Singing is not very different from playing an instrument. Your posture, breathing, vocal folds and muscle memory work together just the way an instrument does. So why should an aspiring vocalist strive to learn to play an instrument?
Playing a musical instrument can be helpful for a vocalist in a lot of ways. In a nutshell, it is different from singing. As there are no definite frets or keys, it is quite easy to go off-pitch or make a mistake in singing which could go unidentified. If you know how to play an instrument, there is a high chance you will notice such deviations.
Here are the top reasons why you might want to learn an instrument if you want to succeed as a singer:
It strengthens your basics: A large number of people consider singing talent to be something that is inborn or acquired. There are several popular singers topping the charts without even knowing the basics of singing or music theory. Sure enough, tonnes of aspiring singers are following in their footsteps.
However, if you are serious about the art, you must invest time learning the basics and practising them. If you pick an instrument, it will just re-establish your understanding of music theory. Understanding the difference of a half-note can often prevent you from going flat while singing.
It trains your ears: It is fairly obvious that a singer who can play an instrument has actively worked on ear-training. Listening to a note and playing it on your instrument by yourself definitely trains you to be precise.
If you choose to learn the guitar, for example, you will be able to tell if your strings are not in tune. The process of learning an instrument is such that it allows ear training to happen. Although it does happen in vocal training too, the voice is not a calibrated instrument. You might not be able to always tell if you are hitting the exact note. But with an instrument, it becomes clear, that in pursuit of being precise you do end up being precise in singing too.
It helps you master rhythm and harmony: A common struggle among singers who have never played an instrument is the effort it might take to develop a sense of rhythm. It is a skill that gets overlooked quite often, once the correctness of pitch and a wide range is achieved. To not speed up or slow down during a performance is a subtle, yet crucial skill to have.
Playing an instrument undoubtedly takes care of this issue. Whether you are playing the drums or the guitar or the keyboard, you will be practising with a metronome. As your timing becomes perfect, you internalise this sense of rhythm. After a point, it is so well established that as a singer, you do not have to even actively think about the count.
Another benefit of playing an instrument like the keys or the guitar is understanding harmonies. As these instruments involve playing chords, you learn their structure in detail.
A chord usually has three notes playing at the same time, which have a harmonic relationship. An easy way to begin singing harmonies is to know which note the main melody is at and then sing one of the other two notes in the chord. All of this comes easy if you know how to play the chord.
It allows you to perform and practise by yourself: Something as simple as a guitar or a keyboard can be a great addition to your practice routine. Doing so is an easy and interactive method of training yourself to stay in the key and hit the right notes. It also makes it super fun to be able to play while singing during practice.
Apart from that, there might be occasions when you have to show your singing skills impromptu. If there is a guitar lying around, you can grab it and play it along. If an event books you to perform solo, or if you are busking by yourself, you can still pull it off. This is a great way to be ready to perform, anytime, anywhere. It cuts down on the dependency on accompanists.
It makes you a better songwriter: It is the best time for singer-songwriters to flourish in the independent music scene. The obvious advantage they have over singers is the appreciation and recognition for the song-writing. It goes on to become a niche or a style that the fan base starts to recognise.
Having such recognition is a sure way to success. Being able to write good songs needs a certain amount of musical knowledge and a comfort level with an instrument like the guitar or the keys. Singers who do not play can get trapped in the limited world of melodies. If you only depend on your voice, you might not be able to imagine how the main melody will sound against the chords.
Song-writing is much more than just composing a melody; it is about creating an emotion or a mood. An understanding of musical instruments allows you to explore the full potential of your musicality and write songs that truly stand out.
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