Pianists and singers often rely on each other professionally – singers hire accompanists for shows and auditions, and pianists pay the bills by collaborating with pop singers, bands, worship groups, and classical singers. But that doesn’t mean that you, a vocalist, shouldn’t reach some degree of proficiency at the keyboard.
Here are some reasons why singers should spend some time getting to know the piano, and how exactly you can reach that goal.
Do Singers Need To Be Familiar With The Keyboard?
You don’t have to play the piano to be a tremendous vocalist, but it can certainly take your musicianship to the next level.
Learn Your Music Faster
If you’re handed a difficult score to learn, you may not be able to quickly pick the notes out by ear. Take Missy Mazzoli’s Vespers For a New Dark Age, for instance – her music is rapidly gaining popularity, and you may have to sing that one day! But it’s horribly challenging to sing by ear.
If you can sit down at the keyboard with your music and quickly play out your notes, you’ll be far ahead of your peers who need to listen to phrases over and over again.
Vocalize Effectively On Your Own
Singers and pianists know that the first five minutes of a lesson are often reserved for warming up (vocalizing). Wouldn’t it be nice to vocalize with the help of a piano at home, even when your accompanist is not around?
This will help you with a couple of important things:
- Modulate from key to key accurately while you are warming up
- Hold pitch perfectly – over time, your pitch will improve to the point that you are hardly ever sharp or flat
Play Simple Accompaniments On Your Own
It’s no secret that the piano accompaniment to Sara Bareilles’ chart topping hit “Love Song” is extremely simple. It’s basically a few triads (three-note chords) moving in stepwise motion. But her fans still think she’s spectacular for playing the piano and singing at the same time.
If you can play some rudimentary piano while you sing for an audience, you will excite the crowd, infuse your performance with energy, and possibly get more gigs. You will also enjoy practicing on your own to a greater extent.
You’ll Work With Collaborative Pianists More Effectively
Considering how often singers work with pianists, it’s worth considering that singers would get more out of those partnerships if they too had a solid understanding of the piano. Singers with piano knowledge can communicate with their collaborative pianist at a deeper level, get more out of rehearsals, and enjoy performances more as a result.
The good news is that you don’t need to be an expert or pay a local piano teacher to learn the basics – here are some ways for you to gain a rudimentary understanding of the piano.
How Singers Can Learn Piano On Their Own
Download Simply Piano App
Simply Piano by JoyTunes is an easy-to-use app that teaches you how to play the piano from the ground up. The free version offers you a simple Piano Basics course in which you will learn five notes on the keyboard and apply them to your right hand with the tune Ode To Joy. You can work through this in a few days, and you’ll already be able to aid your vocal practice at home.
If you progress to the paid version of the app (which costs over $100 per year), you will learn all of the notes, rhythms, sharps, flats, scales, and more. You will also learn how to read lead sheets, play chord accompaniments to pop tunes, and many other practical applications of the piano.
Buy Alfred’s Basic Adult All-in-One Course, Book 1
If you’d prefer working through a book instead of staring at your phone even more than you already do, Alfred’s Adult Piano Course is your best option. The Faber method is popular among those who teach children the piano, but Alfred presents basic piano material in a mature, no-nonsense manner. You can take your own pace, and you will be able to make progress without a teacher.
Invest In an Electric Keyboard Or Digital Piano
You don’t have to drop big money on a piano to practice at home. You can purchase a fun, flexible roll up piano keyboard, an affordable but high quality Casio digital keyboard, or a high end Yamaha Clavinova if you’d like to get serious at home.
Any of these options will allow you to learn the notes, practice scales, and play chords.
Unlock New Possibilities By Gaining Proficiency At The Piano
Take Vancouver-based commercial singer and musical theatre coach (and founder of Courtenay Ennis Vocal Studio) Courtenay Ennis, for example – he has toured with multiple commercial bands, directed numerous stage productions, and coached hundreds of singers in part because he is a “dual-threat.” He is able to play the piano along with his own voice lessons, increase his professional opportunities because of his ability at the piano, and accompany his own shows if he chooses.
If you’re a singer who would like to level up professionally or musically, consider gaining proficiency at the piano. Like learning a language, it will take some time – but the reward is more than worth the effort.