.

A brief story as to how I began creating these RPS materials. I was the Middle School Clinician in North Carolina for a Choral Symposium, held the same year of a terrible ice storm that left thousands without electricity. Students were absent from school for weeks. The Coordinator of the event called me to tell me that she had no idea as to how many students might attend (many students were still in school), and also had no idea as to the ability levels of those attending. There would be no "selection" process. Everyone was "in." The only thing they could tell me for sure was that I needed to have all of my middle school singers ready for a concert on Friday morning! 

These RPS materials were an answer to the above situation and effective in getting everyone to the same level at the same time. You might need the same assistance for those inexperienced newcomers to your TTBB ensemble.

During that week in North Carolina, teachers were in attendance at rehearsals, and they requested to have "anything you have ever done like these sheets." At that point, I knew I might be "on to something." I had created a product, and they wanted it. Hearing the choral results of the week (all objectives were accomplished), I began using RPSs in all of my rehearsals, and I "don't leave home without them." They work.

When we think of post-pandemic vocal/choral issues, vocal projection seems come into the discussion. If they were able to sing at all, choral students were somewhat voiceless for two years, shrouded by masks. When the masks came off, we heard "interesting" sounds. Voices had to be shaped into a choral sound after being "muffled by masks." Pandora "opened the box" (so to speak), and all sorts of sounds came flying out. 

When we are conducting Tenor/Bass ensembles, and "that voice" is new to the ears of younger singers, the tendency is to sing hesitantly and quietly. As one choral director said to me, "I can't fix it, if I can't hear it!" Many Irish folk songs encourage robust singing, so I arranged several for TTBB. I usually begin them simply, as I want a strong sound to "wake up" the audience. 

Rehearsal Preparation Sheets are available from  J. W. Pepper, and are listed as "Reproducible PDF" at the bottom of each voicing's webpage. Each RPS teaches the entire octavo, and is 2-3 pages in length. Reference numbers are also provided, so you know exactly the measures being taught. In addition the purchaser is granted permission to make multiple copies for their choir. They appear as follows: 

See the RPS sample below for a TTBB arrangement of "The Rising of the Moon" (song from the 1798 Irish Rebellion). 

Take a look at the structure of this RPS:

Example 1 - The example begins simply with step-wise motion, and all pitches in the melody are located by using steps. Since unison singing would have been too low for Tenors, Basses were assigned the melody, with Tenors in a V/I relationship above the Bass. At one point, the melody in the Bass is passed to the Tenors. The melody then returns to the Basses in a more comfortable range. There are all sorts of rhythmic drills in Measures 7-12.

Example 2 - Example 1 concentrates in teaching rhythms, and this example introduces 4-Part harmony, where intonation is the focus. 

This sample Rehearsal Preparation Sheet is abbreviated. 


Here is another example of an RPS for TTBB....."Red is the Rose:"

Example 1 - The melodic movement is first introduced straight (without dotted rhythms). Dotted rhythms are added in Measure 4. Four-part harmony is introduced in Measure 7. In Measure 8, the four-part harmony is there, but not yet "in rhythm." Vertical harmonies are the focus.

Example 2 - There are some "tight" harmonies within chords. Until they are performed in tune, simple rhythms are best. The fermata gives singers time to get the chord in tune.


Four-part RPS materials assume that students are quite skilled in their knowledge of choral notation. If that is not the case, those students will have practice materials for homework. The great thing about using RPS materials is that everyone can get to the same level at the same time. By the end of the RPS, concepts have been taught, and everyone should be ready to make music together in the repertoire!


Happy 2023!

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