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Cello Lessons: Singing While Playing: Introduction

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Most cello players aren't used
to also thinking of themselves
as singer songwriters.
But the cello,
I would daresay even more than the guitar,
is the perfect instrument
to accompany the voice.
And you'll see a lot of really amazing,
creative musicians.
Now, singing with the cello, and it's
something that's been a really important
part of my own creative developments and
satisfaction with music.
And so, I wanted to talk about it and
really encourage you to explore it for
You might ask, well,
why would I want to sing while playing?
Well, one of my favorite things
about singing while playing is,
just this idea that I can do something
utterly complete all by myself.
Like a lot of times as a classical
cellist, you're playing sonatas, or
concertos, or string quartet pieces,
where you'll really a part of an ensemble.
Which is amazing, but I really was
always jealous of like pianists
who had this massive solo repertoire
where they're really able to make
interpretive decisions, and in parts that
are interlocking with each other, and
sorta think in that way,
all by themselves.
And I find a similar outlet
when I'm singing with playing.
And so, it really feels great to just be
able to like at any moment, be able to
share something complete and interesting
with an audience or with a friend.
And also, if you have creative
urges to compose, singing songs,
writing songs, gives you all sorts
of options that you don't have when
you're writing instrumental music.
I would say also from a purely like
professional standpoint, if you can sing
while playing then you become, like,
well, twice as valuable in any band.
If you can at the very least
offer background vocals and
not have to stop playing while doing them.
It's gonna give any ensemble you're in
a lot more arrangements, possibilities.
For me, I started singing
when I was still in school.
I was at Julliard focusing
on classical music still.
But I really wanted to start playing rock
music, and so I was on Craigslist for
hours every day looking for
rock bands to play with.
And I ended up joining three that I was
with for a while, and after a while, I
realized that I could sing as bad as these
guys, and I could try and write a song.
So I did.
And I did sing very badly,
so I don't want you to
feel like you have to be a good singer
in order to start on this journey.
I remember very explicitly in my undergrad
actually at Cleveland Institute of Music
in music theory class in
the ear training parts.
My voice had such a small range
that it would always crack.
I'd always be like do, re, mi, fa, so,
and it was actually a big issue for me.
And, even by the end,
the teacher was even laughing at me.
All this to say that I naturally
don't have a great voice, and
it's something I had to practice.
And because I knew I actually
wasn't a very expressive singer,
a lot of my early songs were just funny
songs, stuff that I knew at the very least
if they weren't emotionally powerful
that the words were at least funny.
And so, it was actually life changing for
me while at Julliard to start writing
songs and playing solo shows of songs.
And really finding like
a personal voice and
a personal relationship with the
instrument, apart from all the Beethoven,
and Elliott Carter, and
Bach compositions that I was playing.
So I just really wanna encourage you to,
even if it's just learning
cover songs that you love,
to start singing while playing, and
develop this side of your musicianship.
And I think you'll be surprised and
excited at the kinds of things
that you'll be able to do.