Have you ever heard the phrase ‘music is like a song’? How about ‘just sing the phrase’? These sayings are there for a reason. When we play an instrument, especially a one that does not require us to breathe in before playing a phrase, such as the guitar and the piano, it can easily happen that we simply forget to do that. What happens next is that our playing becomes jagged, our phrases short, and the music doesn’t flow anymore. One of the easiest solutions for this is to imagine how something would be sung. So let’s look at 5 ways how to implement singing into your playing.
1. Practicing Phrases
When we practice, we practice in chunks. Measure 1-5, 4-9 and so on. Sometimes these chunks work out and follow the phrase neatly, but oftentimes they do not. It helps to think of where the most logical upbeat to a phrase surrounding the respective area of focus is, and then practice the phrase as a whole, irrespective of the measure count. This is exactly how a singer would do it, and it helps us instrumentalists to assume a more natural flow.
Instrumentalists, with the exception of wind and brass players, don’t need to breathe before playing. However, a literal breath before a section or phrase gives us the elevated feeling of forward movement, preventing the playing being static and vertical. It’s easy really: just pretend you are following a conductor, and breathe in with the cue – just like a singer would do!
Singing is also a good way of memorizing, and practicing solfeggio for something we are trying to integrate is a neat way of connecting our finger motor skills with our cerebral and emotional understanding of what we are actually playing. This can mean annunciating your SOL-DOs or Cs and Ds, but singing them while recognizing the pitch relationship is a great way of reinforcing what we play on the instrument as well.
Adding imaginary lyrics/words to your sheet music will enable you to take time with certain notes!
4. Words to notes
It is no secret that when a singer sings lyrics, they tell a story. And telling a story comes with the idea of emphasizing and articulating in a special way to give the story a meaning. When we play the notes on an instrument, and worry about just the notes, we tend to overlook the endless possibilities of telling a story. Adding imaginary lyrics/words to your sheet music will enable you to take time with certain notes, hurry up at times, and most of all, bring out the importance of certain culminating spots that deserve it. Singers do it all the time!
5. Singing while playing!
Singing and playing should really be almost the same thing, especially when it comes down to music that is somewhat lyrical. Certain pieces are written just for the idiomatic nature of an instrument, and thus are less lyrical, but even then singing the music through gives perspective of the tempo, phrasing, articulation, color and everything else that is exciting about the music. When singing, it is almost impossible to be dull, because your body is your instrument. When we play we should assume the same mantra, and singing helps with that.
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