hi ljp. the other night i got to see the organist dr. lonnie smith play (absolutely f-ing amazing). one of the things i noticed about his performance is that he was basically singing all of the melodies he was playing on the organ while he was playing them. i know many piano greats do the same thing. it's gotten me thinking. i've been transcribing bud powell lately, on his recordings you can hear him vocalizing his lines, although it sounds kind of more like grunting than singing (sometimes after listening to the same passage over and over trying to get the right notes, i almost want to start grunting along with the record!). keith jarrett is another "singer" who comes to mind. a number of bass players i've played with i've noticed also sing under their breath during solos.  

i'm wondering what some of the people here feel about this habit/(technique?). randy halberstadt, who was my piano teacher when i went to school, used to strongly caution against it. he felt it was distracting from the performance, that it was basically a crutch, and used to say that piano players who fall into this habit become dependent upon it and find it a highly difficult habit to break. randy is all about using the voice as a learning tool, he has his students take tunes apart and sing the melody, then sing the roots of every chord, then the thirds, then the fifths, sevenths, then smooth voice leading from thirds to sevenths, sevenths to thirds, etc. but singing while improvising was discouraged. i had another piano teacher since randy who encouraged me to sing while playing, but i never practiced it because of my prior teaching.

since seeing dr. smith's mind blowing performance the other night, i've been rethinking all this. i've been playing around the last few days with vocalizing my lines while playing. for the most part i find it a little distracting, i start thinking more about singing than i do playing. but there are moments where i kind of go into that zen "state" where i'm not thinking much at all, just listening, to my voice and to my playing, and from there i think i'm noticing there are definite differences in my playing when i'm singing.  

one is that i think i utilize space better. i have a bad habit of playing continuous, endless streams of eighth notes. i try some times to make myself "insert" space into my solos, but when i do that it often sounds contrived, like i'm adding spaces where i intellectually "think" there ought to be a space, but not necessarily where a space musically makes sense. somebody on this website once said something about how bach or beethoven, or somebody with a b at the beginning of their name, once said that if a musical phrase couldn't be sung, then it didn't make sense,  the logic was that if the phrase lasted longer than ones voice could support before running out of breath, than the phrase didn't make sense.

the other thing i think i'm noticing is that i'm better at what i guess you'd call thematic improvisation, something i've always struggled with. i seem to naturally find myself taking a single idea, and actually developing it, altering that one idea to fit different parts of the chord progression, etc., but still basically playing the same idea. it's like i'm actually able to remember what i just played in my improvisation, and then i can expand upon a single idea, playing different variations. usually it's like i have add when i'm improvising, i play something and then immediately forget about it, incessantly trying to figure out my "next" idea is going to be.

so, i'm curious. does anybody here sing their lines? do you find it annoying when you hear a piano player who does? i know a lot of people find keith jarrett's singing pretty annoying, i've heard it called more like whining than singing. i think he's trying too hard to keep his voice in the same octave he's playing in, his voice gets overstretched and thin, and out of tune. i don't think it would be that hard to keep your voice in a range that's comfortable, dropping your voice an octave when your line starts to get too high. i think that if your voice was kept in a comfortable range, it would be possible to keep it mostly sub-audible to your playing, or at least so i think. i'd have to record myself doing it to know for sure. but even if not, while watching dr. lonnie smith, i didn't feel that it in anyway detracted from the performance. comments?
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this topic has been debated before in the forum.  you will find no consensu.  while i am a strong supporter of singing while soloing even if it becomes a tonal grunting you will find many other in the forum whow are not
sure don't know for myself yet but it was interesting to note that in randy's book he points out that he is a singer and addicted to it.  do as i say...


go ahead and scat along with a solo or two during the evening's concert, but don't turn it into your whole schtick (as slam stewart did).

if you find that you are grunting during your playing (especially when playing energetically), you need to stop.

the trick is to breathe.

many players get in the habit of holding their breath while soloing or playing energetically, this is what causes most grunting, etc.

train yourself to breathe normally while playing and that will solve the problem immediately.
one of the great things that humming along does to your lines is give you breath spaces.  i once had a great vocalist tell me she loved my playing because there was space to breathe.

most of the great pianists i know hum along with their playing in some way.  keith jarrett goes overboard in my opinion, his insane antics take away from my enjoyment of his music, especially live.  however monty alexander hums and sings with his lines, quite loudly at times, but it doesn't bother me in the least, it's very musical just like his playing.

whatever works for you, but keep it musical.

as a previous post said, there is no consensus on this, so the bottom line is- does it work for you?  or does it not work for you?

it's also a good way to make sure you're playing the music in your mind and not just bs that comes out of your fingers. finger music is never enjoyable.  if your mind comes up with a line your fingers can play, and you hum along, go for it.
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i find it annoying as all hell, unless the person can actually sing those lines.  most people aren't actually singing those lines.  they aren't on pitch, and in the worst-jarrett-case scenarios, they sound like they're autistic or something.
now, if you're actually on pitch like glen gould was, knock yourself out.
the one time i actually wanted to punch some guy was when he was "humming" along with other pianists playing in a master class.  i wanted to slap the #### out of that guy.
i often do it but as a whisper, so softly that nobody can really hear me. i don't see the problem with that or the need to make it any louder.  i often just whisper the rhythm of the phrase while my vocal pitch is only aproximate.
"but don't turn it into your whole schtick"

well, i don't really think it's generally a schtick.  a few people do it as one(like john pizzarelli), but i think most musicians who sing a little while they play do it naturally.  in my case, there are times when i get really into something and start singing a little.  i really don't think it's a matter of should you, or shouldn't you do it.........but, rather, do you do it, or don't you?  

and, cynbad, it makes me wonder, if you can't at least appreciate a musician being immersed in the music to the point of losing a little bit of control, have you ever actually experienced this yourself?  some people sing, some stomp their foot, some grunt, some moan, some jump off the bench.  these are the human qualities that come from music being an art that is alive and breathing.  i would rather hear keith grunt and moan.....and play a ballad that makes me cry.....than someon sit up straight......and act all proper and perfect...and play a ballad that makes me fall asleep.


i just love a violent woman! :)

actually , i dont hum or sing my lines. kind of ironic too, seeing that i'm a decent singer as well.

i've actually wondered if there was something wrong with me for not singing my lines. nope, not for me. i know some marvelous players that dont sing or hum.

jv'
jarrett's autistic moaning is a far cry from "losing a bit of control".  i have stated on numerous occasions that i love jarrett's playing and he is one of my favorite pianists.  i just wish i could filter out that horrible moaning.  it truly is a distraction.  it is way beyond losing a bit of control.
i don't think we have to choose between hideous moaning and a robot.
there are plenty of great musicians that can give you goose bumps or make you cry without doing any of that self-indulgent crap.
if you want to hum along, just don't make it a distraction.  and for heaven's sake, don't wear a suit.
i like "the wind" in <paris concert> and his "billie's brown" in trio. both impressed.
"i find it annoying as all hell, unless the person can actually sing those lines."

this points a lot more musicians than keith jarrett.  most musicians that sing along don't really sing in great tune.  and, in my opinion......good musicians are always self-indulgent.......that's how they make good music.  they do it for themselves.....for their passion and love.  there is nothing more self-indulgent than that.
i've tried singing my solos as i play them; it makes no difference for me.  so i just stick to the goofy soloing faces and i'm all good. :~)
lol...........my friend lawrence used to call me air dalton, because he saw me playing once without a stand, and i like jumped up during my solo...........since then, i have tried to tame that.........it can really mess with your technique.  lol.
errrr..........not "without a stand".......rather "while standing"
"and, in my opinion......good musicians are always self-indulgent"
good musicians do not do anything that will mar or distract from what they are trying to create.  
humming along is usually just a bad habit that has become impossible to break -- a crutch.  you can acheive the same thing in some other way that doesn't mar the performance.
if i'm really listening to what i'm playing, i sure as hell am not going to tolerate myself making some hideous distracting noise just because it "feels good" to me.
i tend to equate music with sex.  if one is removed from inhibitions.........it's all the better.
oh man, i saw masabumi kikuchi the other day and although he gets full credit for great touch and very unique voicings... but his grunting!  not a pleasant sound at all!
the difference is... there's an audience and it's not just yourself you're trying to communicate with.
but as always, each to his own.
i like to burp while playing some things and fart while playing others.
posture is also important while playing the piano.
i once tried to equate music with sex - i almost ended up in a wheelchair!
yeah i trued that once. i nearly got arrested. (lol)

thanks for everyone's insights. i think the conclusion i'm walking away from this is that as long as you're not making the same sounds when playing the piano as you make while having sex, you're probably ok - ;)
it's okay to equate playing the piano to having sex, but when keith jarrett plays, he looks like he's confusing the two.
come to think of it, i sure hope my piano is female. i've never actually got under there to check.
well, women are like pianos.  when they're not upright, they're grand.
doublez

great line! is it original?
i hear amazing bud powell doing it on his recordings too.
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