If you can sing it, you can play it

If you can sing it, you can play it

There have been several discussions recently about how to learn tunes, phrasing, ears vs. dots, etc… I came across this today and I think it relates to parts of those discussions. I know, its not ITM, but it sure is a great example about turning what you can sing into what you play. I love the way Isaac Stern talks to the violin student - so encouraging and enthusiastic. And she seems to get it, too. Very nice.

(The video is down the page a ways)


Re: If you can sing it, you can play it

John, that video gave me goosebumps. That’s exactly the point of singing the music in your head. What a brave young woman she was, and Mr. Stern was masterful, not just on the violin but reaching everyone’s humanity across a significant cultural divide. Wonderful stuff. I’ll pass this on to my music students. Thanks for the link!

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Re: If you can sing it, you can play it

That was wonderful. I’m going to look for that documentary on netflix. The world needs more great music teachers.

I did have one qualm with the article though. Quote:

"This October Beijing will commemorate that visit with a concert by the China Philharmonic to honor Mr. Stern, who died in 2001 at 81, and to pay tribute to the remarkable strides this country has made in music since then."

I realize they mean the "remarkable strides" in classical music. And sure that’s great, but it sounds like they’re saying, "thank goodness we brought them classical music, they had crap for music before."

Re: If you can sing it, you can play it

"thank goodness we brought them classical music…"

Does that mean my local Chinese restaraunt can stop playing that CD they always put on with someone singing Danny Boy in Chinese? I blame Paddy Moloney.


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Re: If you can sing it, you can play it

What a great teacher he is. Just a minute or two of that video could make a big difference to a lot of players.

Re: If you can sing it, you can play it

But, on a more pessimistic note, I would have called this thread "If you can’t sing it, you can’t play it."

Re: If you can sing it, you can play it

It seems to me rather obvious, regardless of the range you might be accustomed to with your own voice.

For myself, I have a very bass voice yet I play fiddle; still I imagine and play tunes according to the phraseing induced by my singing of said tune I seek to play.

Breaking down the barrier between one’s imagination of a tune and the physical execution of it appears like an evident aspect of playing any music.

Re: If you can sing it, you can play it

I heard the corollary ("you can’t really play it until you can sing it") 30-plus years ago, from a skilled guitarist. Three factors involved here, maybe:
1. Your voice is not a machine; you can’t get the right note by just pushing a button or whatever, instead you have to feel it.
2. Because there’s no external mechanism, you have to memorize the notes internally—know them "by heart."
3. The voice was the original musical instrument—so the closer you get to vocal-like phrasing, the more musical it sounds.

Re: If you can sing it, you can play it


>> It seems to me rather obvious <<

Yeah, but nothing is so obvious that everyone gets it.

Re: If you can sing it, you can play it

DaveL35, amen to that. Just look at popular "culture," politics, eating habits, various belief systems unsupported by rational evidence, etc. etc.

Thank goodness for good tunes, without them I don’t know what I would do.

Re: If you can sing it, you can play it

this thread header is the ‘answer’ we’ve all been looking for and Mr. Stern, fair play to him, makes the process seem so naturally easy

the thing is it ‘is’ unbeliavably easy _ once you’ve got the confidence to act on that simple thought in your mind, namley ‘the tune’ and it’s the human uttering of it (your way) that will pass it to the instrument in hand, nothing to do with the actual instrument and how that’s supposed to sound, but only ‘the way you hear it ’ at the instance you play it is what will come out

remember the instrument is not doing it for you, it’s directly from your mind and the instrument is the ‘vechicle’ you’re driving, everyone starts with L-plates and that’s the compulsary learning curve, no escape and we are probably locked insde this realm for the rest of our lives

but what a realm

Re: If you can sing it, you can play it

another thing that i’ve just remembered is Sean Casey advising me years ago (when attempting a tune on the guitar) to ‘play the value of the note’ _ surley the soundest statement for the learning of any tune

Re: If you can sing it, you can play it

Years ago I was at a Bulgarian music workshop taught by Hector Bezanis, the fine gaida maker and player.

Bulgarian dance tunes are often in metres which are strange to us (but not evidently to Bulgarians) such as

Paidushko 2+3 /8 (or 5/8)
Rutchenitsa 2+2+3 /8 or 3+2+2 /8 (or 7/8)
Daichovo 2+2+2+3 /8 (or 9/8, completely different from the Irish 3+3+3 /8 "slip jig" 9/8)
Kopanitsa 2+2+3+2+2 /8 (or 11/8)
Bushimish 2+2+2+2+3+2+2 /8 (or 15/8)
and the strangest I’ve come across
Sandansko horo 2+2+2+3+2+2+2+3+2+2 /8 (or 22/8)

Anyhow we all show up at the workshop and Hector has us put our instruments away, explaining that these Bulgarian "additive rythms" are often difficult for newbies to play, but not difficult to SING.

So we sat around and SANG the tune Hector was teaching, over and over. I don’t think we ever got out instruments that first day.