Watch the episode:
Links and Resources
Enjoying Musicality Now? Please support the show by rating and reviewing it!
Adam: Welcome back to another episode of Musicality Now. I’m Adam Liette, Operations Manager for Musical U.
Adam: A couple of months ago, we recorded our first rewind episode of the podcast and we were thrilled to hear from so many of you who loved the episode, who loved the different things that we brought in, and hearing from our wonderful guests again. I asked the team to come back to this time explore singing. One of our favorite topics here at Musical U.
Adam: Now one thing that we hear from so many musicians is how much they either love or can’t stand to hear their own singing voice. It seems to be an either/or for many musicians, and yet the singing voice is the most basic instrument that any of you have, and it’s the one instrument that we all are indeed born with. Yes, I said instrument, because singers are instrumentalists as well, they just use their singing voice.
Adam: I can remember back to my days at university when I was studying classical trumpet, my professor instructed us to always start out by singing the exercises that we were getting ready to play. This was not only in prepared études or solos that we were playing, but also routine things like exercises and even long tones. By singing, we internalized the sound of the pitch through our voice and just used the instrument to project what was already in our head. Easier said than done, right?
Adam: Now, whether you love to sing or can’t stand your singing voice, this episode is full of great tips from several experts that we’ve had on the show thus far. We hope it gives you the confidence and desire to find your own singing voice and express your musicality through song.
Adam: Now, before we go on to all of our wonderful guests we’re bringing back, I’d like to first introduce the Musical U team. First we have Andrew Bishko. Say hello, Andrew.
Andrew: Hello Adam. I’m Andrew. I’m the Product Manager at Musical U.
Adam: I’m also joined by Anastasia.
Anastasia: Hi everyone.
Adam: And finally, Zac.
Zac: Hey Adam, great to be here. I’m Zac, Community Assistant at Musical U.
Adam: Now, before we get into some of the specifics and some of the techniques that many vocalists use, I’d like to start off with a clip from Nikki Loney. Now, Nikki Loney was just on the podcast a couple of months ago, and she had these incredible, profound moments that I’d like to begin by sharing with you.
Nikki Loney: Like I truly believe, on my business cards it says, “Yes, everyone can sing.” I truly believe that and I get very, very, no pun intended, vocal with people who put down other people. I’ve got a dad who constantly tells me how much his wife can’t sing. I’m like, “Do not say those things. Don’t say that.” I don’t believe that.
Nikki Loney: I also would like to just mention, the pop culture of the whole Canadian Idol, American Idol, America’s Got Talent. Our good friend Simon Cowell and his really … That whole thing where people would go and sing poorly and he would make fun of them, unfortunately has created this environment where people think that it’s okay to do that. It’s not. It is not okay to say those horrible things to people.
Nikki Loney: Art is subjective. There are singers who I love the sound of their voices and there are singers who I don’t. It doesn’t mean that they’re bad singers. It’s just that those sound qualities or their emotion, I don’t connect with it. But it’s not … I have no right to pick on anyone’s voice.
Nikki Loney: When my students bring in songs that they want to sing and maybe I’m not a fan of the vocalist … I’m saying this to teachers out there. We do not have any right to criticize the singers that our students connect to. We have no right. I am not going to go into a lecture about how it’s horrible singing and it’s this and it’s that. The music and the sounds that bring students to us is so personal and we need to stay out of it.
Adam: Now, part of the reason I love this clip is a couple of months ago I was talking with David. David’s one of our students inside the course Foundations of a Musical Mind. David had always been told that he couldn’t sing and that he should never try to sing, especially not in public. So he didn’t. As a consequence, he never tried to sing in his entire life. Until he found Musical U and was encouraged to explore his voice once again.
Adam: Now, during our call he talked about when he first realized that he could sing. The look of joy on his face when he recalled that moment. It’s one of my favorite times in my years here at Musical U. It meant so much to him to come to this revelation. To be able to share that moment with another musician, I think that’s why we all get into this art to begin with, because music is personal. It’s not always easy.
Adam: Those that walk around criticizing everyone else are largely so insecure with their own abilities that they feel compelled to tear everyone else down. It’s how they make themselves feel better and gain confidence. One of the things that I love about the community here at Musical U is that it’s exact opposite. Everyone is just full of encouragement and suggestions, helpful suggestions, for other members to continue to grow.
Adam: It really reminds me of two lines from my favorite poem. It’s called Promise Yourself by Christian D. Larson. Now, I don’t want to read the whole poem, and we’ll link to it in the show notes, because I think it’s very powerful. The first line is: Promise yourself to be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about yourself. And, to give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
Adam: I first heard about this poem from my trumpet instructor when I was at university. What he had us do, everyone in the studio put this poem on the front of our practice journals. It was a constant reminder to walk into every practice session, every interaction with other musicians with this mindset. That we are there to help each other, to help each other grow and to also remind ourselves that these kind of negative thoughts, they don’t lead to growth.
Adam: So Nikki’s … The way she phrased this was just incredible, and I wanted to share it with you because not only is this something that you shouldn’t do, you actually don’t have the right to do it.
Adam: Now I know some other members of the team are eager to talk about this clip, so I’d like to open up the floor.
Adam: Andrew, why don’t you get us started?
Andrew: I’m really glad you played that one. When I grew up, I had these nodes on my vocal chords. If I tried to sing, if I opened up my mouth, I would lose my voice, I mean … So I gave up pretty early. It was a … When I get to a point where in my training, I was in ear training program at New England Conservatory, and I had to sing. Just discovering that I could do it was a huge, a huge deal for me, and your story that you told about David was so moving because I remember that moment for myself when I was like, I could do this and I enjoy it. I like it. Not to mention all the uses that singing has, but just the very fact that I could actually do it was a huge move for me.
Zac: Yes, Adam, I’m so glad as well that you chose that clip. Before I saw you picked that clip I was actually thinking about picking it myself because I think it’s really important. I’ve watched those shows like American Idol and those kinds of things. I always thought it’s kind of funny, it’s kind of entertaining, but I never thought that those negative things really do, they have a ripple effect, and they carry on through people’s lives. One person’s negative, it ripples out and they spread it.
Zac: I think it’s really important, in all aspects of your life, especially singing, because singing takes a lot of confidence and you have to come from within you. It’s really hard to let that internal light shine outward. We all have to help each other rise up. We have to lift each other up. We can’t hold each other back with negativity. When we put positivity out and we help other people become successful and feel more confident, then we feel more confident and we become more successful, and then that ripples out. I think it’s super important and super powerful to make sure you’re mindful of the negative things you say and don’t say those things. Just be positive. It’s hard and it takes practice just like anything else to be positive, but you can do it so I’m really glad you chose that.
Anastasia: Me too. That was a really, really great clip to lead off with, and everything that was said about maintaining a positive attitude about other people’s voices and about your own is so important. I think another takeaway from that clip which is maybe more indirect is the fact that what you may not like in another person’s voice might sound like absolute gold to someone else. Everyone has a unique voice with cool quirks and idiosyncrasies that make their voice special. I think listening to each individual’s voice is actually a really special experience for me because it’s authentic. It’s theirs, it’s one of a kind with whatever unique qualities it possesses, whether it’s raspy or high or more full or more thin or whatever. Your voice is unique to you and it’s special and you have a right to sing, which I think is an important point that a lot of our podcast guests have made.
Anastasia: I was really excited to do a podcast rewind volume two episode on the topic of singing to hear this kind of thing about how everyone has the right to sing, you should look positively at your own singing voice and encourage others to be the same … to do the same. Sorry. An episode that furthers this idea and really stood out to me when I first heard it was called Singing That Sounds Good and Beyond with Davin Youngs, I believe it’s episode number 36 of the Musicality Podcast. The whole thing’s brilliant. He’s got so many good insights, but a big a-ha moment for me came about 10 minutes into the episode. Let’s take a listen to the clip now.
Davin Youngs: Yeah. I mean, the bottom line is, is that a lot of teachers teach singing in terms of sound, and they teach singing in terms of what they think sounds good and that … honestly, a lot of systems have supported that, and a lot of people don’t even know that they’re doing it, but the problem with what sounds good is it’s not always what’s functionally most free for the singer, and so that really … that seems basic. When you say to most people, when people go into my private studio space and I say to them, “You know, I’m really listening for what’s going on in your throat when you make sound.” People kind of look at me like, “Duh.”
Davin Youngs: But what I’m saying is, is that not everyone does that, and they don’t always know that they don’t do it. When we make sounds there is actual physical manifestation of a sound. There’s something happening in your throat, and when we can learn to hear the function of it we can respond to the sound with exercises that would encourage the singer to sing with more physical freedom, and physical freedom always translates into a more beautiful sound, always.
Anastasia: I love that clip for a lot of different reasons. To give a bit of context, he uses the term ‘functional freedom’ in there, and it’s a term that crops up a handful of times throughout the episode. To give a bit of an explanation, functional freedom is essentially referring to a state of singing where your throat is not constricted or tightened or tense and you’re not in any pain, but rather your singing is relaxed and you’re working in such a way that feels natural and painless, and the best part of it is that it sounds good. It’s the … Functional freedom is basically the physical comfort and ease and joy, really, that you should feel when you’re singing.
Anastasia: A bit of background context about me which might explain why I like this clip so much, I’m a singer songwriter who can sing, reasonably well, I think, and in tune, although listening back to recordings of my own singing voice, sometimes is still a little bit weird for me. However, when I was first starting to sing, I noticed some discomfort and even sometimes exhaustion after periods of singing. First I thought the issue was with my lung capacity, maybe I’m not breathing properly, was I taking in too little air or too much, what’s going on? Back then I think I thought pain was an indicator of a good practice session. That the sound coming out of my mouth was the only thing that mattered. I gave very, very little thought to the mechanics behind the sound and whether it felt good to make that sound in the first place. I didn’t know that in fact physical discomfort often translates to a worse sound.
Anastasia: There’s a certain feeling that you might be familiar with when you’re singing, it’s one of tension. It can feel like a lump in the back of your throat. Sometimes it’s even painful. This is what’s referred to as dysfunction, because singing is really not supposed to hurt. Again, pain is your body signaling that something is wrong. The great thing that Davin highlights in his clip is that you can troubleshoot this. You can troubleshoot dysfunction in your singing voice in the same way that you could with instrument technique, for example, why do my wrists hurt when I’m practicing the piano in this way? Okay, maybe I’m holding my elbows at the wrong angle, maybe something’s going on with my wrist that’s wonky. In the same way you can troubleshoot issues that you’re having when you’re singing and you can get yourself closer and closer to this functional freedom, this comfort that you should feel when you’re singing. Along the way you’ll notice that you’re going to start sounding better too, so really it’s a win/win.
Anastasia: Another thing I love about that clip is that Davin highlights the beauty of a functionally free voice and how the more physical freedom you have, the nicer the sound. This nicely ties into Adam’s clip and what Nikki was talking about in her episode that your voice has natural beauty, it has its own timbre, it has its own special quirks and really what you can do to make it sound better is just get closer and closer to functional freedom and comfort.
Anastasia: We all kind of know the feeling I’m describing. I’m sure a lot of singers have felt it. Maybe you slide into a certain register or you hold a note and it just feels smooth as butter in your throat. It’s sounding good, it feels natural and physically we’re totally at ease and that’s functional freedom and that is what we should all be aspiring to do when we sing, and we’re going to sound good, always.
Adam: I remember being at my age and when I was growing up in music, listening to Metallica and Nirvana and trying to sing like those guys because they’re incredible singers, and I was always trying to mimic my style after them and oh man, I lost my voice so many times trying to sing that way. It was not this good way of singing. But it’s this attitude that in order to sing that way you have to constrict your throat and do all these weird things that you think that these vocalists are doing, but the funny thing is, when you learn to sing the proper way, you can later mimic those sounds, it’s just they’re doing it in a way that’s freer and able to really express themselves. Properly learning how to sing is so important when you’re trying to mimic some of the people you’re hearing on the radio.
Zac: Well, that was really great to hear for me because I’m still very much a beginner with singing, and I have definitely experienced that lump thing you’re talking about. I’m very wary with my voice, so any time I feel any kind of pain or weirdness I stop, which prevents me from practicing that much. So I practice in short bursts, 10, 15 minutes at a time. It’s because I’m scared to hurt my voice, because yeah, I’m always just trying to be really relaxed and find that freedom. But it’s really good to hear that because now I have a clearer aim. Okay, yes, I need to look for that freedom. Yeah, that’s given me some hope, because sometimes it just … Yeah, it’s like … It’s good to know that I shouldn’t be working through that pain and hurting my voice. I feel like I’m doing something right, but hopefully I can get a little bit more free and practice a little more.
Zac: For my clip I picked episode 44 with Judy Rodman from All Things Vocal. JudyRodman.com. She is super inspiring. The first time I heard that episode, I listened to it, after I listened to it I was like, “That is the coolest person I’ve ever heard of. I want to be her friend.” There’s a lot of great stuff in there. But this clip in particular talks about her experience with being a jingle singer, which is pretty fascinating. So go ahead and listen to that.
Judy Rodman: Right. I think I was about 20 when I got the staff job, the staff jingle singing job and at that time this was the 70s, and almost every product you can imagine had a jingle that went with it back in those days. It’s not that way anymore. Also all the radio stations, of course, needed jingle packages and needed radio IDs. … You know, that kind of thing. I had to learn to sing, you know, there was … in the 70’s there was no pitch fixing unless we did it ourselves and so, you know, there was … Editing involved blood because people, you know, they used razor blades to splice the tape together if they wanted to edit something. We tried to require as little blood out of our engineers as possible. We had to learn to cut offs precisely, to shape vowels like the group leader said, determined to do it and make that a quick decision, to pronounce things exactly the same, to sustain notes exactly the same, to fall off, to swell, to …
Judy Rodman: All of this was reading music because of course we can’t memorize that much stuff from 8:30 in the morning to 3:30 and each day it was new stuff. I had to learn to be a ninja reader of vocal manuscript and all that.
Judy Rodman: It was just an amazing … In fact, I’ll tell you the first thing I learned from my group. My first group leader that was in the jingles singing was that if I was just the tiniest bit under zero degrees as far as the pitch went, just a tiny bit low, he said, “Do the inner smile on it. Do an inner smile on it,” and it lifted it right in the middle of zero. So that’s the first thing I learned from jingle singing, was how to fix a slightly flat pitch.
Zac: Yeah, so there is a lot of stuff in that clip. First of all, anything that deals with the recording and engineering and mixing before computer digital workstations is totally fascinating to me, because they had to do some real hard work. Just the whole thing, she worked from 8:30AM to 3:30PM every day, had to sight read new songs every day, and had to hit every single note exactly perfect every time, pretty much. That is crazy incredible. She said ninja. She had to reach a ninja level, and that is not an understatement. Because I’m a beginner singer, I’ve tried some sight singing, I’m working on that. It’s crazy hard.
Zac: To be on that level to where you could just execute it with machine precision is crazy. Because now we have all kinds of plugins. We can fix things so easy. You can use audio envelopes to change the length of notes. There’s just so many things you can do. There’s all kinds of pitch correction software. I just recently saw this pitch correction plugin that actually fixes your pitch while you sing. You don’t even have to record it and fix it later. It adjusts it. It has a tuner on it and it adjusts it right as you’re singing. That’s … Judy had to put in the work to be really, really good.
Zac: I also love those old radio jingles. I think that’s so cool, because another thing they had to do was emulate the style of popular music, so she had to be able to sing in every single kind of style, had to do it with precision, and that is mind blowing, fascinating to me. Yeah, I was like, wow.
Zac: Then that little tip at the end where she talks about the inner smile. I use that all the time. That works so well. Any time you’re a little bit flat, just give it a little lift. Just brighten it up a little bit and it’s usually right there. That … Judy has … Man, she’s crazy cool. That stuff is crazy.
Zac: I’m glad I don’t have to get blood on my fingers. I like to do recording and engineering and stuff too. I’m glad I don’t have to use razor blades. I can just use a mouse. Kind of take that for granted and then you hear about these old stories where hey, they work all day to … Those songs are like 20 seconds. But I’m sure it took them a crazy amount of time and work to be that good at doing them.
Adam: I think this is fitting, we just had Beatles Month last month, and we talked to Kenneth Womack who talked about how The Beatles had to record all their songs and the amount of overdubs and editing they had to do to make those incredible records, because they didn’t even have 16 track recording. Early Beatles were on four tracks and then later they upgraded to eight tracks, and wow, what a revelation that was to have eight full tracks to record music. Even Bohemian Rhapsody, the recording of that. The amount of overdubs that went into that process.
Adam: I also think, when you look at standard music that we hear today, there are all those vocal fixes in there. If you’re hearing your favorite artist and thinking, “How do they sing like that?” There are a lot of very famous, very accomplished artists out there that cannot sing in tune all the time. They rely on those different plugins and those different tools to make their records sound good.
Adam: I think another takeaway from that is don’t be so hard on yourself if you find yourself a little bit out of pitch. Because a lot of these people that you look up to and are learning from, there’s a lot of stuff being fixed in the mix and in the recording studio.
Zac: Yeah, I was going to add on to what you’re saying about the pop singers and stuff, that is no joke. It’s easy for them to record something 50 times and then splice together the best little chunks. Each word of a verse might be from a different recording take. It might be adjusted pitch. Sometimes when you’re mixing someone’s vocals, it’s a tedious task to go fix all of the pitch mistake and the timing mistakes, and you can just do it quick and then it’s pop, sounds great.
Andrew: Now we’re getting all down on the pop stars now, we shouldn’t do that. Nikki Loney said don’t do that. All right. They’re singing and they’re being recorded and they’re sounding good and I’m not, so … But I’m singing and having fun. I had the … Matching pitch has always been a challenge for me. I was really encouraged listening to episode number 76, Christopher and Jeremy were talking, Jeremy Fisher. They were talking about how the voice is … It’s never right there. It’s always moving a little bit this way or that way and the nature of the voice. We talk about the voice being an instrument, but it’s also a unique instrument. It had a unique quality to it. I think this is a good time to check out that clip.
Jeremy Fisher: You slide or you jump, but you still have to speed everything up. The voice really is a sliding instrument. That is what it is designed to do, it’s designed to slide around. When we want distinct pitches, we just stop a sound or we slide really fast, so you the listener don’t really hear the slide in between, unless you want to feature the slide, which a lot of music styles do.
Jeremy Fisher: You are looking at sliding around and the best instrument for that is the trombone. I work with people to sing while they are miming playing the trombone, so the lower notes are further away from you, and then you bring the slide up as you go higher, so the higher notes get closer to you, and that works really well for a lot of people, because again, it’s physicalizing what pitch is outside of what you are doing.
Andrew: Okay, so it’s interesting, be he talked about other instruments also, like the piano, how the high notes are on the right, the low notes are on the left. Or if I’m playing my saxophone, I have all my fingers down and that’s the low notes, and I lift them up they get higher. If I’m playing the cello, the higher up my finger is, the lower the note and then as I go down like this with my finger, the notes get higher. Each instrument has its own way of physically modeling pitch. With the trombone it’s really easy, I can go … Slide and it is so close to the voice and it was so reassuring. It’s like, okay, it’s not just me when I can’t go … That’s the way the voice is.
Andrew: That also gives me tips in how I can be more accurate. I actually used this exercise. It was inspiring for the new revision we did of the match pitch module inside Musical U and in Foundations of a Musical Mind where we have these match pitch exercises where you’re sliding into the note, you’re sliding down into the note. It just … You learn so much about your voice by sliding up to the pitch or sliding down to the pitch that you’re looking for. So much of it is you’re trying to calibrate and find where this is.
Andrew: The other thing about the voice is not only is it sliding, but the different places in your range, it just feels different. If you’re reaching for something and you’re pushing for it, it’s a lot more flexible with the comfortable part of your range, and a lot less flexible in the less … in the higher part of the range where … There’s all kinds of continuum things happening with the voice where there’s all this change and sliding. To find your place in there and then find that place to express yourself within that continuum is just a wonderful picture for me that really helps.
Andrew: When I was at the New England Conservatory I took this class with this guy, his name was Joseph Gabriel Esther Maneri, he taught microtones. We were learning to sing six pitches inside a half step. It was so cool to hear that continuum. What was amazing is that when you did this for a while and you did this kind of singing, even though it was like we were all just totally guessing. But even trying to do it, all of a sudden the whole world starts singing to you. You start to hear the pitch in everything. The car driving by, the door slam. A drum doesn’t sound un-pitched anymore, you hear all the pitches. You start to hear all those frequencies. They come alive when we started to work on that.
Andrew: That was also … That was about the time when I was starting to sing because I had to, no. When I was starting to sing and starting to enjoy it. That was very helpful to have that sense of the continuum of the pitches rather than seeing the voices like a piano, you press the key and then the next key is the next note, there’s nothing in between. There’s all kinds of stuff in between, all kinds of good stuff. I really enjoyed that clip. It was really meaningful for me. It’s been very helpful in my teaching, both inside and outside Musical U. I’m really grateful for Jeremy Fisher for bringing the trombone into the classroom here.
Adam: I love that that’s the exact opposite from how I learned was sing first and then put it on the instruments. All this stuff that the instrument’s doing goes to your voice too and I’m thinking, “Well, it doesn’t really work for trumpet,” and then it does, because your embouchure goes … and you start to … you lift up your embouchure when you’re going to higher pitches, and oh, this does really work for every instrument, doesn’t it.
Andrew: You know, one thing that happened recently, my boys were playing with this piece of Pex pipe, this long piece of plumbing pipe that I had. I don’t know how this fits in, but it was so cool because he started singing into this pipe. Just naturally because the back, the way the pipe reacted, he would be hitting harmonics. So his voice would jump to these different harmonics like a trumpet. I was like, “How is that …?” And I tried it myself. It would jump to harmonics like a trumpet. I was like … It was really interesting how just by putting a pipe over my mouth, that it would do that.
Anastasia: Andrew, I loved what you had to say about a continuum of pitches rather than just … Obviously we’re taught that in Western music there are 12 pitches per octave, but that’s not the full truth, as we know. It’s actually there are millions and millions and millions of pitches, which you can either view as scary or as kind of cool because you can actually say that you’re always going to be at least a tiny little bit out of tune. What happens is with more and more practice of singing, it’s … The calibration that Andrew just talked about, you get a better and better idea as you sing more and more of what the correct pitches are.
Anastasia: In fact even myself, I correct as I sing. A lot of the time I will land on the wrong note and I just pitch up, pitch down, adjust. It’s a constant game of adjusting. This doesn’t mean that you’re a bad singer. This doesn’t mean that you can’t match pitch. In fact, if you land on the wrong note and you can pitch up or pitch down to get to a place that sounds more correct, that’s a testament to your talent as a singer and to the fact that you can listen to yourself and correct accordingly. There’s no such thing as really the right note. We talk about this a lot also in the context of improvisation that if you land on a wrong note, you can very easily bend it up or bend it down. Guess what, that’s a cool singing embellishment. That’s a really nice little sound to throw in. All this to say, I don’t think it’s a great idea to get so focused on getting the pitches correctly that you forget to have fun with it. Even something a little bit out of tune can still sound great first of all, and second of all can be easily corrected, and you get better at this the more you practice it.
Zac: Yes, yes. I loved that episode with Jeremy Fisher as well. There was a lot of … I don’t know, standard idea-breaking things in there. He was breaking down some common ideas that I had myself. One of those things, I actually … One of the first vocal things I got was don’t slide into a note. It was like, if you don’t hit that note right, then you did it wrong. You can’t slide around and fix it. You have to go back and get it right. For me incorporating … When I head that episode with Jeremy Fisher I started incorporating the sliding and it’s so much better. If you’re trying to jump between … I don’t know, if you’re trying to go a fifth or you’re trying to go an octave, it’s so much easier to slide between them a few times or how … or just have fun with it and then you can start to jump between them a little bit more.
Zac: Also, there’s this idea of static stretching versus dynamic stretching. Static stretching would be where you hold a position. Dynamic stretching is where you move in and out of it. When you move in and out of something, say like a note, instead of just going to your highest note and holding it for as long as you can, you kind of go in and out of it with a nice slide. That gives you control over your whole range more. It also allows you to increase your range with more relaxation, which I think ties in to Anastasia’s clip about that freedom that you’re trying to achieve. By using the slide, you get more control over your range and you get more relaxed, and you have more freedom with your voice. And you get to know your voice more. That sliding is super powerful.
Andrew: Absolutely. You know, it was something I wanted to bring up, and it wasn’t really totally touched on in these episodes, but if you’re … For the people who are still listening who are saying, “What if I … You’re assuming that I want to sing.” Some of you out there don’t want to sing. I get that because I know, it was also painful for me, still is at certain places. Singing … You don’t have to sing for anybody, but it’s a powerful tool. I know that Adam brought that up in terms of practicing the trumpet. I’m bringing that up in terms of my musicality, in terms of I do a lot of transcribing, I do a lot of learning by ear when I’m picking out songs for a band, and I’ve been doing it for years for the different bands I’ve had because there’s just no written music for it, or if I want to change something or do an arrangement.
Andrew: Being able to sing and get halfway close to a pitch is such a valuable tool for your musicianship, no matter what you’re doing. If you’re playing an instrument, if you want to play by ear, the voice is what gets you from this to that. The voice gets you from what’s here to what’s here in your fingers or whatever. The voice gets you from one place to another. So if you’ve actually been one of those people who don’t want to sing but suffered through this episode anyway, all these tips are really good for you and it’s great to sing and if you’re a Musical U member, we’ll help you out. We’ll get you singing.
Zac: Yeah. I just wanted to second that emotion real quick. I can definitely attest to the fact that once I started singing and practicing singing more, which I was afraid of, my ear has definitely increased. I can transcribe melodies easier, rhythms too. It’s pretty incredible. I just wanted to say, yeah, sing because it’s awesome and it makes all of your other musical stuff pick up. I’m a DJ. I scratch. But singing just activates your ear and you listen more. When I scratch I can hear my scratches more and my scratches are more melodic. My scratches are more musical because of practicing singing.
Anastasia: Totally, totally agreed with all of that. Singing has so many musical benefits that you don’t realize until one day you’re like, “Oh, hang on. Actually singing enabled me to hear this and do this, and hear … pick out this melody in this song.” Et cetera. For me singing is an absolutely indispensable part of my musical toolkit because I like to write my own music, and it is the fastest and easiest, and most accurate way to get from what I have inside my head as a song idea to putting it out onto a piano or a guitar or a digital audio workstation where I sometimes write music.
Anastasia: Just as a final thought from me, if you ever think you’re going to segue into writing your own music, singing is so, so valuable for it and so indispensable for that.
Adam: Thank you all so much, I feel like we’ve just really scratched the surface here. There’s so much to talk about on this subject, it’s like pick and choose where we want to go with this episode because I feel like we’re only talking about so many of the great number of things we can talk about. We’ve had so many incredible guests that have talked about singing on the podcast. In an effort not to leave anyone out, please check out the rest of the episodes. Subscribe to us on iTunes or check out MusicalityPodcast.com.
Adam: But one thing I really want to just touch on to end things is that we’ve been talking a lot about Kodály these last couple of months in our course Foundations of a Musical Mind. One of the things that I hear from members and indeed studying Kodály himself is that we need to sometimes approach learning music through the eyes of a child. Get back to that child-like joy that we had when we first started learning. Because that is incredible and powerful, and so inquisitive. You can do so many things because you’re so free of judgment. You’re willing to experiment. I know one of my favorite things in life has been seeing my children run around singing songs that they’re hearing or expressing themselves musically. I think there’s so much to gain from that.
Adam: Now, whether or not you’re ready to start singing or not I’m public or by yourself, just know that you’re … there’s so much to gain by expressing yourself through your singing voice. I hope this episode really encourages you to start. Give it a try. Even if it’s in the corner, in the closet by yourself, or as the popular adage goes here in America, singing in the shower. There’s so much to gain.
Adam: Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for the Musical U team for joining me to talk about this wonderful topic. I can’t wait to see you next time on Musicality Now.