Most singing teachers just ask the student to stand in a static posture and repeat notes the teachers plays on the piano. This has never worked for me. I have issues with the method: "just hoping that I will succeed".

I need to have ear training as well. My current teacher lets me sing with and without the piano. I guess some can just repeat something and then they get good at it. Most of us are probably not like that. We do not have that talent. Or perhaps most people are good at just repeating something and then get good at it. I am probably not normal at all.

My question is: how do people learn to sing if they only repeat notes someone plays on the piano? What is it that these people do that makes this method work for them?

  • 1
    I don't know how many singing teachers you've had, but any singing teacher who just does what you describe should probably find a new job. There's much so more to vocal pedagogy, and any good singing teacher will actively try to find what works best for each individual student rather than sticking with a rote method. Nov 22, 2020 at 22:35
  • 3
    This reminds me of your reaction to music.stackexchange.com/questions/107556/…. Now I'm worried that you not only don't listen to yourself when you sing, you also don't listen to externally playing music when you sing, and therefore you can't pitch-match your singing to the music playing outside.
    – Dekkadeci
    Nov 23, 2020 at 12:13
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    Most of us probably are like that - 'repeat something, then they get good at it'. Repetition is probably the commonest form of learning. It seems the more often one does something, the easier it gets for them, the better they get at doing it. In fact, rehearsal/practice is called 'repetition' in French.
    – Tim
    Nov 23, 2020 at 13:01
  • I think repetition can be bad. If you don't listen and feel the notes when you sing then repetition won't help. The issue is: many teachers don't help students with listenting and feeling the notes. They just sit at the piano and play and hope the students just will suceed. This is my experience. I mean, repetition in itself is not a very good solution.
    – user20754
    Nov 30, 2020 at 12:02

3 Answers 3


Pitch matching for some people comes naturally, so repeating what the piano plays is an effective way to learn. When pitch matching does not come naturally, the piano serves as a basis for training the ear and voice. However, supplementing that with other forms of ear training can be essential, so an effective teacher will include more than just playing the piano and having the student repeat.

Much of singing is developing the "feel" -- the physical sensations -- of producing a particular pitch, interval, or sequence of intervals. So the learning process is less about repeating what the piano plays and more about developing the feel of producing the sounds. Piano is just a convenient guide to the sound, particularly because it also serves as an accompaniment instrument.

I would challenge the assertion that "most singing teachers only...", however. While repeating something played on the piano is a common technique, I've never encountered a voice teacher who used this method exclusively.

  • I have none come across one teacher who would let me play scales with both the piano and without it. This is the reason why I said what I said.
    – user20754
    Nov 22, 2020 at 21:49
  • @Hank: I suggest you put the first sentence as an edit into the question but fail to recognize the benefit of the second.
    – guidot
    Nov 22, 2020 at 22:23

Most people learn to sing by copying a recording (or some other performance) long before they get near a teacher. How did YOU learn to sing originally? What made you feel singing was something you could be good at, and worth taking lessons at? You MUST have sung some songs before going to a teacher. And you must have learnt them by imitation.

So I'm detecting here not some unique problem with perception and repetition, rather a case of lack of confidence leading to chronic over-thinking. Try to stop resisting your teacher's method. You're probably doing much better than you think you are!

  • Now I wonder whether Hank was forced to get singing lessons like many children were forced to get piano lessons.
    – Dekkadeci
    Nov 24, 2020 at 13:31
  • I was not forced to sing at all
    – user20754
    Nov 30, 2020 at 11:56

I think everyone has their ways of learning how to sing, but one thing is for sure: humans learn by mimicking what other humans do. This has been a very important part of my voice education after my teacher (a very good one) had taught me the basics.

She often uses a technique where she sings a straight, long note and asks me to sing the same long note with her and try to modify my voice so that it blends with her voice. In that way I have managed to increase the air flow in my voice, and get my voice to sound and ring more resonantly.

One thing that singing teachers constantly do wrong in their teaching is that they don't sit very close to the student if they sing and then ask the students to repeat the passage after their singing. In those situations, it is very helpful to sing for your student so that you are singing at most 20 centimeters from their ear. A good way is to go as close as possible to them and sing "past their ear".

You may ask why this is important: because this is the only way for your student to hear how much air you need to produce out when you are singing (especially classical singing). If you are singing to your student with the normal 2-3 meters between you and the student, they are not going to hear and learn the BIG amount of air flow that is needed for healthy singing. They will only hear the (usually) healthy and resonating voice and not distinguish the singing melody and the air flow that carries it. (You can clearly try and hear this yourself when you are yawning widely, a false yawn will probably suffice too - there is A LOT OF AIR coming out during the yawn - the same principle should be used in singing too.)

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