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Top quartetting tips: "The Buzz Dozen"

As featured in The Harmonizer.

Top Quartetting Tips

Part 1: Half a dozen ideas to help your quartet this week

1. Make a rehearsal schedule ahead of time

Include break time and business discussions. Allow time to specific songs in their various stages of development. Schedule some free time to just hang out together. Even if you don’t stick to the schedule, your rehearsal will be more effective and productive than if you just wing it.

2. Each person work on their own in between rehearsals

Verbalize your individual commitments to working 10-15 minutes a day on your own—and then follow through! Brief daily practice is more valuable than a cram session at the eleventh hour, and showing up prepared is part of showing respect for each other.

3. Record (or video) at rehearsal and listen/view together

Set some guidelines to evaluate and discuss. Take turns listening/watching for different aspects of the performance. Remember that internal coaching can feel more personal, so take care in communicating with each other.

4. Do warm-ups!
Many people ask us, “Which warm-ups work the best?” The answer? The ones you do. Having a set of quartet warm-ups that help you blend, balance, tune and match resonance space will pay off big-time as you’re learning new music.

5. Stop and fix things right away
That way, bad habits won’t be reinforced with repetition. It doesn’t have to be a long process or an exercise in finger-pointing. When you hear some specific word, phrase, key change, etc., that was not your best, stop so you can go back and reinforce your best version of it.

6. Get inexpensive (free) coaching

Look for someone within your own circle who is knowledgeable in the barbershop craft and respected for their musical abilities. A fifth ear early on in the process can be really helpful and save you time of asking, “What should we work on next?”

Part 2: Half a dozen ideals to help your quartet for a lifetime

1. Love and respect your quartet mates

There is no correct interval, there is no resonance space or placement, there is no contest score as important as this friendship!

2. Be flexible and focus on the final product

Instead of wasting time in a disagreement about an approach to a musical challenge, be willing to try out each way suggested. Usually, the better approach will make itself known. If not, dismiss ego from your rehearsal and take turns getting your own way.

3. Work smarter, not harder

Know how to dissect a song to make it better, rather than singing it seven times—mistakes and all! Choose music that is a little easier than you think you can handle. This will allow you to really sing and make music, not just hope you can make it through.

4. Work on singing, not just songs
It doesn’t help to keep learning more music to increase your repertoire if everything is sung at the same level with no improvement. The way to make your songs more enjoyable and successful is to become more experienced, versatile, and skilled singers.

5. Think of your audience–before your- selves
Choose music that is pleasing to the audience. Think carefully about your variety, your pacing, and your timing. Don’t just sing music you like to sing—choose
music that they want to hear. Plan your emcee work to be entertaining, creative, and never offensive.

6. Always be humble and kind
Your relationship with your audience, your chapter, your organization is important. It’s not all about you. Music is a gift to be shared, not a self-made talent to try and impress others.

Debbie Cleveland and The Buzz