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I watched a guitarist on YouTube discuss some concept about harmony, and he played a note and sang an interval above. He prefaced with "now, I am not a good singer but...", and proceeded to sing notes with excellent pitch accuracy.

Obviously there's more to singing than just hitting the right notes, but hitting the right notes is a big part of it! Musicians who have been playing for a long time, or went to college, who have developed an excellent musical ear and relative pitch; are they automatically good at singing?

  • I agree, that musicians are trained for correct pitch (there are much more demanding instruments than guitar, such as violin or woodwinds), but I don't consider this as big part of singing - at least when it comes to arias or whole operas, where language, purity of vowels and comprehensibility become major issues. It may well suffice for home use, however. – guidot Apr 1 at 21:10
  • Not in terms of Vocal “Throw” or Vocal ability, but I think yes in terms of Pitching – RishiNandha_M Apr 2 at 9:00
  • Hell, no! Signed, multi-instrument musician with a 3-note range – Carl Witthoft Apr 2 at 14:44
  • Anecdote: an accomplished musician I know could not sing to save his life (possibly related to a stutter), but could whistle extremely accurately. – Carl Witthoft Apr 2 at 14:45
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    @CarlWitthoft - it often happens the other way round. Those with a stammer don't do it while singing. Interesting? – Tim Apr 2 at 15:46
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No way. Even if they can hear the right note in their head it does not mean the have developed the muscle memory to generate the correct note.

Singing is not automatic, and does not come automatically for trained musicians. I was "lucky" in my opinion in that several of my private teachers on guitar and classical bass required me to be able to sing parts of the music I was playing or going to play in order to provide me with well rounded training. I now take classical voice lessons and there is a lot involved. For example, the practice I got in my private lessons was sufficient to get notes in tune for a short range but I would lose my breath fast and get a headache. Knowing how to support with my core keeps that from happening and my range is about twice what I thought it was.

But before those early lessons I could not even find 2 notes vocally. And I would not have been able to without help from those teachers.

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  • I agree. I'm a multi-instrumentalist, and I can usually match a note, but rarely can I hit the note right off especially without something to compare to. And that's just knowing what "in tune" means, and not any sort of vocal gift. – Duston Apr 2 at 17:14
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A trained musician should know what note he's aiming for when singing. Whether he has the vocal equipment to actually produce it is another matter!

My experience it that musicians can generally hit an accurate pitch, if it's within their physical vocal range. It may be a pretty horrible SOUND though.

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Possibly look at it diametrically? If someone already has the propensity to sing in tune - not necessarily with a quality voice, but that's not in your remit - then there's probably more chance of them becoming a musician who plays an instrument (or two).

So, the concept could be turned on its head. There must be plenty of singers who don't know their intervals, but still sing in tune in any key, but if they also play an instrument, that may well help them understand intervals, for example. I've never got my head round how easy it is to play an interval on an instrument - it's a physical thing, as in how many frets/ how many black and white keys - that sort of thing, whereas with one's voice, there's no physical reference...

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In my experience, no, not automatically. I have met very, very skillful musicians that have much trouble with singing in good pitch. It seems to me that some people are naturally very good singers and some are not, even though those who are not might spend years and years training with voice teachers, they may still not achieve the same voice and pitch as someone who just naturally sings 'right' (= great "grounding" of the voice, singing (and speaking!) in the mask, good air flow in the voice...).

I have also met musicians with no experience at all that have become very, very good singers in a short time (the best example is from my former choir: a person has been selected to our choir through auditions, with only a little singing experience and no experience in playing any instrument; in less than half a year he is able to sing with a beautiful voice and great pitch in a quartet of singers, so he is singing his voice alone and matches every note with great pitch).

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Musicians who have been playing for a long time, or went to college, who have developed an excellent musical ear and relative pitch; are they automatically good at singing?

Obviously not. Having an excellent ear is necessary to being a fine singer, violinist or trombone player (all instruments where the musician has to get it exactly right to make the right pitched note). But it is certainly not sufficient. You also need a fine instrument. Give an excellent violinist a plywood violin and it will sound like a plywood violin when (s)he plays it.

Similarly, it doesn't matter how wonderful a person's ear is if they have a voice which is the singer's equivalent of a plywood violin. Think Janis Joplin.

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    Minus 3 internets for dissing Janis. – Carl Witthoft Apr 2 at 14:46
  • I disagree with your claim "you also need a fine instrument." There are many studies where trained musicians have been given cheap instruments and somehow they still play fabulously. When I visited the Bate Musical Instrument Collection in Oxford UK they told us there's a recorder ensemble who deliberately play cheap plastic recorders just to make the point that it's The Musician not The Instrument. It can be an excuse we make to ourselves that the reason our music-making is bad is that our instrument is bad. – Brian THOMAS Apr 3 at 11:40
  • @BrianTHOMAS While it is true that a pro can make a cheap instrument sound decent, it is not true that anyone can make it sound as good as a quality instrument. Further, particularlly for the string section, there's an incredible variability in the type of sound produced. I played 30 cellos in a givenprice range before finding the one that stole my heart. – Carl Witthoft Apr 3 at 13:03
  • @BrianTHOMAS One other note: reed players will tell you that thedifference between a good reed and a crappy reed isn't the sound. It's the effort required to produce that sound. – Carl Witthoft Apr 3 at 13:04

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