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Singing As a Help To the Piano-forte Student.

It is commonly remarked that one performer plays with soul and depth of feeling while another plays emotionless and without expression. Singing often stirs the emotions more than instrumental music, but there are performers on the piano who move every fibre of the soul. We are to look for the lack of expression in two directions. First, from the too prevalent method of confining the pupil to keys, fingering and notes—mechanism—rather than using these as a means to an end,—to express emotion—thereby smothering the musical talent of the pupil and developing a machine player, from looking at and studying everything from the technical side only.

The second, from the lack of natural talent, or taste for music; but there is less in this second reason than is generally supposed.

To play a note on the piano-forte, the performer need do nothing but simply put down the desired key, and lazily accept the result, for the pianist has all the intervals correctly fixed in his instrument by the tuner, without the aid of his own ear; but in singing, the tone is from the inner consciousness and has to be adjusted in pitch and quality by heart, brain and ear, in advance of its performance. Hence, singing develops musical talent and taste, and the power to perform with expression, real music in comparison with the too common mechanical playing of keys and notes.

The performer, to stir the emotions of his listeners, must feel the effect and think the music in advance of his playing, and this is better done by those who sing as well as play. The greatest necessity for the pianist is an Artistic Legato touch and this is essentially vocal in its effect, and is best and soonest acquired by the piano pupil who gives a part of his time to the study of vocal music.

The ear must be trained to be sensitive and delicate in its appreciation of pitch, quality and color of tone; this, the singer has. to do with every note sung, while in mere piano playing, each and all of the above qualities are too frequently neglected.

A lifeless and expressionless performing is only heard from those who have never cultivated these essentials of music, pitch, quality and tone color. In fact, many of the failures in music come from just this lack that the study of singing will supply. Furthermore, there is a certain swing and flow of the rhythm, and even pulsation of accent, that bears up the performer and on which he leans or floats, and this valuable means of expression is best developed through the voice. And even and steady time is often lacked by pianists. This is best corrected in enthusiastic and spirited chorus singing, where they can learn to recognize and distinctly feel the bearing up influence of the rhythm. Rhythm is the bone, muscle and body of music.

The qualities mentioned above are those that give this body life, beauty and the power to influence others. Piano pupils should learn to sing whether they have a good voice or not, because of the quickening, developing and improving influence on musical talent and taste.

Schumann says: “Exert yourself, even though you have but little voice, to sing at sight, without the help of your instrument; by this means the quickness of your ear will constantly increase. But if you have a good voice, neglect no opportunity of cultivating it; consider it as the most valuable gift that heaven has conferred on you.”

Besides the points above noted, singing cultivates the emotions and this is as valuable as the cultivation of the intellect.

For a summing up, we find that singing develops a correct taste, the sensitive ear to pitch, quality and color of tone; it develops musical talent, the ability to bring out the inner meaning of a piece with feeling, and an artistic expression.

The faculty to comprehend music in advance of its performance and the cultivation of the emotions, all of the above as a help in instrumental music. But to sing even moderately well is an accomplishment highly desirable for every one who enjoys music; it makes home happier and better, it is of use in church and social life, and one of the greatest and purest delights to the singer himself.  Chas. W. Landon.

 

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