I was once asked if I could sing while playing the violin. This is a question that I normally do not expect or get asked because my background is in classical music.
During the process of learning, I met many incredible violinists who were also very skilled in other fields – some could play the piano, draw or write in ways that would leave me in complete astonishment, while others could sing marvelously well and some even changed their careers after they found that their voices could shine even brighter than the voice of their violins.
As that initial question echoed in my ears, I could visualize a movie in my mind. And for a moment I was thinking: can I really sing as I play the violin? Immediately I thought: “Impossible! I am a terrible singer”.
That explains why I never pursued a singing career. At best, I could be timidly singing in a choir every Sunday, trusting my ears so that I could be in tune with the rest of the group without drawing unwanted attentions.
That same question still echoed in my ears as dozens of thoughts flew simultaneously at a high- speed inside my head until I could provide the inquirer with a good answer.
Soon after, I came to the conclusion that what that curious person really wanted to know was if it was possible to do both things – singing and playing – at the same time. But, had I ever tried singing while playing?
Can You Sing While Playing The Violin?
The answer was “Yes, definitely!”. When I was younger I loved practicing solfeggio before starting my practice session in order to fix my intonation on the violin.
By the way, this is a valuable tip for any beginner who has just started learning the violin and wants to improve his/her intonation.
This is also a good answer for those who ask me how I can play an instrument without any frets and without missing the correct pitch.
So, one day, when I was trying to fix my intonation by alternating between solfeggio and playing, I had the idea of doing both things at the same time. Then I did it. The outcome? I would define it as an interesting trick, but a little painful.
When we clamp our jaws against the violin in order to hold it, we definitely lose the freedom to speak or sing. It feels like something is blocking our jaws, preventing us from uttering any words.
It is similar to the feeling that that we have when we leave a dentist’s room after extracting a tooth or two.
So, what if I was not holding the violin the traditional way but instead held it like the violinists in Morocco – they hold the violin on top of the knee while sitting – or like a cellist, squeezing the violin between the knees?
Well, now it seems like our horizons are becoming broader and broader. However, changing the position we hold the violin is something very complicated. Every change usually undermines our confidence and control of the instrument.
That is why I am not inclined to take any big changes in the near future, but it can be a nice way of getting familiar to the art of playing violin and singing at the same time.
Perhaps alternating between playing and singing would be the most effective way for my daily practice.
Normally, when people attend concerts and see a stage full of musicians, they do not expect the violinists to steal the role of the sopranos and tenors, right?
Indeed! However, I remember that when I was attending orchestra rehearsals regularly, I noticed something peculiar in our music: a line that indicated a part where musicians had to sing!
At some point we were required to set our instruments apart, stop playing and start singing. Unfortunately, I can’t recall the piece’s name or composer, but I remember the result was a beautiful choir of musicians.
Although we would expect many band fiddlers to set aside their instruments for a moment in order to sing with the group, we definitely do not expect a violinist to do that on stage.
However, there is a very well-known video recording of a Mozart violin concerto where the star violinist Gilles Apap surprises the audience during the cadenza, mixing his different styles, like Blues and American Fiddling, and, when the audience least expects, he holds the violin like a guitar and starts singing.
But that was not the first time I saw something similar happen on stage. Once, when our marvelous youth orchestra was touring the country, we had a piece called West Side Story in our program.
It is a piece of theatre music inspired by the Shakespeare’s famous play Romeo and Juliet, composed by the great composer, pianist, and conductor Leonard Bernstein.
At a certain moment, during the festive Mambo, we are required to shout the same word, “Mambo”. For those who don’t know it, there are dozens of recordings of this wonderful piece of work on YouTube.
Fortunately, Bernstein wrote a silence for our instruments so that we can put our instruments aside for a second and then shout energetically.
I am sure that there are many artists around the world who feel like using both of these skills on stage. But how could they do it effectively? A solution, as I suggested before, would be holding the violin in a different position so as to free the jaws.
However, the downside would be the long hours required for re-adaptation. A second solution that could be a little easier to master would require placing straps to hold the violin around the body or neck while keeping the jaws free.
It is also possible to simply lift the jaw and hold the violin with the left hand only, but that would limit the movements of the hand.
I truly believe it is possible to play the violin and sing at the same time although I am not inclined to learn that skill. And what about you? Can you sing while playing your instrument?