Thinking of phrases horizontally rather than vertically: Just as speaking and singing have a rhythm, so do musical phrases. We combine words into sentences and then based on how when emphasizing the words, it impacts the meaning of the sentence. Likewise, notes are combined to form phrases and the feeling and rhythm of these phrases mimic how we would sing them. Singing is a horizontal concept meaning the sentence or phrase is always being propelled forward. When your students sing the words to the piece they are learning, they feel this natural moving to a conclusion and helps it them “hear the long line and rhythmic flow of the music.” If the piece doesn’t have words to match the rhythm, make some up! The sillier or catchier–the better!
“By exploring the voice, we teach important musical ideas and encourage piano students to achieve a higher level of musicianship”
– Jennifer Merry, Keyboard Companion, Spring 2005
Flexibility in rhythm:
Singers need a little extra time to jump from a low note to a high note correctly on the pitch. This also helps when playing the phrase on the piano where the pianist has to extend the hand and rotate the wrist to reach a large interval. This extra time, or lingering, helps give musicality to the phrase and helps to not rush the tempo.
Because of the physical nature of singing, we have to take a breath after each phrase. Often we don’t think of breathing at the end of phrases when we play them on the piano. Singing the phrase will help the student to feel the slight lingering and upward lift at the end of phrases. They can then apply this feeling, literally and pianistically with the wrists and elbows, to the musical phrase.
Pitch awareness and matching:
When singing along with your music, you learn to match the pitch of the piano which strengthens hearing pitches in tune. It is a great ear-training tool to aid in hearing and singing intervals on a pitch.
The feeling or “story” of the song: Becoming aware of the words behind a piece can give greater insight into how the piece should be performed and what feelings we are trying to convey. It helps the student to “tell the story” with more expression and musicality and it’s just plain fun.
-Cindy Cooper (Bravo Employee)