on singing while playing the cello (part 2)…

Jon Silpayamanant singing with il Troubadore at Tribal Revolutions Bellydance Festival in Chicago (June 2010)

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.

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Performance: Indianapolis Artsgarden

Carenza and il Troubadore
Carenza bint Asya (u.l.) with il Troubadore: Robert Bruce Scott (u.r.) & Jon Silpayamanant (bottom)

If you are reading this, it’s because it was written earlier today and set to future post as I will be performing at the Indianapolis Artsgarden in Indianapolis when this autoposts.  The group I’ll be playing with is one I co-founded with vocalist and mandolinist, Robert Bruce Scott, in May of 2004, il Troubadore.

We’ll be performing with one of our most frequent and long term collaborators bellydancer, Carenza bint Asya, in one of the coolest venues in Indianapolis.  Basically, it’s a giant glass dome settled above Washington and Illinois Street in downtown Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis Artsgarden provides a magnificent environment for more than 300 free performances and exhibits each year. The Artsgarden also houses the Cultural Concierge, a centralized source for free maps, ticket information, visitor guides, directions and more for Indianapolis arts events. The facility is available for rental to non-profit, corporate and government organizations, as well as for wedding receptions. Owned and operated by the Arts Council of Indianapolis, this seven-story-tall glass enclosed structure offers a spectacular view of the city.

Built in 1995, the Indianapolis Artsgarden stands 17 feet above the intersection of Washington and Illinois streets and connects to the Embassy Suites complex, the Conrad Hotel, and Circle Centre Mall. It is linked by the indoor skywalk to the Hyatt Regency, Canterbury, Omni, Westin, Marriott and the Indianapolis Convention Center.

Indianapolis Artsgarden

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