Music Practice Tip: All Musicians Should Sing the Music

This music practice tip is something I should get my students to do more regularly: sing the music. Too often, we get hung up on the mechanics of music, that is, the notes and the rhythm. Well, that’s all good and dandy, but we’re not robots. When we bring music to life, we are telling a story through sound and silence.

At university, one of my piano teachers told me that if I couldn’t sing the opening phrase of the Chopin Impromptu in G-flat Major, I had no business playing the piece. I thought she was joking. She wasn’t.

Through that exercise, I learned phrasing and expression. I learned where Chopin wanted the climax and where he wanted me (or any pianist) to pull back. I learned where to breathe.

Another benefit is that you internalize the music. Strangely, I learned this with interval ear training. It took work, but I drilled playing a note and singing a certain interval above or below it.

I applied this to my last piano exam, Level 7 in Conservatory Canada’s Contemporary Idioms syllabus, which I took a few years ago. I scored the highest I ever have in my piano exam history.

All I could think of was, “Why didn’t I do this when I was younger?” I would have aced ear training!

Musician Graehme Floyd lists several benefits to singing and internalizing the music with your voice. The top three should be enough to convince you: internalizing your music by singing cuts down on your learning time, your memorization time and boosts your confidence on stage. You can read the rest  in his article, “Every Musician Should Sing”.

To read more about this music practice tip, check out: Robert Rawlins, Ph. D.’s article “Young Instrumentalists Should Learn to Sing So They can Learn to Hear” and “Learning to Listen: Dame Emma Kirkby's Collaborative Technique” by Jessica Chow.