Do Pianists Need to Sing?

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Is it necessary for pianists to sing? This sounds like a crazy question at first, but there is a lot of validity to this. Consider this: piano majors at conservatories and universities around the country, almost all of them sing in the chorus. (Sometimes they play an instrument in the orchestra if they play a second instrument.) In studying music theory, sight-singing is an intrinsic skill for pianists. I’ve had several videos on sight-singing because I consider it to be a beneficial skill for pianists.

Think about this: the piano and singing are about as diametrically opposed instruments that exist in the world. How so? The human voice is the most natural instrument. It’s the only instrument that everyone has and everybody has tried out. It was the first instrument, and for millenia was the only musical instrument. Eventually, people started banging on things and blowing through things. Even then, most music is evocative of the human voice.

What’s so unique about the human voice more than any other instrument is that you absolutely have to hear the notes you’re singing in order to produce the pitches. With the piano, you may have no idea of what a note is going to sound like. Yet, the pitch comes out anyway! However, it’s really important to hear what you’re playing. How do you quantify what you’re hearing? After all, a teacher can make corrections and you can do all the right fingering. You might play a note perfect performance but not really hear what you’re doing. Many pianists rely upon tactile memory.

This is not only dangerous but it is also not very gratifying. You must hear what you’re playing. This is really important in performance when inevitably you get off-track. It will happen. It doesn’t matter who you are and how experienced you are. At some point you will get off track and find your fingers over the wrong keys. You must make it sound right in order to get back on track. If you can’t hear it you’re pretty much done for if you’re doing it only by feel. That’s where singing comes in because if you can sing your music, you can play by ear until you get back on on track.

If you never sing, how do you know that you’re actually hearing what you’re playing? Singing is a tremendous tool. Likewise, singers need to study the piano. It’s a really important to play an instrument that can play more than one note at a time. An organ or guitar can also aid in this. Something where you can hear the underlying harmonic structure because after all, you can’t sing more than one note at a time! So singers must study the piano and pianists must sing. Does this mean you have to be a professional singer? Of course not. If you’ve heard me sing on some of my videos, you can attest to that! The fact of the matter is, I sing constantly as a way of hearing music. For me I love sight-singing with syllables because I can figure out the notes I’m hearing. It quantifies pitches.

I strongly recommend singing your music. One technique if you have music that has counterpoint where you have interweaving lines is to try singing one of the lines while you’re playing. Then try singing a different line. You will learn immeasurable amounts about your music. By singing, you’ll understand in a way you never will from only playing your music on the piano. So the answer to this question is a resounding “Yes”, singing is necessary to develop as a pianist.

Hope this helps! Again, this is