By Jamey Mann
The voice is one of the most important instruments/tools a musician can learn to use. Training the voice the proper way is essential if a student wants to study at the collegiate level and reach their full potential. In fact, at all major music schools ear and aural training are part of the curriculum that all students must take and pass. Because of this I encourage all my college bound guitar students to begin supplementing their guitar lesson with voice lessons ASAP.
Unfortunately our current public music education system does not do enough to prepare students for the aural and ear training class they will have to take. Private lessons in school of after school are often dedicated to learning the primary instrument with little time left for proper voice training. I experienced this for myself as a young student transitioning from high school to college. My high school did not have a guitar program; my lessons were after school 30 minutes to an hour at a time with great teachers. However, much of that time was spent working on my instrument but with no emphasis on singing. I actually grew quite fearful of idea of opening my mouth to sing in front of people.
Needless to say my first semester at conservatory was sobering; something that always came to me so easily proved to be very difficult. My most difficult obstacle was my aural training. I had to work at my voice/ear training at times more than my guitar to barely pass some classes. Luckily through hard work and good friends for tutors I was able to pull through with good grades. Because of this I always take time to discuss the importance of bringing your voice into music and using it as a learning tool and for artistic expression.
The most important thing a student can do when learning new music is singing it before playing. Doing this will ensure a clear distinction between phrases; clearly identify the melody and the direction it is going, and this aides in connecting the melodic line. It is important for students to do this before playing as to not learn the phrasing or melody incorrectly or in a mechanical, non-musical way. In addition singing helps greatly in memorizing music and getting across your dynamic ideas and emotions to the audience.
Singing also helps in training the ear to identify intervals, scales, chords, and rhythms all of which are needed in melodic and harmonic dictation. Dictation is an essential skill for any musician no matter the musical concentration. Teachers must be able to transcribe for students and hear mistakes without having to rely on looking at sheet music. Performers must be able to play by ear if there is no sheet music available and band leaders must transcribe music for their ensembles.
No matter the instrument you play if want to be serious, study at high levels, and possibly make music your career and lifestyle, make vocal training a priority. Learning to use your voice with good technique will only help you reach your goals.