This is a topic I explored a little bit in a past blog post but what got me thinking about it again was an experience during a lesson I was giving last week.
One of my students, who also plays in a rock band (electric bass guitar), brought his bass to the lesson as it was left in the student’s parent’s car after a gig the student did the previous night (the other parent was picking the student up after the lesson, hence my office being the transfer space). Yes, I’m being deliberately vague with the student and parent’s gender in the interest of protecting privacy.
We talked a bit about the band the student plays in and I asked about the other members (drums, guitar, vocals–standard instrumentation). But I remarked about the vocalist being, well, a vocalist but not also playing an instrument. The student says that occasionally the drummer won’t be able to make it rehearsals or gigs and the singer, who can also play guitar and drums will sometimes drum while singing–doing it with some difficulty.
So we started talking the mechanics of singing while playing and I eventually asked whether the student has tried to sing while playing to which the response was yes while also indicating difficulty doing both at the same time. The student said inevitably either the cello line or the vocals will be lost.
So I ended up giving some pointers in singing while playing. I talked about the levels of difficulty between doing pizzicato or bowing while singing and that for some types of playing the difference is negligible (e.g. repetitive rhythms or ostinatos) while doing sustained bowing of melodies or harmonies while singing a sustained line can often be the most difficult of all. The student only seemed mildly interested until I demonstrated all the differences with songs I sing and play–after the first tune, the student’s eyes grew wide in what was, for all intents and purposes, slack-jawed awe.