I recently attended a seminar called The Piano Teachers Survival Guide. I had just started teaching basic piano, and I thought that this talk would be about general teaching technique and possibly some marketing ideas.
Instead the speaker, concert pianist and educator Anthony Williams, talked a bit about piano technique but mostly about playing notes vs expressing feelings.
Anthony said that he sometimes puts a painting in front of a pianist and ask them to play what they see, which I think is a fantastic idea. He reinforced what I have been thinking for years – that technique without feeling is worth nothing. What is the point to being able to sing or play an instrument ‘perfectly’ if neither you nor your audience is moved in any way?
Unfortunately, this is why, although I am a vocal coach, I don’t watch talent shows. I did at one time, but felt that I was just witnessing a parade of impersonators. At that time the template was Beyonce and then it became Adele and it’s probably now Ed Sheeran. I have nothing against those singers but we don’t need more than one of them! All I could see and hear on those shows were gestures and vocal gymnastics, so I stopped watching them..
I will freely admit that when I first started singing ‘seriously’ and teaching, I was all about the technique. There was so much to learn that I temporarily forgot about what lies beneath. I was concentrating so much on the breathing and the vocal cord closure etc, that if you asked me what the song was about, I’d have to go back and read the lyrics! However, one day in a masterclass, a teacher advised me to Tell The Story, and I never looked back. I believe this is the key to singing or playing in a way that connects with yourself and your audience.
I still believe that a good technique is a necessary foundation for you to be able to have a wide range of tools at your disposal from an artistic point of view; and from a practical point of view it’s difficult for a gigging and/or recording singer to maintain vocal health without having any technique at all. However this is just the foundation. If you can’t bring yourself into the material somehow, believe it’s true for you in some way, then the technique is worthless.
I’d like to know how you feel about this, whether you agree or disagree. Please comment below!