Everything was conspiring against me. Especially my music teacher. Right then as he commanded me to “sing”, I was thinking unspeakable thoughts of hatred towards him.
Why did I need to sing in the school choir? After all I was an instrumentalist. I’d managed to survive all these years of mumbling at the back during class singing so why did everything need to get so ugly?
And there I stood! The whole choir of immature boys and girls just waiting to poke fun at me. Why couldn’t I just run around the corridors naked? Surely that would be less embarrassing?
But he made me do it! Oh how I seethed with anger at the time. But when I look back now, he probably gave me one of the greatest gifts to my musicianship!
So why sing?
Reason 1: Helps You Express Yourself Better
When you can’t articulate into words what you mean to another musician, singing simply fills in the gaps. The more frequently you sing to express musical ideas, the more relaxed and “normal” this method becomes. I love to promote a safe environment in my studio where everyone feels relaxed enough to communicate through singing their musical intentions without fear of judgment or ridicule. This results in increased confidence all round.
Reason 2: Helps You Read Music Better
If you can learn to sing notated music you have never played before, this will really aid your practice, leading you in the correct direction and helping you anticipate intervals. You will easily spot mistakes too. This is one of the many ways that ear training (aural) can help the instrumentalist.
Reason 3: Help You Improvise Better
You will be able to “find” a phrase in your head that can lead the playing and help you avoid those embarrassing clichés that we all go for and wish we didn’t! Have you ever heard jazz musicians singing whilst improvising? Even the classical pianist Glenn Gould can frequently be heard in his recordings vocalising a melodic line.
Reason 4: Help You Compose Better
I find that singing over chords results in me composing a much more organic melody which I would never have found if I had worked it out by playing. Sometimes I will use some nonsense words, found from anywhere, which I will later discard but is enough to inspire a rhythm and/or melody. Singing is also a great way to “find” harmony parts and counter melodies.
Reason 5: Convenience
And last of all, your voice is nearly always with you! You can’t forget it. It doesn’t need to be un-packed. You don’t need to wait for it to switch on. If you have an idea away from your instrument, develop it with your voice and record it into your phone.
I love the fact that however good or bad we might be at singing, our voice is by far the best tool in our musical tool box. And it’s free! With it we can communicate directly, without the need for a mediating musical instrument and with it we can be more in touch with our emotions and feelings as a human being. And it’s really fun! So join a choir! Enjoy the excitement of creating harmonies with other singers. Sing a popular song with a backing track. Try Karaoke! There really is nothing better. Well, at least for you anyway!
And so here I stand! I’m still a shy, male, British, “teenager” (cough, cough)! But what a life lesson my teacher gave me all those years ago!
So what are you waiting for? – “SING!”