If you can sing it, you can play it. Well, maybe not quite, but it is true that singing is the best way to develop some key musical skills.During the years I taught ear training at Curtis, I noticed a pattern. Among the students without perfect pitch, those who had choral experience almost always found ear training easier than the students who had never sung in a chorus.
One obvious reason for this is that students who had sung in chorus were more comfortable vocally. Ear training classes require singing, and students who had never sung were more reluctant to sing in front of others and more unsure about their pitch matching abilities.
Interestingly, vocal quality was not a factor. Even the students who didn’t have a particularly good voice but were used to singing did well.
Why? What is it about singing, especially choral singing, that helps you musically?
1. It’s all about the line. Singing requires you to pay attention to the direction of the melody, to the phrasing and above all, to legato. This is especially critical for us harpists, whose instrument doesn’t have the same legato capability as melody instruments like the flute or violin.
2. It’s all about the other line. Singing in chorus helps train you to listen to the other voice parts, to hear what is happening around you. You develop awareness of the interaction between the voice parts, and you must be conscious of how you blend in the ensemble.
3. You can prove it. Singing is how you can demonstrate to yourself and others that you know what you’re hearing. This is why singing is always a part of ear training classes. Your voice is your best tool for ear training; it forces you to find pitches and to tune your voice.
It doesn’t matter if your voice isn’t ready for American Idol. If you have never sung in a chorus, why not try it today?
And lest you think choral singing is all Handel’s Messiah, check out this video of the 82nd Airborne All American Chorus.