Playing and Singing at the Same Time

Posted: 2/8/2009 2:24:22 AM

From: Chillicothe, Ohio USA

Joined: 1/29/2009

I started out by singing and playing simple chorales and church hymns. Choose pieces that are not rhythmically complex and that exhibit solid voice leading. It would also be advisable to start with pieces that don't have many leaps larger than a 3rd.
Posted: 2/8/2009 4:24:01 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Oh dear. Now I'm so sad that I'll miss WT3. :-(

I know you're going to have a great time. :-)

I expect a full report!
Posted: 2/8/2009 11:40:01 AM

From: Chillicothe, Ohio USA

Joined: 1/29/2009

I will be posting lots of pictures on my myspace page, and I will certainly be writing quite a bit about my experiences. The only wrinkle in my plas thusfar is that I was not informed that I would have to apply to renew my passport by mail until after I got my money order, and the cost differs by $25, so I have to take my only day off next week, Tuesday, to sort everything out. I am expediting the processing just to be on the safe side. I will still have 4 weeks by the time it reaches the passport folks, and it only takes two weeks, so I feel confident it will turn out okay. I am also purchasing my plane ticket on Tuesday after withdrawing a good chunk of my savings--oh, financial joy!
Posted: 2/8/2009 7:26:07 PM
Brian R

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 10/7/2005

Just a note that the pianist Easley Blackwood, who taught at the University of Chicago, reportedly could perform two-part inventions by whistling one part and singing the other.

Posted: 2/10/2009 8:58:35 PM

From: Chillicothe, Ohio USA

Joined: 1/29/2009

I checked out an interview with Easley Blackwood. He seems to be a bit of a Classical music elitist. He also admits to being held back by perfect pitch, that he could always hear specific notes and recognize them before he could understand their function and/or position in any given chord. Interesting stuff.
Posted: 6/24/2009 1:59:12 PM

From: Albany, NY, US

Joined: 6/15/2009

I think I know what he means about being held back by perfect pitch. I think the fact that I had perfect pitch held back my development of a relative pitch sense (although I have that now).

It's particularly interesting with that attitude to perfect pitch that Blackwood was the guy who wrote the microtonal etudes for the RCA synthesizer (in every equal temperament from 13 to 24 notes per octave). Perhaps he was trying to free himself from his pitch sense?
Posted: 6/25/2009 11:08:19 AM

From: Chillicothe, Ohio USA

Joined: 1/29/2009

For anyone who is interested, Pamelia Kurstin posted a grand blog a while back on her Myspace music page in regards to her opinion of perfect pitch and its effect on one's musical sensibilities. Quite enlightening!
Posted: 6/25/2009 1:14:28 PM

From: Colmar, France

Joined: 12/31/2007

Pamelia's article and the following 20 comments seem a little lopsided.

If someone has perfect pitch, that does not exclude having good relative pitch and proper recognizing of intervals too. Perfect pitch can be helpful when playing theremin without accompaniment as when singing a capella, just because someone may be his own human pitch pipe.

I don't know if perfect pitch comes from training or from a special knot in the DNA. In my eyes it may be a helpful additional faculty. So I see no reason why people who don't have it should talk badly about people who have it. Or is it a matter of jealousy?

On the other side perfect pitch may also be a pain or a punishment. Imagine that you have perfect pitch and are singing in a mixed choir. The pianist transposes the piece one and a half tone down with regard to some elderly Sopranos. Now as the last tone of the prelude you are reading an A in your sheet music while hearing a Gb before you should start singing with a noted F# which is in reality a Eb...
Posted: 6/27/2009 3:26:25 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

I have said many times before in this forum (and elsewhere) that I do not believe it is possible to sing and play precision theremin at the same time with a reasonable and consistent degree of accuracy. It is not a popular opinion and definitely NOT what people want to hear.

Over the years, I have heard quite a few musicians who have tried to do it, and some have been totally convinced that they succeeded brilliantly. Unfortunately, as with a lot of theremin playing, the only conclusion you can come to after hearing these people is that they just don't have good enough ears to know how bad they sound. It's the "Joe Theremin Syndrome".

You may recall that Joe was "...a great concert thereminist in the theater of his own imagination."

The problem may be that when you sing and play precision theremin at the same time, you are asking your brain to perform roughly the same task for two entirely separate activities, and there just isn't enough grey matter to do that. You might as well try to get your car to turn right and left at the same time - you're gonna hit a lamp post!

When you play the piano, or the guitar, and sing at the same time, it is possible because the tasks do not overlap. Each requires an entirely different set of coordinated muscle/ear responses. But the theremin and voice require many of the same resources (most importantly pitch trimming) and they must function independently for two entirely separate tasks.

What you can do quite easily, is play MIDI theremin while singing and it can be very effective.

It is terribly difficult to speak frankly and honestly to a singer (or a thereminist) about pitch problems when the artist is unaware that he or she even has a pitch problem. You are greeted with either anger or tears - either way YOU are the bad guy and it is highly unlikely that your opinion will be heeded.

Most of the time it's probably best to say nothing.

As Pamelia said to me many years ago when I wrote that I believed it was not possible to play the classical music of India on the theremin, "Just because you can't do it doesn't mean it can't be done!"

O.K., agreed.

That being said, it was more than 10 years ago and I have still never heard anyone do it successfully. That also goes for singing while playing precision theremin.

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