Mar 17

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The Better You Sing It, The Better You Play It

We practice many hours learning how to control our instrument. But, we may not accurately hear what we are doing. A good way to tell is to sing what you play. Our voice reveals what we hear and what we do not hear. You do not have to be a trained singer to sing in tune.

Slowly sing your improvisation or melody.

Is your pitch accurate? Do you sing in tune? Can you clearly imagine the pitch before you sing it? Are you relaxed when you sing? Do you sing with musical nuance, or do you sing like you are taking an aural skills test?

The ease in your voice reflects the clarity of your imagination: the easier, the better. Singing in tune, in time, and with musical nuance transfers to your playing. So, the better you sing it, the better you play it.

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  1. Larry Panella

    So true! I remember one of my classical lessons as a grad student with you and a phrase wasn’t coming out musically. You made me sing it and once I adjusted it so it was more easily rendered vocally, the phrasing made sense and I was able to clear it up in my playing. How much we take singing what we play for granted! In my teaching career I’ve met more musical “typists” who think pressing a button and putting air in the horn in the right rhythm automatically means their practicing is done. So sad! Thanks for posting this.

    1. steve@steveduke.net

      Glad you liked the post, Larry. I have found that the singing applies to improvisation as well. I heard a concert a couple of weeks ago and was struck by how “instrumental” everything was. Very little lyricial playing for 2.5 hours non-stop. It reminded me of how strongly I relate to the voice.

      My next post will build on this current one, but geared toward improvisation. Keep in tune for more…

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  3. Melody Berry

    I remember an interview on In The Actors Studio with Hugh Jackman. He was talking, retrospectively, about his role in the stage performance of Oklahoma – and how the director wouldn’t allow any of them to sing anything at all until they had rehearsed all songs in as many intonations and inflections as possible. He’s used the song “My Boy Bill” as a a speaking and then singing example – how many ways could the intonations of those three words change the meaning in spoken and musical context.

    The whole cast agreed that it made them think about the songs they were singing in a whole different context and had improved their abilities to convey within the music which they would continue to use for all future musical performances of any kind.

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