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--- Mar 24 1999 Go to category
Subject: Can you play something you can't sing?
Category: Improvisation/Soloing
From: John J. White (Omaha, Nebraska)

I have posed this question before and if it is just plain dumb, I will understand if you do not answer. I just remember that my early experineces in reading were that you say every word in your head, then speak it. I played trumpet for 9 years and currently take guitar lessons and once again I find that if I can't sing it I can't play it. Maybe i'm doing it wrong. Do you think people learn to read music the same way we learn to read? Is this a good or a bad thing? Does it limit improvisation? Thanks for your music and especially your time.


Pat’s Answer:

it is a good question.

no, i can't sing everything i play - mainly because i am not a good singer, and a lot of what i play is out of the range of my voice. however, i couldn't play anything that i couldn't "hear" in my head first. in other words, it doesn't really just come from the fingers, or if it does, it usually isn't a good idea in the first place. there is an advantage that horn players have over guitar players, piano players, drummers, etc - in that the sound literally has to come up out of their bodies into sound. they HAVE to "hear" things in order to make them happen in a deep physical way. it is important for us as guitar players to at least simulate this kind of direct attachment to each musicical idea in a profound way to achieve the kind of impact that the best singers and horn players get out of their lines.