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Preface:

I'm interested in learning 3 skills: Piano/Keyboard, Singing, Beatboxing.
I can devote around 2-3 hours daily. I want to "self-learn" (i.e. without tutor). I want to reach moderate level.
Moderate level is subjective, I know, but assume it's a level where, in terms of piano, you don't play your favorite tunes by one hand but also make use of chords too and be able to play themes like that of Time from Inception or Harry Potter theme song.

I planned to learn playing keyboard but as I was reading the introduction before going on to the chapter 1, I read "tutor is needed or otherwise you'll develop bad practices which would later cause you trouble". This was serious to me as I don't want that to happen.

So, I thought that it would be better to do something that I'm equally excited about but involves less "risk" doing it myself. I already planned to later learn singing and beatboxing but seems their turn might come first.

Question:

I want to compare the 3 (piano, singing, beatboxing) on the basis of the following:

  1. Any gadget(s) needed to learn
  2. Time to reach moderate expertise
  3. Availability of free online resources
  4. Tutor requirement/developing bad practices
  5. Ease of evaluating myself (progress made so far)

It would be best if 1 is absent and 2, 4 are on lower side and 3, 5 are on higher side.

(I have hunch that beatboxing would be the best but not sure about the ranking of the other 2.)
I have a keyboard already.

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  • Happy Potter? Do you wheeley mean that..?
    – Tim
    Mar 20, 2023 at 14:41
  • @Tim Lol! thanks for pointing out the typo. Can't believe I made such an error XD. Mar 20, 2023 at 14:44
  • "I read 'tutor is needed or otherwise you'll develop bad practices which would later cause you trouble.' This was serious to me as I don't want that to happen. ...it would be better to do something that ... involves less 'risk'" Maybe the most obvious solution is... get that tutor? Even if you can't afford, or get to, weekly lessons for years, even a little bit helps in the beginning. Five lessons, followed by self-teaching, would be better than self-teaching from scratch. Also, singing might have some "risk." One risk of self-teaching is simply that you develop non-standard habits that... Mar 20, 2023 at 16:24
  • ... are hard to un-learn. But another risk is that you actually physically injure yourself. With singing, the instrument is you! Some vocal practices can seriously affect your voice. Anyway, meanwhile, the thing puzzling me about this question is that beatboxing seems to be a different "category." It's not normally a field of classical music training, and seems to me to put much more emphasis on figuring things out yourself anyway than on a teacher/student relationship. Maybe it's a good choice for that reason. But I imagine it will also be easier if you have other music experience. Mar 20, 2023 at 16:26
  • 1
    I'm sorry to hear you've already had some damage. Some might be recoverable, some might not. You'd have to consult a doctor for your own case. But it's always possible to make it worse, or not to make it worse by taking care of it! Meanwhile, if you have other questions besides this one, feel free to ask them as new questions. Mar 21, 2023 at 13:14

3 Answers 3

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I think the easiest to go for is beatboxing, because it does not require any equipment and you cannot do a lot wrong. Beatboxing basically requires you to develop control over your articulation and to get it coordinated. Also there are decent free introductions to beatboxing.

Singing does not require any special equipment, but it is not easy to learn by yourself. Singing requires good posture and control over muscles you are not used to controlling and which you cannot see but only feel. Playing piano requires finger muscles and arm muscles, the effect of which you can easily observe. Vocal muscles and surrounding muscles (there is a lot that is involved here) – not so much. Finally singing wrongly can actually damage your voice. It is hard to hurt yourself with beatboxing (unless you go for the more extended stuff), and while playing piano can eventually lead to tendonitis the risk of playing piano is rather small.

This is why I suggest to have trained, high effort singing (not your everyday singing along) only learned under supervision.

Playing piano then does obviously require having a piano. Having a tutor will really help develop a good technique and find nice fingerings. Chances are that without a tutor you might not get over a certain level because you do not know what you need to do to get further.

Generally a teacher and even just a tutor is very helpfull and will quicken your progress by a lot. Even having only one lesson a month is much better than having no lessons. And 3 hours of unguided practice can be of less use to you that half an hour of guided practice.

So let’s summarise your points:

  1. Beatboxing and Singing do not require any gadgets. Piano will of course require a piano (and an appropriate seating device). For Beatboxing you might want to get a microphone, so I’d say Singing > Beatboxing > Piano.
  2. Simple Beatboxing is something you can achieve quite quickly, as long as you have control over your articulation and a sense of rhythm. Piano is not a hard instrument, but it has high expectations. You’ll find that moderate expertise on a piano requires you to do a lot more than on many other instruments. Playing a melody with chords? Should be possible after a few weeks of focused practice. Singing on the other hand is a bit special. Singing does require a long time of practice to develop the feeling and control over your muscles you need. While it is fairly easy to sing simple melodies you need a certain amount of time to be able to get to a higher level and to get it sound good. Here I’d say the order is Beatbox > Singing > Piano if you do not care about the quality of the singing, Beatbox > Piano > Singing if you do. Like, in Piano sounding good with simple pieces is a somewhat basic thing, with singing it is already intermediate.
  3. Nowadays anything has a decent coverage of free online resources.
  4. I think beatboxing without tutor is fine, for Piano and singing I’d definitely recommend one. Bad habits on piano can affect playing posture, hand posture, finger posture, fingering, pedal use and many more. Bad habits in Singing can affect posture, pronunciation, tone quality, range and flexibility of the voice and can cause more strain to the voice that what is necessary with good technique, risking damage to the voice. So here I’d say Beatbox > [Singing, Piano]
  5. Generally hard. This requires recording yourself, as only then you’ll be able to properly hear yourself from the outside.
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I would say the piano! Learning the basics first like C major scale. Then as you get familiar with the piano start mimicking the notes with your voice (the scale). Here is a free C major guide with the foundational tools that would be ideal to start with.

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Singing's cheapest and easiest.

You can do it anywhere, without any additional tools. Only source material you need is songs to listen to and their lyrics, both of which you can get for free from the radio and internet.

Tutorship is very helpful, of course, but can safely be added later once you reach a mediocre level and don't know how to improve further. Personal tutorship can be obtained easily by joining a choir.

Bad practices include things like suboptimal breathing, which you can improve anytime, and putting too much stress on the voice, which you can easily recognize and avoid on your own.

Evaluating yourself is probably the hardest part. A cheap way is to record yourself on your smartphone. Or take part in one of the free online music communities such as songwriter sites or challenges to get feedback from others.

Reaching moderate level, meaning you'll be able to sing a standard pop song in tune with at least rudimentary expression, can be reached rather quickly within a year.

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    "putting too much stress on the voice, which you can easily recognize and avoid on your own" - My experience, both related to my own singing and the singing of others, is that this statement is false. Mar 20, 2023 at 17:50
  • Evaluating yourself is often a VERY difficult task, unless you know what you're doing. Even then, it's often a good idea to have others evaluate for you. The difficult part of self-evaluation is that even if you recognize that something is wrong, you may not know how to fix that problem. I think this post trivializes the difficulty of even reaching a "mediocre" level of skill in singing. Mar 20, 2023 at 23:18
  • @Florian thank you for your answer. Also, thank you for defining the moderate level. I didn't know that expressions are also a part of the singing! Though I too think that putting stress on oneself and being aware about it is hard for many. As an analogy, there's a reason I (have to) wear specs. I didn't either realize I was putting too much stress or didn't stop anyways. Mar 21, 2023 at 7:02

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