Tagged: Rhiannon

Rhiannon (Category)


This category refers to the terminology used by the singer and improviser Rhiannon (she lives on Hawaii – hence the palm tree). You can read more about Rhiannon on her website. The descriptions of the concept are my interpretations of Rhiannon’s teachings only. You may dig deeper into Rhiannon’s teachings first hand, in her book “Vocal River”.


Category elements

  • Motor
  • Interlock
  • Counterpoint
  • Harmony (x4)
  • Bass
  • Percussion
  • Solo


Each singer draws one card, and is to cover the concept of the category. Usually there is only one singer on each category, except for harmony. Each role is a repeated pattern, except for the solo. Each role starts in the order above, awaiting the previous to be consolidated, before adding a new.


The initiating idea

The motor is an initiating idea. It is a pattern of usually 1-4 bars long and it starts out the song. It is on the foundation of this first pattern that everything else is created around.

NB: In some vocal arranging theories, the concept of a “motor” refers to the rhythmic driving parts of the arrangement. Rhiannon’s concept of the “motor” is different, since it is more like the vehicle for the song, the beginning, the opening. Rhiannon’s  “motor” could therefor be any function – a riff, a bass line, a rhythmic figure etc.


The consolidating rhythmic pattern

The interlock is a partner pattern to the motor and consolidates the composition in a rhythmic, circular and organic sense. The challenge of the interlock is to create a pattern that has a driving rhythmic feel on it’s own and fills out the gaps in the motor. Hereby the two patterns has an interdependency. The interlock pattern also should be “continous” and bite its own tale (In opposite to a riff which has a beginning and an end with a large gap before starting over)

Keywords of the interlock

  • Fills out the gaps
  • Has a rhythmic character
  • Bites its own tale
  • Consider the texture from the motor
  • Often based on either downbeat or offbeats (in opposite to the motor).


The contrast element

The counterpoint is any pattern which serves as a contrast to the composition. If the composition is based lots of rhythmic impulses, the counterpoints quality might be longer sustained notes. If the composition is based on descending melodic lines, the counterpoint might be an ascending line. If the texture of the composition is smooth, the counterpoint might be a ruff sound. The counterpoint is some kind of contrast element to what is.


The supporting element

The harmony supports any of the existing roles by adding a harmony to it. The harmony role is therefor not to create a new pattern, but to precisely copy one of the existing, but either as an upper or lower harmony.

Depending on how you build this game, you can attached one harmony person to each role, or you can have the harmony singers decide themselves which roles they want to support, once the song has been build.


As the title says, this pattern should pursue the qualities of a bass. This usually means defining the root notes. A little more advanced than just the root notes would be to create a bass line which still defines the root notes, and maybe also serves as a counterpoint to the motor/interlock. Now, each piece is different and calls for different patterns. Be musical! What does your bass sound like?


Supporting the piece with a groove

Percussion should support the whole piece with vocal/body percussion, beatboxing or any none pitched groovy sounds. The role is still pattern based, but has the freedom to make fills and smaller musical changes. Keep in mind that the percussion is a supporting pattern, usually a very simple, continous and repetitive pattern is the right solution.


The cream on the cake

The last person solos on top of the piece. This is not a pattern role. Seek to interact with the patterns of the songs. This will make your solo attached to the piece.

About Rhiannon

Rhiannon is a vocal improviser, living in Hawaii, who teaches from her own concept. Here it is referred to simply as Rhiannon. Read more about Rhiannon on her website.

Rhiannon is a powerful and profound vocal improviser.

Rhiannon is a powerful and profound vocal improviser.