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Piano student with impaired vocal chords (cannot sing) (Read 3248 times)

Offline abedker

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Piano student with impaired vocal chords (cannot sing)
« on: July 26, 2015, 06:30:28 PM »
I am about to being teaching a 6-year old (beginner) student who has impaired vocal cords. This student cannot sing, and speaks in a vocal-fry (has a trach tube). Her vocal cords literally cannot touch when she speaks.

Part of my teaching philosophy is that students should learn to sing what they play, as well as audiate/inner hear melodic patterns as part of their aural skills. Is the ability to inner-hear in any way affected by the ability or inability to sing? Because this student is young I want to begin with aural skills as opposed to strictly music reading.

Has anyone had experience with this, and have any suggestions? Any resources or research you could point me to would be helpful as well. Thanks.

Offline pencilart3

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Re: Piano student with impaired vocal chords (cannot sing)
«Reply #1 on: July 28, 2015, 02:47:28 AM »
have any suggestions?

I have a suggestion. Change your teaching philosophy.
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Offline anamnesis

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Re: Piano student with impaired vocal chords (cannot sing)
«Reply #2 on: July 29, 2015, 03:52:21 PM »
I have a suggestion. Change your teaching philosophy.

Er... why should the OP do so?

The ability to audiate is one of the key skills of musicianship.  Obviously the student will be unable to sing, so the OP is looking for alternatives means to instill the ability to audiate. Singing is just usually one of the easiest ways to train part (but not all) of the skill. 


Offline pencilart3

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Re: Piano student with impaired vocal chords (cannot sing)
«Reply #3 on: July 29, 2015, 05:08:00 PM »
I never sang once in the 10 years I have had piano lessons, I'm doing just fine.
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Offline keypeg

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Re: Piano student with impaired vocal chords (cannot sing)
«Reply #4 on: July 29, 2015, 07:03:01 PM »
I have read concerns by some teachers about the idea of including singing in piano lessons - there were a few reasons given.  This also includes concerns by vocal teachers, since singing also involves singing technique.  When a piano teacher includes singing, is there enough knowledge to train technique?  The other concern involves piano itself - namely that nobody can cover even a goodly portion of the range of a piano.  Therefore you must sing (an) octave(s) below or above.  C2 is not C4 is not C6.  Personally, I'm overcoming a tendency to not notice which octave the music is in, and when young I had the habit of singing the notes without regard to this part of it.

In any case, the OP does use singing in his or her teaching, so this does present a problem, since singing can't be used.

Offline dogperson

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Re: Piano student with impaired vocal chords (cannot sing)
«Reply #5 on: July 29, 2015, 08:13:28 PM »
Maybe you as a teacher, sing it two different ways?  One flat or wrong phrasing, etc, and one preferred?  Have the student choose and then transfer the decision to the keyboard. 

Offline anamnesis

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Re: Piano student with impaired vocal chords (cannot sing)
«Reply #6 on: July 30, 2015, 10:09:24 AM »
I never sang once in the 10 years I have had piano lessons, I'm doing just fine.

It's not just about the piano, but general musicianship. Serious musicians need to get to the point that they can look at a score, no matter how complicated, and understand nearly exactly how it sounds (not just some vague notion) without touching the instrument once or even having heard the music prior.  If you can do that at the same level or even beyond of the music you are working with, good for you.  For most people, it takes a bit of training to do this skill, and sight-singing/solfege is one of the tools used to learn how to do this.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Piano student with impaired vocal chords (cannot sing)
«Reply #7 on: July 31, 2015, 04:03:35 PM »
Serious musicians need to get to the point that they can look at a score, no matter how complicated, and understand nearly exactly how it sounds


 For most people, it takes a bit of training to do this skill, and sight-singing/solfege is one of the tools used to learn how to do this.

It is the rare person who can sing more than one melody line at a time.  (outside of anna-marie: 
  )

It is the rare piece of music after beginner level that doesn't have more than one line at a time. 

Sightsinging is useful to me, as most of my time is spent on a monotonic brass instrument, where thinking the pitch before playing is essential.  But that ability doesn't transfer easily to looking at a 4 part hymn and hearing what it would sound like - that's a separate mental process. 
Tim

Offline anamnesis

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Re: Piano student with impaired vocal chords (cannot sing)
«Reply #8 on: July 31, 2015, 06:07:31 PM »
It is the rare person who can sing more than one melody line at a time.  (outside of anna-marie: 
  )

It is the rare piece of music after beginner level that doesn't have more than one line at a time. 

Sightsinging is useful to me, as most of my time is spent on a monotonic brass instrument, where thinking the pitch before playing is essential.  But that ability doesn't transfer easily to looking at a 4 part hymn and hearing what it would sound like - that's a separate mental process. 

Sight-singing isn't necessarily the same thing as audiation, but it does help train it. 

In terms of comprehending multiple parts...

Its difficult if you primarily understand music ala Rameau.  Easier if you understand music ala Schenker or Westergaard, and consisently train yourself to hear music that way. 

Contrary to popular belief, music is a process, not a juxtaposed series of fuzzy, vertical slabs:

=208



Offline keypeg

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Re: Piano student with impaired vocal chords (cannot sing)
«Reply #9 on: August 01, 2015, 02:48:28 PM »
Anemnesis, I agree with what is presented in your link.  But I don't think that it involves what Tim was saying, which is simply that if singing is for the purpose of hearing the music before you play it - you can't really sing what you hear in piano music.  At best, if there is a single melody with an accompaniment, you can sing that melody .... assuming that you have that range in your voice, and hopefully won't strain your vocal chords.

Your link makes some very important points.  Theory tends to be taught as this dry subject, divorced from music during "music theory study time", and it is often taught totally in the context of Roman Numeral chords.  What Dr. Laitz is saying is very important.  I wouldn't want to mix it together with whether one can sing piano music, which is a different issue.

Offline anamnesis

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Re: Piano student with impaired vocal chords (cannot sing)
«Reply #10 on: August 01, 2015, 03:26:47 PM »
Anemnesis, I agree with what is presented in your link.  But I don't think that it involves what Tim was saying, which is simply that if singing is for the purpose of hearing the music before you play it - you can't really sing what you hear in piano music.  At best, if there is a single melody with an accompaniment, you can sing that melody .... assuming that you have that range in your voice, and hopefully won't strain your vocal chords.

Your link makes some very important points.  Theory tends to be taught as this dry subject, divorced from music during "music theory study time", and it is often taught totally in the context of Roman Numeral chords.  What Dr. Laitz is saying is very important.  I wouldn't want to mix it together with whether one can sing piano music, which is a different issue.

Tim was arguing that being able to audiate 4-part harmony involves a separate mental process than the melodic audiation that can be trained by sight-singing. 

I argue that it is not.  It may be more complex, but it is not fundamentally different.  It's only different if you consider harmony a completely separate musical phenomena independent of the lines of which music is constructed.  It's only, different if you consider hearing in vertical slabs as fundamental to music, rather than the shortcut it actually is. 

It stems from the fact that for some reason music students are trained to think in terms of this:

https://mathemusicality.files.wordpress.com/2007/08/proganal2.png

Rather than this:
https://mathemusicality.files.wordpress.com/2007/08/proganal1.png

The blog makes a similar point about how students are essentially being trained in an aural shortcut:

Quote
Actually, one of my biggest complaints about the traditional music curriculum is that it doesn’t start at the beginning. Almost immediately after learning clefs, key signatures, and the like, a student is expected to manipulate four-voice counterpoint! Under these circumstances, is it any wonder that aural skills classes tend to be a nightmare?

In fact, the main use of Roman numerals seems to be as a method of cheating on dictation exercises. We in effect say “Look, we know that at this stage in your training, you can’t possibly be expected to accurately parse these complicated textures by ear. So here are some common ‘formulae’ to memorize–chances are, the person at the piano is playing a version of one of these, so you can use this information to have a better chance of transcribing the passage accurately.” Why bother with such a roundabout way of ear training? Why not start with a single voice, and only after mastering that moving on to two, three, and so on? (Why are students virtually never asked to do “partwriting” in two voices? Shouldn’t that be a prerequisite to doing it in four?)

https://mathemusicality.wordpress.com/2007/07/27/music-pedagogy-continued/

Shortcuts are fine, but they need to be recognized as such and not as something more fundamental. 

Offline keypeg

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Re: Piano student with impaired vocal chords (cannot sing)
«Reply #11 on: August 01, 2015, 06:09:13 PM »
I believe that Tim was talking only about the physical impossibility of singing piano music, because the idea of singing piano music usually has the idea of a single melodic line with harmony.  I understand with what you are saying and agree with it.  I suspect it's a different topic, however.

I am a natural singer and my first abilities are around audiating as a singer.  That includes hearing four part harmony, following the four voices simultaneously along their individual melodic lines.  In fact, that's what I thought everybody did until I learned differently.  My own quest has gone toward hearing chord qualities, progressions, the shimmering colours as one moves into the other - and I'd like to stress that this is not  along Roman numeral systems though I have studied that in the past.  I have that quest personally because of my own areas of strength and weakness - which are probably the opposite of most people who primarily work with piano.

Offline anamnesis

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Re: Piano student with impaired vocal chords (cannot sing)
«Reply #12 on: August 01, 2015, 09:11:58 PM »
I believe that Tim was talking only about the physical impossibility of singing piano music, because the idea of singing piano music usually has the idea of a single melodic line with harmony.  I understand with what you are saying and agree with it.  I suspect it's a different topic, however.

I am a natural singer and my first abilities are around audiating as a singer.  That includes hearing four part harmony, following the four voices simultaneously along their individual melodic lines.  In fact, that's what I thought everybody did until I learned differently.  My own quest has gone toward hearing chord qualities, progressions, the shimmering colours as one moves into the other - and I'd like to stress that this is not  along Roman numeral systems though I have studied that in the past.  I have that quest personally because of my own areas of strength and weakness - which are probably the opposite of most people who primarily work with piano.

My post was in response to this part:

Quote
But that ability doesn't transfer easily to looking at a 4 part hymn and hearing what it would sound like - that's a separate mental process.

I just don't think that they are separate mental processes at all, but the way it is traditionally taught implies such.

Offline keypeg

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Re: Piano student with impaired vocal chords (cannot sing)
«Reply #13 on: August 02, 2015, 01:21:01 AM »
I see what you are saying now.  I think I'll let Tim write in about this, and what he might have meant.  I probably share thoughts that are similar to yours on the traditional teaching of theory.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Piano student with impaired vocal chords (cannot sing)
«Reply #14 on: August 03, 2015, 01:11:34 PM »
I am very interested in the topics of sightsinging and audiation.

I hope that I have not appeared dogmatic in my opinions.  I do not have a clear idea of what is really involved, despite a good bit of discussion and reading.  Conventional wisdom that is presented is not very convincing to me. 

Here is what I observe: 
Many people say singing is essential to learning piano.
Most people I know that can play piano decently are not good at sightsinging. 
Many people in vocal choirs, including my daughter and some in our church choir, sing very well but read music poorly if at all.  There is more than one path to singing. 

Here is what I think I've observed:
I sightsing very well, usually much better than the music majors we hire to sing with our choir.
I have yet to meet a confident vocal sightreader that is not also an instrumentalist.  Not saying they can't exist, but in my experience they are rare.   
My sightsing has improved with adding more theory knowledge.
My sightsinging is best at familiar genres - tonal SATB hymns are a snap, contemporary syncopated pieces are more challenging, modal pieces throw me until I realize what's going on and practice the mode, atonal modern pieces are really hard. 

Audiation is very important to me while playing trombone.  Unlike piano, merely having the right fingering does not give the right note.  In that respect it is like singing.  However the process of audiation does not seem to be quite the same. 

My audiation for a monotonic melody within a customary range, say F below the bass clef to 3rd space C within the treble clef is good.  (my trombone range extends to the F on top of the treble, but my performances never require anything above the C, I'm not a jazzer.)
My multipart audiation is poor particularly for chords, it's a little better for counterpoint.

What I think, subject to change:
Sightsinging is a good check on audiation, but does not teach it directly.  And it is possible to sightsing without audiation, but less common (but some instrumentalists do it). 

Multipart audiation is an extension of monotonic audiation but is not learned by sightsinging, and sightsinging is not a good check.  (obviously) 

Audiation may not be that necessary or even useful to playing piano by reading music; those who play mostly by ear (not me!  wish I were better at it) may have a different approach.

Audiation is improved by listening to recordings while following along in a score, and by transcribing.     

 
 
Tim