What 2 Instruments Do You Have to Study in Conservatory?

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Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I’m going to tell you the two instruments all music majors at conservatories must study. You may be surprised to learn what these instruments are. One of them is the piano, which probably isn’t surprising. After all, the piano offers you the possibility of seeing the structure of music. On a piano you can play chords. If you’re a clarinetist, you can only play one note at a time. It’s hard to conceive of intervals, chords, and key signatures. So the piano is a natural choice. What is the other instrument that all music majors have to study? Aside from piano, the answer is voice!

The human voice is the most intrinsic instrument there is.

It’s the instrument we all have! We’ve all tried it out. We grew up with it from the time we were born and we have it with us all the time. Now, why is it so important to sing your music? Well, singing and sight-singing are so valuable for developing your ear. The piano is great because you can play such complex music. But you know what? You don’t really have to hear the pitches before you play them! You push the keys, and the notes comes out. It’s simple, right? Well, suppose you want to actually hear what you’re doing. If you want to sing that note, you have to know the pitch.

The best way to train your ear is by singing.

However, singers are at a great loss when actually conceptualizing or intellectualizing what they’re doing because it’s so intuitive. It’s literally coming out of them! But when you have to quantify the pitch on a piano, you have to make a decision which key to push and when to push it. You need to understand the relationship of the intervals. You can clearly see the half steps. It’s all very visual. So those are the two instruments everyone should study.

If you are a pianist, you might want to consider singing your music.

Do it when no one is around if you’re embarrassed. You will learn a lot. The other thing you can do is test yourself at the piano. For example, if you play a C, could you sing an E? Could you sing a G? Could you sing the different notes just from thinking of them? If you can’t, don’t despair. There is a secret! Think diatonically. If you want to think from the C to the E, you can think through the scale in your head. That is the secret to being able to hear intervals and hear chords. If you can think the notes between the notes, you’ll know where you are. So, if you want to sing E after hearing C, try singing C – D – E. That’s exactly what sight-singing accomplishes.

I was so fortunate to study with my father, Morton Estrin.

I not only took private piano lessons with my father, as my sister did, and countless other people over the years of his teaching career, but I also got to study in his weekly classes. In these classes he taught sight-singing, ear training, theory, harmony, dictation, harmony, all of it! Because of this, I can hear all music in solfeggio, do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do. Everything goes into those syllables for me. So I can determine all the notes hear once I have one reference note.

I encourage you to sing your music!

If you are not a pianist, go ahead and study a little bit of piano. Whatever instrument you play, it will help you in the study of your instrument to have both piano and voice. So that’s the lesson for today! Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

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7 thoughts on “What 2 Instruments Do You Have to Study in Conservatory?”


  1. I learned to read music by intervals by singing in the community chorus. It is a better way, and I wonder if I might have much more competence if I had been taught this from the beginning.

    In music theory, the professor always had someone sing an A before class started. I learned how to be on pitch because my family’s piano was always out of tune, so when I learned how much out of tune, I could compensate and hit the A every time. We also did sight singing.

  2. My early Classical training didn’t include traditional voice. I wasn’t yet sick. However, I was instructed to “voice” pitches or notes by their names or sounds or after hearing a note vocally play the next. This helped me in a couple of ways, first I was learning technique as well as pitch placement and I was learning to hear with my voice with my outer ears rather than my inner ears although both were equally developed.
    In college, I studied voice. I did not tell the Professor I could play the piano. It was important to me to be able to understand everything about how vocal music is constructed as singers (professional and hoping to be) made mistakes and I needed to help before they went any further with me.
    This adventure was extremely valuable for me. I asked the right questions.
    The same technique used in piano is also necessary in the vocal instrument.
    My fav? Breathing.

  3. I think you’ve hit the key to developing the ear. All my level 2 students and up are required to sing a chord progression for me each week. After traveling around the 5ths, they start again, starting on the 1st inversion, and eventually the 2nd inversion….and they are usually age 6 or 7 by this time.

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