The teacher I went to last spring was a good teacher in many ways but I am actually not that happy with certain things she did or did not do. In a previous thread I asked about singing without accompaniment. This teacher did never let me sing without it. The problem I experienced was: I never learned to feel or hear the intervals. Only when I play eg a an ascending fourth (eg G-C) and then try to repeat without accompaniment do I really learn how to sing it. This is a great exercice. I never learn by repetition alone as some do. My question: why would a singing teacher never ask a person to do this?

  • 3
    Why haven't you asked the teacher concerned?
    – Tim
    Dec 19, 2019 at 11:29
  • 2
    This is a dupe of your earlier question, to which the same answer applies. How the heck is singing unaccompanied going to teach you pitch reference. May as well go to a football match to learn perfect pitch [& no, that wasn't a pun on 'pitch' ;) By the time [years not weeks] you have actually realised why this question gets down-voted, you will also know the answer… and you'll be able to sing acappella, or have given up trying to be a singer..
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 19, 2019 at 18:37
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    @Tetsujin - singing unaccompanied teaches pitch reference through audiation and externalization. Unaccompanied singing is quite common in many ear training classes in schools in the US. Dec 20, 2019 at 16:47

3 Answers 3


When I started studying music, I thought my instructor was going to teach me everything I wanted to know about music. My lessons were once a week for thirty minutes and I practiced each day to prepare for my next lesson. Things progressed nicely and I thought I was on the right track, but then I started to realize there were holes in my learning. My solution was to study on my own in addition to the lessons. I found printed materials and did my own research, studied music theory, found additional exercises to practice on my own and eventually departed formal lessons when I realized I could study at my own speed, (which was much faster) and I could take things in the direction of my own choosing. Learning with an instructor got me started, and that was important for me, but it wasn't the complete answer. It was my own responsibility to find my direction, devise methods to pursue that direction and then go for it. I've accepted that personal obligation to myself and will probably still be pursuing musical knowledge, understanding, and growth for the rest of my born days. And I've come to realize the difficulty an instructor might have in teaching each individual student every thing they need to know and knowing all the ways to help them learn it. I've discovered we all have our limitations, and so do our instructors. You are free to pursue your musical education in any manner that you choose, you just need to realize that fact.


At a lower level of singing, it's a much higher priority for most vocal instructors to teach a pupil how to sing in tune than how to test them with unaccompanied performance. Yes, acapella singing can help one get better with relative pitch, but at the level where the pupil may have difficulty staying in tune even with a piano, often acapella instruction turns nightmarish quickly: no beginner is going to magically learn how to sing in tune if they never hear a pitch reference!

Also, it's totally possible to learn relative pitch and intonation with a pitch reference; that's actually traditionally how this skill is trained in beginner/amateur musicians. Once a pupil gets to the point where they are good enough with intonation that they can sing it unaccompanied reasonably enough, it makes sense to spend some time practicing without a pitch reference in order to strengthen their sense of pitch and remove dependence on a piano. However, this exercise is unlikely to be useful if they still rely heavily on the pitch reference in order to sing intervals (are unable to internalise the music well enough).

Would you tell your maths professor to let you do your homework without checking your answers? Sure, you'll not be dependent on the answer key, but you also lose the critical step of comapring yourself to an objective standard. It hardly seems to make sense for a vocal coach to immediately focus on being able to sing acapella by the same logic.

  • It is my understanding that it is hard to learn eg a descending fifth by just playing D-G on the piano and repeating until you make it. To me that just sound like the student is just repeatiting without being engaged. To me the best option is to let the studen practice without the G being played. I just don't see how repetition alone will help a student. Why do people think repetition is all a singer need?
    – user20754
    Dec 21, 2019 at 11:33
  • @Hank "It is my understanding that it is hard to learn eg a descending fifth by just playing D-G on the piano and repeating" Well, your understanding isn't the same understanding that the vocal instructors have, then. People have all sorts of opinions on how to teach music.
    – user45266
    Jan 6, 2020 at 3:09

The best answer is probably to ask her.

I imagine there are loads of exercises to use and a lot of skills to learn. The selection of skills is probably based on what type of singing you want to learn and what skills your teacher thinks are best suited to that goal.

  • What type of singing I want? What does that mean? I thought all types of singing had to do with finding the pitches.
    – user20754
    Dec 19, 2019 at 10:04
  • I agree it's a valuable skill to learn, but my point is when your goal is singing a capella it would likely have been part of your training, but when you will always sing accompanied it's maybe less urgent and other exercises may suit your goal better.
    – MeanGreen
    Dec 19, 2019 at 10:08
  • Ok I see. What I meant by my question was this: the best way for me to learn singing pitches is not by just repetition. When I take away the piano I really have to feel and hear the intervals. Singing with a piano is too much about repetition and too little about undrstanding. Why do some teacher think singinh is taught by simply asking students to use repetition and nothing more? Don't we need to sing without a piano in order to learn how the intervals sound and feel?
    – user20754
    Dec 19, 2019 at 10:13
  • @Hank - repetition is about doing the same thing many times. Are you mixing that up with 'accompanied'. One can use repetition when singing unaccompanied just as much. (But checking pitch can be far easier with an instrument !).
    – Tim
    Dec 19, 2019 at 10:35