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  • Writer's pictureKaren Pauley

Vocal Rehearsals - No Piano

I have been running music rehearsals recently without a piano. At first this was an alarming concept. I am able to use backing tracks for the complete pieces, but how do I run warm ups or teach specific parts?

I decided to use my piano to record the harmony parts in advance of the rehearsals. For some songs I recorded the whole vocal line for a part, and for others I recorded snippets of the more complicated harmony sections. I was still concerned that I was going to have to do a lot more singing in rehearsal than I normally do. When working with adults in a show I worry that singing a part is like giving a line reading to an actor, which is greatly frowned on practice. I also don't want the actors thinking that I want them to sound like me. I really don't. I want the sound they produce to be their own.

On the plus side, some people find it easier to learn to sing a part if someone else sings it. A piano doesn't sound like a human voice and there are people who really struggle to find the correct pitch when following a musical instrument. I come across this more in children, but it can still be an issue with adults who do not sing a lot.

I am used to using a piano for vocal warm ups, even for my personal warm up regime. I know that a piano is not required but when working with a group it takes more effort for me to run warm ups without one. I end up explaining more, as people expect to sing scales and arpeggios, and simple songs. But now I am focusing on breathing, humming, lip trills, tongue trills, ng sirens, and exercises that involve making strange sounds. I know that these are effective ways to warm up, I just don't know what the rest of the people in the rehearsals think. I am also aware that a lot of things that people think are vocal warm ups are actually vocal technique exercise and should not be the starting place in rehearsal.

I will keep working on my ability to teach with just my voice. This week all my personal warm ups have been done without a piano, in the hope that I can get more used to this concept and won't be so quick to jump to using a piano.

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