Guest article – Have you tried singing along with your keyboard? (Part 2)You may well have read some brief advice I gave in a recent newsletter on singing along to your playing, so if you are already having a go, here is some further advice...
Many years ago when I first started ‘singing along’ to enhance my relatively mediocre playing I used a basic microphone fixed to an adjustable microphone stand. I found however that having adjusted the microphone so my mouth was in direct line with this, when I was looking at the sheet music, the volume of my singing would regularly decrease however when I occasionally looked down at the keyboard to check I was playing the correct note, particularly if it was well up or down the keyboard. Then I noticed that some professional players used the type of microphone that is hooked over one or both of your ears, with a much smaller microphone mounted close to the side of your mouth, just as many show singers use so they can move around the stage, although in their case the microphone is connected wirelessly to the theatres sound system, whereas mine is still connected by wire to the microphone connection on the back of the keyboard. I happen to use a Shure WH20 microphone, of this type, which is of good quality. This naturally ensures that when I look down at the keys the microphone also moves down and hence the volume of my voice does not fade.
I also found that when I started singing as well as playing I had not only to look at the lyrics on the sheet music but also the notes I had to play with my right hand and the chords with my left hand, so to help me learn to play a particular new tune more quickly and correctly, I started buying EZ play today sheet music produced by the Hal Leonard Corporation, wherever possible, which as many of you will know have the note clearly written on each note, which I find makes the task considerably easier, because having recently reached the grand old age of eighty-two I find the old brain cells are not as fast at absorbing new information than they used to be.
In fact, having been around for a very long time I greatly enjoy singing songs by Sinatra who surprisingly happened to have a fairly limited range to his voice, which I increasingly suffer from as I have got older, so one of my favourite song books in the EZ play today series is the Frank Sinatra Songbook ref 240 which has forty of his favourite numbers. Another one in the same series which also has many of his favourite songs is 20th Century Jazz Standards ref 404. Interestingly enough some years ago the range of these EZ play today songbooks were very limited in Britain, but during a cruise we docked in New York for a day, so my wife and I walked up to Times Square. Having taken some photographs we started to walk onto Central Park, but immediately saw on a street corner a very small looking music shop so went in and asked if they had the EZ Sinatra Songbook, so we followed the Manager and the place was like the Tardis and having walked down two very long corridors we were shown a large wall full of EZ songbooks and is where I bought the two books stated above. The manager then gave me one of his business cards and said if you later want any other songbooks give us a ring and we will ship them to you. When I looked at his card it gave the opening times which amazingly showed the shop opened at 2pm each day and did not close until 2am the next morning. So I asked why such crazy hours and he explained that over any year many hundreds of thousands of people saw all the latest musical shows in the many theatres in Times Square and having come out late and having dinner in one of the many restaurants then walked past their shop desperate to buy all the relevant music books and hence most of their business was achieved at such an ungodly hour! I can’t remember the name of the shop and it may not be still there, but if you ever go to New York it might be worth checking if you are interested. In the meantime, such EZ books are now far more available in Britain.
In my previous article, I talked about the fact that I used to play concerts at Old Folks Homes. Obviously currently that is impossible due to COVID-19 virus but hopefully sometime later next year they will be looking again for people who can play and do sing-alongs, which the Old Folks enjoy so much. So if you do get into playing and singing along then I would suggest that you then contact the entertainment officer or equivalent person in one or two of the care homes near you and based on the fact there are currently about 12,500 care homes in Britain you will inevitably find one or two who will then welcome your kind offer to do the occasional concert for them. I will guarantee you will come out with a smile on your face having seen the joy on the faces of all these elderly people!
I believe you will also find that singing along will also give you much greater enjoyment, for example just play the tune entitled ‘What a wonderful world’. Then play it again and sing the beautiful lyrics and if you have had children of your own and perhaps now have grandchildren just think about the pleasure they can give to all of us and how this song captures this fact.
Happy New Year.