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Author Topic: Learning to sing. Advice, please?  (Read 1036 times)

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Learning to sing. Advice, please?
« on: 26 Apr 2017, 09:02 »

I am starting from a level of musical ignorance that would horrify many people here.

My goal is to sing a duet of "Save the Best for Last" with my wife on our 20th anniversary in October. She is a trained singer and in a choir.

I am taking three hour-long lessons a week from a long-time professional singing teacher found via recommendation.

Problems so far include poor posture, an intermittent ability to match pitches, and self-consciousness. There is a humiliating inability to concentrate on more than one thing at once -- if I get one thing right, something else falls apart. If there is such a thing as a music brain, I don't have one.

Meanwhile, I've got a supercomputer in my pocket with a microphone. Every singing instructor I've talked to draws a blank when I ask what apps could supplement my training. They simply don't think in those terms. Online reviews only take me so far.

What should I do to maximize the likelihood of succeeding?
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Re: Learning to sing. Advice, please?
« Reply #1 on: 26 Apr 2017, 11:27 »

Do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do!

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Case

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Re: Learning to sing. Advice, please?
« Reply #2 on: 26 Apr 2017, 15:05 »

Hmmmh, regarding pitches and musical brain-ing, I might have an idea (though I'd recommend you discuss anything you do with your teacher):

I had a self-styled "solfege"-exercise ("Gehörbildung" - lit. "Hearing-development") I trained way back before I tried out for academy (bass, though): Singing intervals - i.e. two notes after another - and trying to recognize the interval, the "tonal distance", between them. I'd make myself 'Interval-Mnemonics' out of the first two notes of melodies of songs I knew well, for example:

Octave - Somewhere over the Rainbow (Some-where - that's the octave)
Fifth- Star Wars Theme
Tritonus - Maria, West Side Story (In the chorus, the "Ma-ri" in "Maria" is the tritonus)
Fourth - Police Siren (That's German patrol cars, though)
Major third - Oh when the Saints ... (C-E-F-G If you leave out the third note, you have all the notes of a major chord)
Minor third - 'Georgia on my mind' or 'Save the best for last'!  :mrgreen:
    (Both start with a minor third, but "Georgia" is in a minor key, while "Save ..." is in a major key. If the key of "Save ..."was "C" (cf. spoiler), you'd start with E (major third), then G   (fifth). Choose what you find more convenient)
Major Second - do-re! (Can you sing a major scale?)
...

Once you're comfortable with singing the interval 'upward', sing it 'downward'. Then let your wife sing you an interval & try naming it. Stuff like that - make a game out of it.

Keep it playful - Fear is the mindkiller!

Problems so far include poor posture, an intermittent ability to match pitches, and self-consciousness. There is a humiliating inability to concentrate on more than one thing at once -- if I get one thing right, something else falls apart. If there is such a thing as a music brain, I don't have one.

Self-consciousness: Well, ask Meryll Streep how she feels just before her part starts (Hint: She still gets nervous). Maybe you have more music in your brain than you think? Methinks you wouldn't be so frustrated otherwise - the really 'music-blind' people smile at you while singing a half-note off-key (*shudder*)

EDIT: Here's the "Saving the best for last" written out:
(click to show/hide)
You don't have to read it - just note that there's no # or b's. Meaning: You could play the entire song using only the white keys on a piano. The song is in a 'major scale'. Now, you might think that's news for your ear, but it isn't. The entire 'western' musical system, back to the ancient Greeks, is based on those seven notes, the so-called 'ionic/major scale'. You've heard this a bazillion times - so you 'know' the notes without knowing. It's what you'd instinctively use if you just started humming "random (ballad) stuff that sounds good to me".

EDIT II: Maybe https://www.sheetmusicdirect.com/se/ID_No/23776/Product.aspx helps - you can change the key (the "base note") with the button "transposition" (Ask your wife what key you're supposed to sing it in). Advantage: You can let it play the notes for you, in the key you'll actually use, at a tempo of your choosing.
« Last Edit: 26 Apr 2017, 18:58 by Case »
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Re: Learning to sing. Advice, please?
« Reply #3 on: 26 Apr 2017, 15:49 »

I don't have any advice but I identify a lot with having a non-music brain. I've tried looking for similar apps in the past with little joy.

Good luck on your goal!
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Re: Learning to sing. Advice, please?
« Reply #4 on: 26 Apr 2017, 16:17 »

Your teacher's main expertise will be in helping you sing efficiently and beautifully.  Posture, tension and relaxation in the right muscles, are things that help with this.  But can you sing along in a not-so-beautiful manner?  This:
an intermittent ability to match pitches,
suggests that perhaps you can't, or not reliably.  The ability to hear music is like hearing and using speech - the basis of it is laid down in infancy, and past childhood it is very hard indeed to develop from scratch.  However, if you are aware when you are failing, then you have something to work with - the problem is more controlling your voice to produce the intended notes, and developing the feedback loop between hearing the error and correcting it.  I suspect that this is down to practice, practice and more practice.  Just trying to sing what you want, and forcing yourself to try to correct every error you notice.  I doubt that any app would significantly help with this, as it is the link between your body's own perception and your muscle control that you have to build up.

Good luck - you'll need determination, but you've shown in other parts of this forum that you've plenty of that!
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Re: Learning to sing. Advice, please?
« Reply #5 on: 26 Apr 2017, 16:39 »

But can you sing along in a not-so-beautiful manner?  This:
an intermittent ability to match pitches,
suggests that perhaps you can't, or not reliably. 

Maybe it isn't so much difficulty with matching pitches? - maybe he 'just' has problems with that specific song, rather: How it starts?  It looks deceptively simple, but there's a bit of a trick to it: Look at the score (spoiler), it's 'just a major scale' - which IICIH probably 'knows without knowing' - but the entry into it is a bit tricky.

With the song in C-major, the melody starts E-G-C (a C major arpeggio, but started from the E, the third) then shifts to B, while simultaneous the chord played underneath changes to G maj (G-B-D) -  again the B is the third of that chord.

So the first two 'motives' (First 2 bars: E G C B//B C-A B-G) start on the third of the respective chord, and the emphasis is on the fourth beat, rather than the first - that's not that easy for an unpractised singer (I could imagine it's more confusing if he actually already has a feel for the key he's in - his feeling will tell him "major chord", while what he's supposed to sing is the third of that chord, instead of the root)

I have to admit that I also found that a bit confusing until I had a look at the score.

« Last Edit: 26 Apr 2017, 19:38 by Case »
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Re: Learning to sing. Advice, please?
« Reply #6 on: 27 Apr 2017, 08:53 »

The pitch matching is improving, mirabile dictu. It was something worse than not tracking that particular song, it was and sometimes still is a matter of not tracking a scale.

This is an interesting experience. What I feel lighting up are the foreign-language areas of my brain.

Case, that's brilliant, and it's going to help! It's a communications handicap not to understand basic vocabulary like "major third".
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Re: Learning to sing. Advice, please?
« Reply #7 on: 27 Apr 2017, 09:10 »

Do you have Android or iOS devices?  The Apple store has some basic but useful-looking apps, such as:
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/relative-pitch-free-interval-ear-training-intervals/id315130701?mt=8
which I found by Googling "app for understanding musical intervals".
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Re: Learning to sing. Advice, please?
« Reply #8 on: 27 Apr 2017, 20:56 »

One of each. Thanks for the link, I've already started using it.
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Re: Learning to sing. Advice, please?
« Reply #9 on: 28 Apr 2017, 06:22 »

I think that the advantage and disadvantage of being an adult music learner is that very clear idea in our head of what we want to achieve. It helps our focus, which only partly compensates for the lack of elasticity we had when we were young, but on the other hand, can cause embarrassment and frustration when we fall seemingly so far short. If you can accept that you will fall short for the time being and simply observe how close you are, then maybe you can profit from the advantages that come from that knowledge. Case, I think, had great advice. Keep it playful and don't try too hard, or you will strangle it.

The best thing you can do is practice at least a little every day. Trying to make up for lost days by practicing more on the other days doesn't really work.

I am not a singer, but as a string player, my teacher would have me practice intervals via what we would charmingly call 'vomits' - that is, sliding from one note to the other. The key, he suggested, was not to try to make little adjustments when you realise that you were a bit off. Just notice how much you were off and in what direction, then try again. In time you could simply do the shift without the slide. It seemed to work reasonably well, but I have no idea whether that approach works for singing as well. Maybe not.
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Re: Learning to sing. Advice, please?
« Reply #10 on: 28 Apr 2017, 15:39 »

It's a communications handicap not to understand basic vocabulary like "major third".

That's the easy part - I can try to explain myself, or you could get "The New Harmony Theory", by Frank Haunschild (2.75$ on Amazon). That's the book I used when I prepared for auditioning at Arnhem Conservatory (Don't worry, it starts "right at the beginning". There's a 2nd volume for more advanced stuff, but you won't need that now).

It's really accessible - I had the standard music classes mandatory at German Gymnasium, but found them insanely boring and didn't learn a thing. 30 minutes with this book, and I was all "This is easy! And it's fun! How did this jerk manage not to teach us this really useful stuff in four years of class?"

An eye-opener, to put it mildly. (Of course, one always learns easier and faster with a personal goal in mind, but still ...)

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Re: Learning to sing. Advice, please?
« Reply #11 on: 06 May 2017, 00:45 »

Thank you, I have a copy now.

This is like learning a motor skill and a foreign language at the same time.
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Re: Learning to sing. Advice, please?
« Reply #12 on: 14 Nov 2017, 11:09 »

Apparent success. After the duet a couple of musicians suggested that I should continue to pursue singing.
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