So that left me only one choice if I was going to pursue a degree in Music Education: my major instrument would be voice. Now, I am a decent singer, certainly not great but I can carry a tune and assuming I do everything right in terms of breathing, posture and opening my mouth (I know that sounds funny but many singers don’t, enough to project anyway) I have a decent range. So days are better than others depending on whether I’ve been talking a lot or even things like seasonal allergies. Regardless, I always sing with the songs I give my students, assuming there are words for the piece of music we’re working on. I do this because I want the students to know that no matter how bad they might think there own voice is, singing along with playing is vital to the entire process of making music with a guitar.
I’ve said this before but it bears repeating. Singing is a very “naked” thing. “I can’t carry a tune,” some say. Well, I don’t buy that. Singing is something EVERYONE can do and it’s important to realize that it is a skill that must be practiced. Sure, there are some people who have spectacular voices without any training or particular effort but most of us need to work on it.
So why are so many people reluctant to do it? Perhaps at some point in their lives a sibling or friend made fun of them for trying to sing. That can be very damaging to anyone’s self image and can make a person give up at a very early age. This is so sad. The fact is, learning to sing is really about learning to listen – to one’s self, to an accompanying instrument, to other singers around them. It is something that needs to be practiced.
The reason I encourage my students to sing is that is makes them depend on their hands to do what they’re supposed to do without intense focusing on the hands. Yes, when learning the elements of a piece of music it is vital to practice and conquer those elements on a part-by-part basis. But then it’s time to kind of let that go and try the music in its entirety. The best way I know to do that is by combining singing with playing. Sure, you will make mistakes and some sections will always be more difficult than others but the process of putting everything together will in some magical, indefinable way make those difficult passages less daunting.
So sing, hum, whistle, whatever. Don’t expect to sound like your favorite players and don’t be critical of your abilities. The payoff is so worth the effort. Don’t listen to negative comments about your singing. Just invite the critic to try it themselves! And you know what? In a short amount of time you may just find that its….. fun!
Peace & good music,