Masterclass Handout

Singing is the most natural form of music that we know, along with the rhythmic banging of a stick on a rock. Singing comes straight from the heart, with no instrument in the way. Almost all children love to sing - although many become self-conscious about it later. That is unfortunate.

For us as trombonists, singing can be a great help. Most all schools of trombone playing stress the parallels between singing and trombone playing, and strive for a vocal cantabile approach.

Beyond this, the ability to sing a phrase, even with my untrained voice, enables me to hear it better and also to internalize the pitches, intervals, and phrase profile - to get a true feel for the phrase, as it were. With students I often determine that they sing better in tune than they play, but that after singing it they play it better in tune too. In singing we have to really hear the notes, as there is absolutely no mechanical action involved. There is no key to push, no length of tubing to establish, no instrument to operate. (That's why we are instrumentalists and singers are not.)

As an instrumentalist, it is easy to fall in to the trap: I read tenor clef, fourth line---put the trombone in third position and blow. But did I really form a concept of the note "C"? In singing, we have to hear and internalize the pitches and intervals, and this simply has to be good for the musical soul. Start singing your phrases. You will almost certainly benefit.

While the above has nothing to do with formal voice training (just open your mouth wide and belt it out confidently on that stuff!), I do feel that voice training should be just as mandatory as piano in our music studies. Although I had no formal voice lessons, I did listen to the world's best singers almost every night for 17 years in the Munich Opera.