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Why Singers Should Learn to Play the Piano

Instrumental musicians, like pianists and guitar players, often use singing to reinforce their musical skills, even though they're not necessarily singers. Similarly, if singers practice basic piano skills, that practice can improve their musical capabilities. Below are some of the best reasons why singers should learn piano.


 Reading Music 

Often, beginning singers make the mistake of feeling like they don’t need to learn to read music.  That’s because many free resources are available to sing karaoke and learn songs by ear without any kind of note reading. But skipping over the important step of learning how to read music does a disservice to young singers.  By learning how to play the piano, singers may find themselves engaging with note reading in a very different way. Rhythms and harmony on the piano can be complex, since the instrument allows you to play multiple rhythms and multiple harmonies at the same time. Think about it: Your voice can only sing one note at a time. But each of your fingers can play its own note simultaneously on the piano.


If you’ve ever sung in a choir, you’re familiar with the process of learning a new piece of music together as an ensemble. Invariably, some choir members are more advanced readers and tend to be the leaders in their sections. Other singers listen carefully to those leaders and latch on (with a slight delay) as they sing through the new piece. If this sounds like a familiar, recurring situation, take a moment to ask those leaders in your choir how they’re able to read music so well. Much of the time, you may find that they’re instrumentalists.


If you choose to learn how to play the piano online, PianoCub stands out in that it doesn't just teach you to play the piano, even if you’re an absolute beginner. It also teaches you how to read music so that you can go on to play any kind of music you like.

 

Understanding the Role of Accompaniment

If you want to sing, you should get comfortable with the idea of working with a collaborative pianist who will accompany your singing during rehearsals and performances. Collaborative musicians can’t just think about their own performance. Having strong ensemble skills means paying attention to the other musicians you perform with. It’s like a conversation. When a singer plays piano, even at a beginning level, it helps them understand the relationship between them and the instrument they’re likely to perform with. Also, because piano is an instrument that performs both melody and harmony simultaneously, learning how to play the piano helps vocalists understand how the melody and accompanying line work together in a piece of music.


Ear Training

Ear training or “Aural Skills” is an important part of being a musician. It’s the ability to know what certain notes sound like in your mind without hearing them out loud. For instance, if you were given a piece of sheet music that you had never heard, would you be able to sing the correct notes without using a tool like an instrument or a computer? Likewise, if you heard a piece of music, could you write down the notes by just listening? If you're still confused, just take a look at this demonstration by an extremely advanced set of ears.

For most of us, the idea of developing this skill seems extraordinary and difficult to attain. On the other hand, think about how easy it is for your brain to distinguish color. Unless you’re color blind or have a vision impairment, you can probably distinguish between the colors blue and red without much thought at all. That’s because the brain devotes far more resources to the interpretation of vision than it does to sound. Pianists take advantage of that. The piano is a visual instrument. Keys go from left to right. The further left, the lower the key and the further right, the higher the key. So pianists tie those visual cues directly to the sounds they make. It gives them an edge in understanding and internalizing pitch. In contrast, singers don’t physically see different mechanisms moving to create each discrete pitch because those mechanisms are inside their very own bodies!

By thinking of music in terms of a piano, pianists have an easier time imaging notes visually. That’s likely one of the reasons that pianists tend to have a much easier time succeeding with ear training exercises than non-pianists. By gaining that advantage, your musicianship may increase dramatically!


Being Able to Accompany Yourself

Very little music is performed by solo singers. Singers usually perform while being accompanied by other instruments, most commonly piano. How liberating would it be if you didn’t have to always rely on other people to accompany when you practice or even when you perform? How much additional joy would you get out of being able to sing and play the piano at the same time? Singers who play the piano get to experience that joy of essentially creating music on two instruments at once.


Composing

There are all sorts of different singers out there. If you’re the type who wants to become a singer-songwriter, piano is the best tool you could have for your craft. For one, most composing software on computers is designed to have input from a keyboard. Additionally, a keyboard can record multiple lines of music at once. 

Piano is also likely the easiest instrument to compose music with. That’s because it’s very easy to play multiple notes at once, as well as multiple textures at once. For instance, you could play broken or block chords with your left hand and a melody with your right hand. Or better yet, you could invent an intricate piano texture that goes along with music that you sing. It's no wonder then, that most of history's greatest composers were pianists.


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