This afternoon, I practiced some music I hadn’t played in several weeks. While reviewing notes, fingerings, and dynamics, I found myself thinking about the function of the passage I was working on at the moment. Was it melody? Accompaniment? Beginning, middle, or end of a phrase? And then I started altering the lengths of the notes to accommodate the direction of the line.
But that felt too removed from the sound. Then, by chance, I started singing the line. Everything changed immediately.
It was no longer necessary to intellectualize the length of each note (this one is shorter, this one is slightly longer, this one falls away from the previous sound, this one leads up to the next one).
Singing instantly makes the line legato, continuous, and infused with life. Singing makes it human. Pianos don’t do that. Organs don’t either, really, unless the organist uses the volume pedal all the time.