There are many different ways to sing as part of an ensemble, as we discussed in our blog post A Brief History of Choral Music. When people sing the same part at the same time, it is called Unison singing. When people sing in multiple parts it can be homophonic music – when the voices move at the same time on different pitches, or polyphonic music, when voices move at different times on the same pitches. Canons, or rounds (ex: Row, Row, Row Your Boat) are forms of polyphonic music.
There are several benefits to both types of vocal music:
Unison singing really allows singers to focus on how their voices blend together. Often, people think of unison singing as easier than singing in multiple parts, but it can be quite difficult. Since singing in perfect unison demands that all voices blend seamlessly, it can be difficult to remove ego from the process. It involves refinement, subtlety, delicacy, and a light touch.
Singing in multiple parts demands that singers focus on intonation. Singers need to be in tune not only with the instruments, but with the other singers around them; listening carefully for changes in tonality, as the chords made from multiple parts change. Singing in multiple parts also provides a breadth and depth to the vocal sound, by layering the different voices and pitches.
What do you think are the benefits of singing in multiple parts or in unison? Tell us in the comments below!