by Joshua, Voice Coach at Sono
There are often multiple debates surrounding the relationship between piano and singing. The central, most discussed argument is ‘do singers needs to learn piano as well?’. There is a general consensus that ‘yes’, singers do indeed need to learn the piano. But to what level? Do they need professional lessons; and if so, for how long? Answering a few of the big ones can lead you in the right direction to choosing whether or not you should take up the piano!
All singers will benefit from having rudimentary piano skills. Knowing note names, chords, being able to read and play a melody, and being competent enough to warm yourself or others up are the very elementary things a singer should be able to do on a piano. Having enough theoretical and practical knowledge to accomplish these tasks is acquired usually through school music programs or taking piano lessons as a child. If you have a singing teacher, it can be a lot easier to understand how warm-ups work, and asking them to help you understand the names of keys on a piano can aid you in becoming proficient with some simple but invaluable skills.
For the singer who wishes to extend a little further and reach higher goals, there are a few ways to achieve this. Taking piano lessons is a great way to start, beginning with simple technique and progressing gradually; over time it is a lot easier to accompany yourself with basic chords. Lessons in piano will expose you to new music theory terms and challenges, which improves your general knowledge. If you become competent enough on the piano, you may be able to fully accompany yourself for piano/vocal repertoire!
Many people start out taking piano lessons, and then add vocals to their skill set. A famous example of this is the talented Billy Joel; not only is he a stellar singer and internationally known, but he is also a Classical Pianist, having being raised by a classically trained father, studying it in his youth, and going on to release classical piano albums. Alicia Keys too, the famous songstress from New York, took classical piano lessons as a youth and these have heavily influenced a range of her tracks and compositional techniques. If you’re someone who has had some Classical training on the keyboard in the past, it is easier to restart lessons and refresh your memory.
Again, understanding simple concepts such as playing a chord progression, identifying notes, and playing melodies can be beneficial to your vocal growth. Other things which you can practice to enhance your skills on the instrument can include learning scales and key signatures, practicing arpeggios and attempting to play nursery rhymes/simple folk tunes.It’s normal to be apprehensive about starting an instrument; the fear of embarrassment is a genuine one! Trust me, we all make mistakes! Don’t stress too much about it; you only need the basics on piano to get by as a singer. Asking a pianist friend to show you some tips can be instantly helpful if you are feeling stuck, and as was mentioned before, deciding to start having lessons can only have positive effects! You don’t even have to take Classical lessons; there are so many teachers out there who are willing to cater to what you want to learn, and there are programs a syllabi which can guide in learning all that you need to!
As you learn whatever level of piano you decide is necessary for you, you will develop some new skills. Listening to, and comprehending, harmonies will become easier. You won’t need to pay for someone to accompany you (if you are that dedicated). Vocally, as you accompany yourself, you may experiment and increase your creativity in the pieces you sing. As you grow in confidence, you will find that there are a range of songs that allow you to play and sing simultaneously, expanding your horizons! Finally, you may discover you have an originality streak, and may decide that writing songs is for you!
The benefits, no matter what level you study piano at, will definitely appear. Your singing will show positive improvements, and you’ll thank the day you decided to take a chance and sit on that stool and try to play ‘Chopsticks’!