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#924421 05/18/08 07:00 PM
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I'm sure a lot of you will be familiar with the Hal Leonard books for beginners.

I have a pupil who is almost at the end of the first book. She generally sings along as she plays. When i want her to really concentrate on something about the piece, I ask her not to.
I don't think there's anything wrong with singing while she plays. When I ask her not to she shows that she can play the pieces well when she doesn't.
But she isn't careful with her pitching at all. I don't know if this means that she can't sing or not. Occaisionally she sings the right note, but very rarely.
I go to singing lessons and can sing. But I don't teach it. I don't know whether I should stop her singing all together, even though she seems to enjoy it. Or if I should point out to her that she should be careful with her pitching. See if she can sing back a note to me? Or if I should ignore it completely, becuase it possibly makes it more enjoyable for her.
She IS only seven. I have no idea what my singing was like at that age.
Am i doing her more harm than good by letting her sing along something that is completely wrong? Should I point this out to her, becuase it will eventually help her with aural practices for when she eventually starts on grade 1 pieces?

And I'm not posting this becuase it's bothering me. I can close my ears and listen to the piano. I just don't know what the best thing for my pupil would be.
Some advice'd be appreciated.

Thanks x

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#924422 05/18/08 08:58 PM
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No, don't stop her! She may just not be good at matching pitch. Many kids who grow up in households where the parents don't sing have this problem. When she starts singing in school with other kids (hopefully) this will go away. But even if she's not singing on pitch, singing will still help her musicality as a pianist. I would not address the fact that she's not singing on pitch, but perhaps sing along with her as she plays. She will most likely match your pitch, but it may not be immediate. But her singing, even if off-pitch, will help her with phrasing in such a natural way that you won't often need to address that with her as she moves on to more advanced music.


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#924423 05/18/08 09:21 PM
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My son is a "singer" while he plays. During his last adjudication, Dr. Graves STRONGLY encouraged it for the reasons Morodiene listed above.

He also sings along while I play piano. It's actually quite charming.

#924424 05/18/08 09:23 PM
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Hi,

Sounds like you've got the next Glenn Gould on your hands... wink

Seriously though, I think it's great that she sings, but I can see how it could pose a dilemma in a teaching situation. Singing can be a very useful asset when you're learning any instrument. It can help with entrenching note recognition, memorising melody lines and so on. But it's also a wonderful way to be able to play two instruments at once. smile

Over and over on music forums I see beginners asking for directions to an "easy song". What they usually mean by this is one that they can play and make it sound something vaguely like the version of a song that they know. The reason they can't do it isn't so much that the song itself is too complex it's that it was played on several different instruments, and the main melody was carried by the voice and not the instrument that they're learning. It takes a fair degree of skill to play all the elements - for instance, a bass line, a melody and some supporting harmony, all on the one instrument. If they learn one element - perhaps a chord accompaniment - it will sound like there's a great deal missing, because there is!

I would absolutely encourage her to keep singing, but I'd perhaps try and shape what she sings, and when she does it, without squashing her interest in using her voice.

Chris


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#924425 05/18/08 09:48 PM
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OMG, how did you get her to sing? It would be great if every student sang! A beautiful tone at the piano is all about singing. For heaven's sake, don't discourage her.


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#924426 05/19/08 01:56 AM
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You need to seriously consider giving her a bit of a singing lesson. All my students sing their pieces. If any are deficient we take a small detour. It never takes very long.

#924427 05/19/08 05:46 AM
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Singing is an important skill. No doubt about that in my mind. The ability to sing will help you to internalise melodic lines. It's good fun too, especially if you sing with others.

I would have to disagree about the importance of correct pitching though. IMO it really does matter that they sing in tune. The quality of the voice is not so important (I have a voice like a cheese grater) but good intonation is essential. After all, you would not be so happy if they play all the wrong notes so why let them sing the wrong notes?

I used to think that some children could pitch match and others just can't. Now I realise that they can all do it if they try. Most don't understand that singing correct pitch requires a bit of effort at first. This is not helped by the fact that when kids sing badly adults have a habit of telling them how wonderful it sounds. Morodiene said that good intonation will develop at school. I think this depends on who teaches singing or runs the choir at the school. I have been to several school concerts where the standard of singing (in terms of correct pitch) was awful. Still everyone said it was great. How are they going to learn unless they are encouraged to sing in tune?

PandO, it sounds like the problem could be that your student sings along when they play. What exactly are they listening to? Is it the sound of the piano or the sound of their voice? I think I would like them to sing the songs without playing. This will help them to focus more on the tuning because they will hear it better. Do point out that she should be careful with pitching but try to do it in a constructive way. Spend some time on the pitch matching you talked about. I can tell you some games I play with small groups (and individuals) which might help. I got these from a friend who is a superb teacher.

1. Pitch matching. You mentioned playing them a note to sing. It seems to work better if you sing the note rather than play it. They can pick up on the vibration and sustain and the sound is more natural. If they are too high or (usually) too low then ask them to adjust until the sound matches exactly. Tell them they have to sound exactly the same as you. Sometimes they will not find the pitch. If so get them to sing a pitch for you to match. Find their pitch and work from there.

2. Elephant ears. Place your hands on your knees. Turn them so that your palms face upwards. Place your hands just in front of your ears (flap them like an elephant!). Press your palms tightly over your ears and sing a note. It's best to use something like 'doooo' rather than 'laaaa'. The sound will buzz in your head and you become very aware of the pitch. Try the pitch matching like this.

3. The Elevator. This helps them to explore the range of the voice. Place your hand on the floor and sing the lowest sound you can. As you lift your hand off the floor raise the pitch. Take it up as high as you can. Get them to copy you. Sometimes you can stop the elevator part way and hold that pitch.

4. The precious cup. Get them to draw a picture of a cup on a piece of card. Decorate it. They can colour it and/or stick things on it so it looks really special. Cut the cup out. They imagine that the cup was given to them by someone very special (grandma etc.). The last thing they want is for it to get broken. Sing a pitch and ask them to place the cup on a hook at the same pitch. If they don't match it will fall. I have a wooden chalkboard with a series of plastic hooks going up the side. I might draw a stave on the board to correspond with the hooks. When they sing I will keep my finger on the hook until they match. They can then hang the cup on the hook. Over time they can reach higher hooks.


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#924428 05/19/08 06:01 AM
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Great resource Chris. You need to be aware PandO that children typically only make it down to A. Some struggle with middle C. If you can sing it for them with a deep chest voice they'll get it.

#924429 05/19/08 09:53 AM
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All of my group piano students (in the HR program) sing the note names while they're playing. Since we use solfege rather than letter names it's very musical and natural for them. I even received some nice comments from our Guild adjudicator, saying she was pleased to hear students accompanying themselves at the piano with their voice.

I would definitely encourage it.


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#924430 05/24/08 04:26 PM
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Thanks everyone.
I give some of these suggestions a try.
One of my problems is that the girl's family aren't musical, and I suspect they don't see singing as being of great importance or its importance to playing an instrument. Giving her a singing lesson in the middle of her piano lesson is almost definitely going to cause raised eyebrows. I think I'm going to have some explaining to do.
No matter - I'll do it anyway and tell them why!
Thanks for your time.
x

#924431 05/24/08 09:18 PM
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A simple little device for helping with pitch matching is a digital tuner, something that guitarists regularly use to tune their instrument. It's hand-held, and you can sing into it. You can make it a little game, ask her to sing a "C", etc. (the tuner shows you a letter to indicate what note it hears); you can take it with you on little walks around the block, etc. too, and make up other pitch games, such as identifying the pitches of the chickadees singing, the traffic light signals, etc. My son & I have had fun with ours.

#924432 05/24/08 09:55 PM
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It's great that she wants to sing, I agree that it will help so much in the future with phrasing, flow, dynamics, mood, etc . . .

PandO, I don't think you have to "explain" anything. You don't even need to call it a "singing lesson" in the middle of her piano lesson, it's simply a part of music. I incorporate singing too, and at first I don't care about the exact pitch. Even though I agree with Chris H. that you should work toward them matching the exact pitches, I also think it's not that crutial at the beginning.

If you simply do some ear training and pitch matching exercises as given above in Chris H.'s post, I bet she will slowly begin to sing her pieces on pitch =)


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#924433 05/30/08 06:20 PM
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If she sings, it will improve her sightreading. And IMHO it's a pity the parents don't consider singing as valid as playing an instrument. I was primarily a voice student and got so tired of hearing people say "musicians" and "singers" as if singers were somehow not musicians. If you can help her to train her singing just a little, it will almost certainly aid her listening and phrasing skills, as well.


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#924434 05/31/08 03:06 AM
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I agree that for young beginners, singing together with or before playing the melody (RH) is a very good way to 'feel' them, and the right rhythm too. As a 8-year-old kid, I did deceptively easy at them together, to the point of frustration when trying to advance to early intermediate (todays ~Level 2-3) when these mechanisms became not enough.

I consider that memory, RH and voice are (at least for me) "too well coupled" (!) in the sense that they interfere with the general purpose *independence* needed for sight reading, controlling LH too or multiple melodic lines, or a RH flowery accompaniment line distinct from sung main melody.

#924435 06/02/08 04:19 PM
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I never found that singing interfered with lh or learning more advanced piano repertoire, but as you say, everyone is different. But even when a student graduates to intermediate repertoire, I think their playing would benefit from singing through certain passages, or at least listening to them as if they were a song. Where is the melody? Can you sing it? Which hand/finger needs to dominate here? Where would you breathe if you were singing this? Does that make musical sense? Can you make the music "breathe" for the piano? All of this comes, of course, after notes and rythms are learned correctly w/ the metronome.

As an added benefit, this is good practice for any pianist-in-training, as they will likely have many, many calls to serve as an accompanist over the years. If they have already internalized the concept of approaching a piece as a song, and thinking about the musical phrasing and places for breathing, they will be far ahead of others when it comes time to accomanying a singer - or any other wind instrument for that matter. They'll have an almost built-in sensitivity to what the soloist is likely to do, and will be listening for it and prepared to accommodate (even while sight-reading the accompaniment), rather than pushing ahead as if they were driving the train. There are many fairly accomplished pianists who make lousy accompanists because they lack this skill. It's a great gift to your student to work on building it into their development as a musician.


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#924436 06/04/08 07:13 PM
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I was trying some of Chris H's methods. Only when I matched her pitch and got her to really think about high and low notes and played her the note she was singing did she eventually match my pitch. We didn't work on it for long, but I was so pleased when she got the notes I was singing, I suspect she enjoyed the praise. One to keep working on, I think.
Chris H - very useful methods, thanks.

CJP - Can I ask what you do concentrate on if not pitch?

x

#924437 06/05/08 01:18 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by PandO:


CJP - Can I ask what you do concentrate on if not pitch?
I said, "at first I don't care about the exact pitch." In other words, they sing the words but I don't MAKE them since the exact pitch or correct the intonation of their voice.


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