First off, before anyone reading the title of this post gets unnecessarily upset:
- Yes, I recognize that singers who don’t play any musical instrument are musicians as well.
- There are instrumental musical genres that obviously don’t lend themselves to singing (e.g., many forms of classical and jazz music).
Therefore, for the purpose of this post, the term “musicians” refers to instrumentalists who perform popular music genres such as rock, pop, etc.
Writing Music Is the Essence of Musicianship
In my view, the long run objective of any serious musician is to create new music – i.e., compose and perform new songs.
Sure, it’s fun and instructive to learn another artist’s songs and do cover versions of them, but once you learn how to play your instrument, you really should focus on composing your own music.
This is going to sound harsh, but in my opinion, doing covers for an indefinite period of time is just glorified karaoke. If you want to make your mark in this world as a musician, you need to be able to compose new material.
And by “making your mark”, I don’t necessarily mean that you have to make music that appeals to the masses; what the masses prefer really shouldn’t matter – after all, listen to the crap music that’s popular amongst them today.
No dear reader, by “making your mark” I mean creating music that will be influential and will echo for generations to come. The Velvet Underground didn’t sell many records in the 1960s, nor did the Ramones in the 1970s. Neither did the Smiths in the 1980s or the Pixies in the 1990s (at least compared to their peers in those decades).
However, notwithstanding their lack of huge commercial success , the aforementioned artists created music that was highly influential for the artists who followed them.
Melody Is the Essence of Music
“Melody is the essence of music. I compare a good melodist to a fine racer, and counterpointists to hack post-horses; therefore be advised, let well alone and remember the old Italian proverb: Chi sa più, meno sa—Who knows most, knows least.”
That’s a direct quote from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – and he’s a guy who knew what he was talking about when it comes to music.
Here’s how I interpret this quote: you can be the finest technician when it comes to playing your instrument and know musical theory inside and out, but if you can’t compose a memorable song, you’re basically fucked as a musical artist.
Singing Allows You To Express Melody
And this is where singing comes in – the singer is the person conveying the melody of a song with his or her voice. Therefore, if you want to write memorable songs, it will help you tremendously if you learn how to sing in order to communicate your ideas to your intended audience, be it your band mates, your co-composer(s) or your future fan base.
My Own Singing Journey
As for myself, I had always considered myself to be a guitarist only. I had no inclination or desire to be a singer.
However, I also wanted to write songs. In an ideal world, I should have been able to find a singer who I could work with in composing songs. However, in my own personal experience, that’s easier said than done for the following reasons:
- It’s difficult to find someone who can actually sing (as opposed to someone who can just hit a note – there’s a big difference).
- If your are fortunate enough to find someone who can actually sing, more often than not said person will have ego problems, making him or her difficult to work with. I say this from personal experience as well as from speaking with other musicians who’ve had their own difficult experiences with singers.
Therefore, at some point I just said to myself “screw it, I’ll just teach myself to sing and do it myself“. And that’s exactly what I did.
Ideally, I should have found myself a good singing teacher for instruction, but being the stubborn and independent-minded fool that I am, I decided to seek instruction on YouTube for guidance on my singing journey.
The person I follow and have learned from on YouTube is a lady named Victoria Rapanan who teaches out of San Francisco. I found her videos to be helpful, clear and concise. Out of the many vocal instructors I’ve seen on YouTube, she’s probably one of the most experienced and helpful.
I’m now as rigorously focused on improving my singing ability as I was when I was learning how to play guitar.
And because I’m now able to perform with my voice the melodies I’ve been hearing in my head, I’ve been composing new songs like a maniac – my level of creative productivity has gone through the roof in correlation with the improvements in my singing ability.
Anyways, if you’re an instrumentalist who’s reading this, I hope that this post was helpful to you. I’d appreciate your feedback in the comments section below.