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Vocal knowledge - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
Vocal knowledge
Okay, this is a bit of a left-field question, but you lot are a fairly eclectic bunch, so some of you may be able to help...

If you wanted to teach someone to sing, how would you go about it?

No, I'm not entirely sure what I mean by "teach someone to sing", which is part of the problem... IME most people can sing (and when they say "I can't sing" what they usually mean is "someone told me when I was a child that I couldn't sing"); what they can't necessarily do is stay in tune (with others, or even with themselves). So let's say you want to get somebody to the point where they're able to do that well enough that they can join in confidently with 'community singing' (weddings, carol services, etc.), and eventually do simple part-singing. Where do you start? Am I asking the wrong questions?

Reading music is sort of orthogonal (and the sort of people I'm thinking of could probably teach themselves that fairly easily anyway, because they're bookish kind of people).
Read 47 | Write
atreic From: atreic Date: January 29th, 2008 11:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I've found the playstation game singstar good for this. It doesn't teach you anything about tone, but it does teach you about pitch, and you can see the sound you're making (if you sing up, a line goes up and if you sing down, a line goes down) and see what the sound you're supposed to be making looks like (there's a line you're trying to get your line on top of, which is the tune). It's very intuitive, and it's fun as well, and you can see when you get better because you get a better score.
j4 From: j4 Date: January 29th, 2008 12:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh, yes, we do have singstar... I'm not 100% convinced that it helps with hearing whether you're in tune or not (I mean, being able to do that when the visual cues aren't there) but it's certainly more fun than vocal exercises etc anyway! ;-)
cleanskies From: cleanskies Date: January 29th, 2008 11:54 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm pretty sure there are some tuition videos/DVDs out there -- perhaps tied into the various reality TV series about teaching non-singers to sing? (I think one was called "The choir"). Might be worth seeing what Borders has to offer?
j4 From: j4 Date: January 29th, 2008 12:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Mm, good point, will have a look.

I am just a bit wary of doing the same thing as I do with languages / programming / etc., ie buying books as a substitute for actually doing things. If only learning by osmosis worked. Or maybe eating the books OM NOM NOM.
cleanskies From: cleanskies Date: January 29th, 2008 02:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the DVDs are better than books because you can actually see what the tutor's doing with their mouth and throat, and do hear-and-repeat.

A tutor would give you actual feedback, though the only one I know of (I don't have a contact but the Oxford Music Scene facebook could probably scare one up) taught local indie front-boys how to sing, so may not be ideal...
(Deleted comment)
j4 From: j4 Date: January 29th, 2008 12:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Err, I feel like I'm being all humourless here, but how does that help?

I've been singing all my life: on my own, in choirs, all over the place. This is basically the problem: I don't know how to get from "I can't sing" to "I can sing", because I have no memory whatsoever of being in the former state.

I suppose the same is true of reading. Not sure I'd have much idea how to teach that either. :-/
imc From: imc Date: January 29th, 2008 01:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Learning to read isn't too involved — after all, words are made of letters that you can point to and say what they are (all the better if you have an entertaining DVD with letter-based songs and videos). After that you can point to particular combinations of letters which make words and say what they are too. Repetition is probably the key.

I am quite interested in the answer to the singing question, given that I live with someone who might want to learn to sing properly. :-)
aldabra From: aldabra Date: January 29th, 2008 12:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Be very patient. Find a note. Practice going up and down from it. Aim for one-two-three-four-five in a scale (don't worry about whether they're actual notes, that can come later). Try tunes with no more than five notes in them.

That was about where she gave up teaching me 8-)
j4 From: j4 Date: January 29th, 2008 12:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
All useful, thank you!

Even if I fear I may fall at the first hurdle (ie the being patient). :-}
arnhem From: arnhem Date: January 29th, 2008 12:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Can they tell when something is out of tune?

Can they tell when they themselves are singing out of tune (if you ask them to repeat a note played on a piano)?

Can they tell when they're out of tune, but not work out how to fix it?

Can they sing mostly in tune, but occasionally have dislocations when they switch key without apparently noticing it (this is particularly common in children; they're very focused in the present, and haven't learned the knack of having "what I've just heard" still replaying in their mind).

Can they sing in tune as long as they're by themselves? (I find it much more difficult to get things right if I can't hear my own voice very well; I also had all sorts of trouble carol singing at Christmas - my sister's family and their friends are all scarily good singers and I kept oscillating between singing the tune, and tracking the person next to me who was doing something inventive with the tenor line)

j4 From: j4 Date: January 29th, 2008 12:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Good questions -- thank you! (And a really interesting point about children's problems with staying in key -- OOI, is that your theory or established wassname?)

I find it much more difficult to get things right if I can't hear my own voice very well

Oh definitely -- makes it much more difficult even if you're a confident singer! (Hence the finger-in-the-ear thing that old folk-singers stereotypically do...)
arnhem From: arnhem Date: January 29th, 2008 02:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's my theory, all mine! 8-)

(My sister confirms that that particular observed behaviour is very common, but the model of why it's happening is something I've invented that's sort-of-based-on observation of L. doing it and how she reacts to it being pointed out; she can, if I point it out to her, up her level of concentration to fix the problem, but her default is not to particularly notice; and when she's not noticed, she clearly doesn't have the ability to immediately recall what it sounded like)
barnacle From: barnacle Date: January 29th, 2008 12:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Firstly, don't expect them to just be able to learn by osmosis. Putting a non-singer---even a confident one---in the company of singers doesn't necessarily help anyone. Tone-deafness and poor imitation skills often go hand in hand, and you can't guarantee an improvement in the former if the latter is going to get in the way.

I can only speak from personal experience here. had a couple of lessons with an opera singer/trainer, back when I are in M*f*s. She said that given I wasn't going to pay for a whole course of lessons she'd concentrate on teaching me exercises that would, over time and without her input, give my voice more strength. This, she said, would make it easier to hold pitch (especially with the extremes of loud and quiet notes).

The exercises were singing arbitrary intervals and five-note major scales, with odd vocal articulations e.g. singing a very restricted letter "v" to exercise the diaphragm. There was some emphasis on "pick an interval and keep trying to sing it" but that was less important than just building up lung muscle and capacity.

Modesty aside, though, I've always had reasonable pitch, and a workmanlike counter-tenor voice which can make a smooth transition between normal and falsetto speech. If the person you're teaching is starting below that skill level, then there might be other areas you should concentrate on. Or there might not: for the basic sort of singing you're after, perhaps improved muscle tone is still the key.
barnacle From: barnacle Date: January 29th, 2008 12:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Incidentally, it just occurred to me in a rather Proustian fashion that I used to find the singing lessons all very jolly and silly. Such exercises are tantamount to asking people to make weird noises. If your pupil finds themselves in the situation where doing that is not merely sanctioned but encouraged, that alone can be a tremendous confidence boost.
j4 From: j4 Date: January 29th, 2008 03:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Slight aside here but I try not to talk about "tone-deafness" (I mean you don't hear people describing babies as "language-deaf", or small kids as "reading-blind", or me as "PHP-stupid"* -- it's just skills they haven't learned yet). But then there is a whole issue here about how singing is something that people are expected to be able to Just Do, in a way that they're not expected to be able to play other instruments without training.

Not having a go at you, it's just a bit of a hobby-horse. :-}

* okay, that one's probably fair.

Exercises for vocal strength sound useful & I should probably be doing stuff like that myself -- I've had very very little technical training, just lots and lots of singing! The choir-leader at Pembroke tries to get us to do some vocal exercises (similar-sounding to the stuff you're describing) sometimes but the styeedents tend to just giggle and mess about because it sounds silly.

for the basic sort of singing you're after, perhaps improved muscle tone is still the key

Hmmm, to be honest I think in the specific case the muscle tone is fine, it's the tuning that's the issue! So maybe it's more about the intervals and scales. Or maybe I don't know shit about vocal tone because mine is just what's sort of grown over the years... but yeah. All useful. Thank you. :-)
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 29th, 2008 03:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I try not to talk about "tone-deafness"

That's because so far you've only seen my dad demonstrate his dance-lameness.
barnacle From: barnacle Date: January 29th, 2008 03:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I try not to talk about "tone-deafness"

That's because so far you've only seen my dad demonstrate his dance-lameness.
teleute From: teleute Date: January 30th, 2008 02:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Actually, I think some people *are* tone-deaf. My brother for instance is a brilliant pianist (quite sickeningly so) but could not be taught to sing or pick up pitch well enough to pass that section on the ABRSM exams. He just sucks at it. And our teacher was excellent and tried everything - Tom just couldn't hear when he was going wrong. It was very strange (but it entertained me, because really, when your little brother can sit down and sight read your grade 7 exam pieces when he hasn't had piano lessons for 2 years, and even then quit at grade 4 - well, then you *have* to find something to beat him at).
mobbsy From: mobbsy Date: January 29th, 2008 12:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm interested in the answers to this since I'm firmly in the "I can't sing" camp. By which I do mean that I can't stay in tune, or even start in tune, or produce a sequence of tones more than vaguely relating to anything else going on around me.

It doesn't stop me enjoying participating in 'community singing', but did cause some people at school to attempt not to stand next to me at assembly because they found my attempts at singing seriously distracting. These days I try to keep the volume down to minimise the damage.
j4 From: j4 Date: January 29th, 2008 12:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm interested in how you experience hearing tunes, and hearing your own voice. Can you tell whether you're in tune or not (other than by people saying "you're out of tune", I mean)? Can you hear the difference between different notes/tunes? (Sorry if these are really patronising questions -- I don't mean them to be, I just can't visualise [auralise??] it.)

I suppose outside the context of singing there are phonemes that people find incredibly difficult to distinguish depending on what language/accent they're starting from (e.g. Japanese speakers distinguishing between 'r' and 'l', or people from Staffordshire/Cheshire distinguishing between the 'u' sounds in 'put' and 'bus'... ;-) ... is that a sensible analogy, d'you reckon? What's the musical equivalent of minimal pairs?

Community singing is more about the community than the singing anyway so I'm glad you can still enjoy it!
white_hart From: white_hart Date: January 29th, 2008 12:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

Another non-singer, here via friendsfriends

When I try to sing I can hear that what's coming out of my mouth is a tuneless drone, and that it's not the same as the music I'm singing along to or hearing in my head. However, although I can tell that two notes are different I have great difficulty in distinguishing whether the second is flat or sharp and by how much (I used to play the viola when I was at school, and could never manage to tune it), and I cannot work out how to change what I'm doing with my vocal chords to produce a note that's in tune.

I would love to be able to sing, but even my husband looks pained and asks me to stop :-(
vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: January 29th, 2008 12:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
The musical equivalent of minimal pairs are singing semitones against one another.
mobbsy From: mobbsy Date: January 29th, 2008 01:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not tone deaf, but don't have a very good sense of pitch. When changing pitch I usually know if the tune goes up or down at a given point, but don't feel I've a very good idea of how much to change the tone of what I'm singing, or really even how to make my voice change to a specific pitch rather than just going up or down a bit.

I don't think I can really tell that I'm out of tune while singing, but I'm sure I could tell if I listened back to a recording of my singing.

I certainly can't hum or sing a bit of a tune that's in my head and have people recognise it. The notes and so on seem fairly clear in my head, but I've no idea how to get my voice to reproduce them. At those times I can clearly tell that I'm utterly failing to reproduce the tune, but don't know what to do about it.

The phoneme thing is interesting. I've always suspected that my lack of musical talent might be related to why I never picked up a Scottish accent, despite living there from four years old until I was 18, and spending the first 6 years there in local state schools. I also can't mimic accents at all well. Again, it's not that I can't hear the differences, it's that I've no idea how to reproduce them.
ewtikins From: ewtikins Date: January 29th, 2008 03:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
It sounds like you have a reasonable sense of hearing pitch but it could do with some finer calibration, and the same applies tone production. This is the case for a lot of people.

I can't imitate accents at all but my own speaking accent changes very quickly.
caramel_betty From: caramel_betty Date: January 29th, 2008 01:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Can you tell whether you're in tune or not (other than by people saying "you're out of tune", I mean)?

For me, as a "can't carry a tune in a bucket" sort, I very often can't hear what I sound like in any useful sense. What it sounds like in my head and what it sounds like if you play back a piece of tape to me are COMPLETELY different. I'm told that professionals minimize this by doing things like having one ear listening to themselves through headphones, and one ear "open", or something like that.

Most often, it sounds like I'm not in tune and, even going by what I hear, I'm not hitting the notes I want but, since I don't know what I sound like properly anyway, it's very difficult to change it sensibly, or spontaneously. It's also very different when, say, singing along to music in the car, or attempting to sing something to yourself without any guidance at all.

Note that, until the age of 11 (my voice broke, and I went to secondary school, at about the same time), I was in the school choir because I could sing tolerably well.
boyofbadgers From: boyofbadgers Date: January 29th, 2008 08:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was an OK singer at primary school, but then my voice broke and I completely lost the ability to get anywhere near the right note. Previously it had just happened magically, without my having to think about it - I'm not even sure I was ever conscious of hearing myself. I still sang to myself afterwards, and it apparently wasn't too hideous, but I couldn't pitch myself to any sort of accompaniment, be it vocal or instrumental.

This changed about a year ago, when I realised, mid-jam session, that if I vocalised into a microphone, I could hear myself properly. The physical separation from the speaker made it sound like my voice was outside my head, and I could evaluate its pitch as though I was listening to a record. Within a few minutes I was happily singing along with everyone else for the first time ever.

I'm still not a great, or even a good singer, but I can at least hold a tune against someone else now, sometimes even minus a mic.
ewtikins From: ewtikins Date: January 29th, 2008 03:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I explain it to students as a ruler that isn't marked; someone who does a lot of measurement will eventually be able to mark the centimeters on the ruler quite well or even nearly exactly, but someone who hardly ever does would be hard-pressed to do so.

Relative pitch skills are about how many millimeters you might be out on the intervals.
julietk From: julietk Date: January 29th, 2008 06:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
marnameow does seem to genuinely have very little sense of pitch. There was an online test thingy recently (Actual Proper Research, not internet-meme) in which the first 50% of the tests tested pitch perception & the second 50% tested rhythm perception. Each test involved playing 2 small snippets which were the same or differed slightly (in pitch or rhythm) & you had to say which. Marna got barely over chance on the first half & perfect score on the second. ("Normal" was 27 or 28 out of 30 on each.)

I have no idea on the actual question, sorry!
vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: January 29th, 2008 12:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Kodaly is your friend here.

I would say; start by getting your friend to becomfortable with counting, by clapping and saying: ta ta ta ta (crotchets); ti-ti ti-ti ti-ti ti-ti (pronounced 'tee') (quaver); tiri-tiri tiri-tiri tiri-tiri tiri-tiri (semi-quaver).

This will get them *used to the sound of their own voice working to time* without them having to worry about note-matching. I think feeling bad timing is much worse for novice singers than bad pitch, by a long shot - one feels an utter damned idiot for coming in at the wrong place or not knowing how long to go on for. You can show them the notes in what is called stick notation - jsut the sticks and flags - to train their eyes to associate timing with what they'll see on a stave in due course.

After a little while, get them to sing their TAs and TI-TIs to 'so' and 'mi' - the classic notes of the childhood mocking notes "nyah, nyah", or of the fire engine "nee naw" sound. You can work them around to singing in solfa without worrying about reading music in a given key; that can come later.

Do build on this note by note and don't stretch their range too much initially: build their confidence. Even 'twinkle, twinkle little star' has a lot of stretch for a non-singer.

If you help them to recognise timing and train their ears in correct intervals then their voices and reading abilties will follow, as night follows day.

I have some lovely and fairly straightforward Kodaly exercises requiring two voices I can photocopy and send on, if you'd like. Clap them until you know that, then learn each line, the two of you, then sing the two lines with one another. Bliss.
ewtikins From: ewtikins Date: January 29th, 2008 03:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
I second this.

Working with tunes that it's likely they already recognise the sounds of - nursery rhymes and so on - also helps. It can seem a bit juvenile but it is useful.

Some people find that the Kodaly handsigns help a lot, too; at least one of my voice students (okay, I only have two at the moment) can match pitch if he's doing the handsigns but has great difficulty doing it without. He's a kinaesthetic learner. We'll gradually get to the point where he doesn't need the handsigns but in the meantime they're a very good thing.

vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: January 29th, 2008 05:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
I heart the handsigns but if Jaffa has to learn them as well might not be 100% useful...?

but good reminder, yes, if the friend is a kinaesthetic learner.

you a kodaly teacher? Where? (she said hopefully)
ewtikins From: ewtikins Date: January 29th, 2008 06:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
The handsigns aren't terribly difficult to learn, especially a few at a time, and it might help if j4 is also learning new things alongside a student.

I'm not specifically a Kodaly teacher at the moment but it's something I will be looking into after I finish my BMus. I grew up in Canada, where there's a fair amount of Kodaly in school music lessons, and I also had to take a Kodaly class for my first two years at Trinity. At the moment I have piano students and a couple of voice students. I've not integrated any Kodaly into my piano teaching but I do use it with voice students because it makes so much sense.

I'm in London, at least until I finish my degree (so another year and a half), and possibly for some time after that too.
vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: January 29th, 2008 12:29 pm (UTC) (Link)


this http://www.musicarrangers.com/star-theory/t01.htm may help on some of that. Did me.
crouchinglynx From: crouchinglynx Date: January 29th, 2008 12:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I can't sing and I have the paperwork to prove it - specifically, the examiner's notes from the bits when they asked me to sing during my flute exams. (If I'd wanted to sing, why would I have taken up the flute?)
What I found particularly frustrating about the headmaster's attempts to get us to sing in assembly, and his belief that there was no excuse for not joining the school choir, was the way that he expected us all to be able to "hit that note" straight off. I can only reach a specified note by letting some noise out and then homing in on the right frequency. From my observations of people who *can* sing, that's an ability I'd have to gain before I could consider myself a singer.
j4 From: j4 Date: January 29th, 2008 03:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Like I say, somebody told you "you can't sing" and you've taken that as an article of faith ever since. Homing in on the right note -- that means you can tell what the right note should be, and reproduce it. So yes, you'd have to practice before you could do it right first time every time... but isn't that the same for most skills? You can make a tuneful noise with your voice: you can sing. You can learn to sing better if you want to (or not if you don't).

And if your headmaster expected everybody to be able to hit the right note first time without any learning or practice, and forced everybody to join the choir, he's a c0ck. Stop listening to him!! Don't let one guy being a c0ck 20 years ago put you off singing!

If I'd wanted to sing, why would I have taken up the flute?

I believe some people do want to do both :) but the aural bit in music exams is a way of testing general musicality/music theory/etc independently of your technique on the instrument you're learning. Boys are allowed to whistle instead of singing (because of breaking voices) and I think anybody's allowed to hum instead, can't remember the exact wording of the rules. Though music teachers tend to just do things the same way for everybody cos that's the way they know how to teach. :-/
ewtikins From: ewtikins Date: January 29th, 2008 03:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
For ABRSM exams you can sing, hum or whistle.
arnhem From: arnhem Date: January 29th, 2008 03:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Boys are allowed to whistle instead of singing (because of breaking voices)

For some reason, this completely reminds me of the St Cakes' newsletters ...
crouchinglynx From: crouchinglynx Date: January 29th, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
somebody told you "you can't sing" and you've taken that as an article of faith ever since.

Well, I think it remains true - I can't sing, in the same way that I can't speak Spanish or do that flipping-the-coin-along-the-knuckles trick. What I'm getting at is that for me, the boundary between "can't sing" and "can sing" is the ability to find the note, and this may (or may not) be a necessary step for that subset of the world that you'd like to teach to sing.

the aural bit in music exams is a way of testing general musicality/music theory/etc independently of your technique on the instrument you're learning.

I eventually worked that out. But my voice seems a much clumsier tool for demonstrating this than, for example, the flute. (And my voice may have been breaking when I was taking some of those exams, but my whistling's even worse.)
katstevens From: katstevens Date: January 29th, 2008 01:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Remind them to actually open their mouth wide, like they're biting an apple.

Or if they're of the geeky persuasion, get them to imagine Interweb smileys:


They could be in tune and singing sweeter arias than Charlotte Church, but if no-one can hear them it's not going to be much cop.
glittertigger From: glittertigger Date: January 29th, 2008 01:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was told I was tone deaf by a couple of music teachers as a child because I sang so far out of tune. Although I could tune instruments (cello and guitar) better than most people and play them pretty well, so I clearly wasn't.

The wonderful (and very patient) singer Sandra Kerr taught me to sing at a summer school when I was 16 and I've been OK since. I can't remember the details of how she did it, but will have a think and see what comes back to me.
ewtikins From: ewtikins Date: January 29th, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
In addition to what others have said:

Teach some breathing exercises. Singing involves a lot of breath control, and it's often useful to practise that separately. Practise yawning, practise inhaling and holding the breath, exhaling and holding the breath, letting the breath expand the lungs (rather than lifting the shoulders up in an attempt to fill the lungs), stretching, and so on. Practise humming with a dropped jaw but the lips still closed, and feel how that makes bits of your head vibrate or buzz.

Wishy-washy exercises like visualising the breath getting to every part of your body on inhalation and all the stress melting away on exhalation can seem hokey but what they actually do is teach your body that breathing is relaxing. When people are nervous or lack confidence about singing, it's very easy to be tense, and that makes it much harder to sing. Even trained singers often carry quite a bit of tension in their bodies while singing.

Remember that an unused voice won't have much endurance to begin with. Practising every day is best, but practising 10 minutes a few times a day may be more viable than practising a half hour all at once. During actual lessons, take lots of breaks to talk about stuff or breathe, it's a lot easier to work on endurance later when tone production and pitch-matching are not such huge challenges.
From: rgl Date: January 29th, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm one of the people who can't remember how I learnt to sing, because it was so long ago. However, I'd like to add a few (unrelated) points to the above discussion:

i) A small number of people really are "tone-deaf" in an identifiably neuropsychological way, i.e. they have problems with pitch perception (cf. dyslexia etc)
ii) Singing higher takes more effort, as you have to contract your vocal cords more. Thus almost everyone has a natural tendency to sing flat, and I remember one of the most frequent instructions in church choir was always to "sing sharp" or "think sharp" to counteract this. Possibly worth mentioning.
iii) Several posters have implied that trying to distinguish different semitones from one another is a helpful way of exercising pitch perception. This can be surprisingly difficult, because two notes a semitone apart have little harmonic relationship to one another, and sometimes it's easier to hear harmonic relationships (notes that have simple ratios of their fundamental frequencies) than melodic ones (notes that have "nearby" fundamental frequencies).
hairyears From: hairyears Date: January 29th, 2008 05:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you wanted to teach someone to sing, how would you go about it?

I'd say: Wot she sed but there's a bit missing: Ewt's a singing teacher (among other things).

So, from experience, my answer is: put them in touch with a singing tutor, and I'll be happy to recommend one.
classytart From: classytart Date: January 29th, 2008 05:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Seems like courage is the first step - would be to get me singing in public, anyway. So getting over the feeling daft, and some encouragement is probably a good step.
From: ext_72852 Date: January 29th, 2008 06:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
well, /I/ wouldn't.

My sister and I were in Taizé in the summer and I was trying to, well, get the hang of singing right. We sat down with the Taizé song book (which is very simple chants, and happened to be what we had), and Catrin's recorder, and she played a couple of notes at me, or sang a couple of bars to me (I think originally she might have thought we'd do, you know, a line at a time, but it didn't work out like that), and I listened and listened and made her do it several times, and then tried to sing it, and sounded wrong, and tried a bit more, and she said "no no no" and giggled a bit and fed me lovehearts and played back on the recorder what I *did* do, and gradually I got that I make my jumps too big when I'm changing note (which later results in having to go in the wrong direction and being generally all over the place), and got a bit better at getting them right, and vaguely hearing them right -
- and then we came home at the end of the week, and the power cable on my piano doesn't work any more so I can't play notes at myself, but if I *did* do that every few days, and somebody every week or two or three had a session like that one with a recorder to make sure I hadn't slid away from listening to myself right, maybe I'd get better at getting it right -

- curiously, in church, when I try and obtain a hymn book with the music in, people expect me to be musical. No no no! It's because I *can't* pick it up by hearing that I want to see the notes, then I have /some/ chance!

I was in the "can't sing"/unmusical camp, and I had singing lessons at school for a couple of terms---I got signed up by mistake and we decided to go ahead with them. I don't think they did me any good because I don't think anyone managed to get through my head what on earth I was getting at. I didn't "get" music, or really listen to what I was doing, or, I don't know, understand why the exact rhythm matters. It took me to my twenties to "get" this enough to think about attempting to learn to get it right, but doing the thing I said with pianos and recorders and encouraging friends is just one of many things on a list of things that come after, well, the ones I'm managing to find time for at the moment.

I did learn some breathing exercises.
jvvw From: jvvw Date: January 29th, 2008 11:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you find a solution of any sort, I'd definitely be interested so I get Jon to teach me how to sing :-) I'd like to be able to sing to a socially acceptable level as you mention and have access to Jon who is musical and has sung in choirs all his life, but I'm not sure where we would start. But I'm also a bit impatient and would like to feel that I'm making progress :-) From my limited experience, most musical training is aimed at musical people not folk like me so I think it's important not to automatically extrapolate from how you might teach naturally musical but untrained people.

I still find it's just obvious to Jon how far apart two notes are. That seems like magic to me. I have problem just telling which is higher or lower lots of the time!
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