Both vocalists and musicians playing instruments at a performance or concert work together. However, they each have completely separate roles, challenges, and ways of expression.
Although Colette Rinker, a first year student studying communications, started her musical career off at the age of ten by learning the piano, then progressed to learning alto saxophone and double bass at 13 and 14, she said, “My main instrument is voice.” Rinker said preparing and practicing vocally is extremely important and fills a large part of her schedule — she spends a lot of time going to applied vocal lessons, taking part in recitals, and being part of the KSC Concert Choir. Jason Coburn, a junior music educator major, explained that playing an instrument isn’t easy either. Coburn really got into playing the piano only a couple years after his great grandfather gave him a piano in sixth grade. He said two days during the week, he has ten hours of classes and on top of all the classes, he practices the piano a couple hours each day.
When performing, it is obvious that playing an instrument and singing have completely different roles. So it only makes sense to understand that they must have completely different challenges while on stage. Junior Tyler Martin, a double major in vocal performance and music composition, said, “As a vocalist, you have to work with text, so pieces in German, Latin or French, which is a challenge because we actually want to sound like we speak the language.” Martin then said that another difficult task singers face is that playing chords on a instrument is typically all the same, but when singing, hitting different notes can be much more challenging than others. Rinker adds, “We are required to memorize our music while instrumentalists aren’t, so that adds an extra obstacle I guess in terms of preparing and giving a solid recital.”
However, instrumentalists have challenges that vocalists don’t have to deal with either. Sophomore Madison Shimko majoring in music education said, “Even though being a vocalist and an instrumentalist both involve the music making process and generally the same skill set, being an instrumentalist is arguably more difficult in the sense that if you really want to sell the music, all you have is your instrument. Vocalists, on the other hand, are able to portray the emotion of a piece through facial expressions and movement.” She then added, “Achieving a captivating performance as an instrumentalist involves giving the lines direction by using louds and softs, and using pauses and tempo changes to create suspense and tension.” She said that even if an instrumentalist plays every note correctly and tunes their instrument right, it is hard to compete with the emotional experience a vocalist gives to the audience.
Coburn believes that either type of performer undergoes different experiences at the same level. He said, “I would say the balance of challenges for each category is about equal, it’s difficult for both.”
In the end, both instrumentalists and vocalists have their own challenges, and each person performing has their own reasons why they chose to perform on their primary instrument.
Rinker said, “I like performing vocally because it’s a way for me to express myself in a way that instruments can’t quite convey — it’s just something really cool about the human voice.” Coburn said, “Being on stage is just a feeling that you don’t get anywhere else, one of the best things is that you know. When you play music, you are making everyone feel great. Everyone enjoys music and it’s special to be the one providing that.”
Kiana Wright can be contacted