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Old 02-05-2020, 05:24 PM
Keeve is offline
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Location: NY/NJ, USA
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Sheet music when singing an instrumental

I wanted to google this, but I don't even know the right vocabulary for this situation.

I was on YouTube, watching and listening to this video of the The Danish National Symphony Orchestra playing the various theme music from the Star Trek tv shows and movies. It is purely instrumental, in the sense that no one sings any lyrics at any point. However, it is clear that a section of this orchestra is set aside not for strings or percussion instruments, but for voices. That is, they have a large choir to supply particular sounds that come from human throats rather than from any artificial device.

Those people are holding some sort of sheet music in their hands. It obviously does not contain lyrics, because there aren't any. My question is: What IS on those pages? Is it simply normal musical notation with a clef and notes (like the violinist and trumpeter have), or is it some other system designed for voices?

I'd love to see a picture and description of what it looks like and how it works. Or if you can just give me the right terminology, Wikipedia might show me the rest. But right now, I don't even know where to look.

Old 02-05-2020, 05:39 PM
Johnny Bravo's Avatar
Johnny Bravo is offline
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Vocal notation is mostly the same as instrumental notation. There are some particular challenges and considerations that are unique to the needs of singers (as I'm sure there are for any instrument), but the basic system of notation is the same. To the casual observer it wouldn't look any different than any other type of sheet music.

And remember that there ARE lyrics. They are something like "ahh ahh ahh ahh ahhhh." The sheet music will still need to show where to move from one ahh to the next.

Last edited by Johnny Bravo; 02-05-2020 at 05:40 PM.
Old 02-05-2020, 06:55 PM
Keeve is offline
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Thank you!
Old 02-05-2020, 07:26 PM
Ethilrist is offline
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Most musical training, both vocal and instrumental, usually involves sight-singing, which is just singing the notes on the page, whatever instrument or voice they were written for. The more advance the class, the more advanced the music.
Old 02-06-2020, 05:24 PM
si_blakely is offline
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The choristers may also be relying on cues from the orchestral sheet music to know when to come in.

While the conductor or choirmaster will signal to the choristers when to come in, it's good to have context to be prepared ...
Old 02-06-2020, 06:14 PM
Musicat is offline
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I haven't seen these specific charts, but I have sung music like this in choirs, and written it down for others. Whatever the composer wants them to sing is written below the notes, even if it is "Ahh..." or "Ommm..." or anything else. If it cannot be expressed as simple syllables, the composer may write something like, "make a hissing sound," "snap your fingers," "clap your hands," or whatever he thinks will produce the desired result.

Johnny Bravo nailed it.
Old 02-07-2020, 05:12 PM
Hari Seldon is online now
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Beside normal musical notation there is something called shape note singing for people who can't read sheet music, but I doubt that any formal choir would use that.
Old 02-07-2020, 08:40 PM
Aspidistra is offline
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I had a google of "shape note singing" because I'd never heard of it, and I've sung in a lot of choirs, and it looks kind of cool. But based on what I found, it seems to be pretty much the same as sheet music, except with some extra information coded in the shape of the notes.

I'd be amazed if anyone who could read this couldn't read ordinary sheet music at least to the standard of performing something you've already practised


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