Something a lot of people don’t understand is that singing while playing the cello is hard. People sing while playing guitar all the time; why can’t cellists sing too? Despite how easy Jorane makes it look, it’s really a challenge and it’s something I’ve never really been able to articulate to other musicians other than to say, “No, it’s just hard.”
I finally figured out why, thanks to a thread over at NewDirectionsCello.com. Someone asked why it’s so hard, and why guitarists can do it with greater ease, and someone hit on the answer. It’s because the physicality of playing the cello is more involved and complex than that of playing the guitar. Basically, the movements required and the muscles used include those of the muscles one would use to sing.
To expound: one uses one’s ENTIRE body to play the cello, to especially include the diaphragm and body core (EVERY muscle is highly active in cello performance, to include even the legs and feet). Breathing is extremely important with the cello, ergo a conflict may ensue between the cello and voice.
And that’s a huge part of it. To begin with, it’s hard to sing sitting down, because your torso has less room to expand and there’s less support for the column of air. It’s difficult to keep the muscles in the centre of the body relaxed enough while playing to use them to sing as well. Sure, you could play standing up (again I point to Jorane as an example), but that requires learning an entire new style of physically playing the instrument. Your angles are different, the weight distribution is different, and so forth. And basically it’s hard to use muscles for two different things at once, when each requires so much energy. One might as well ask a saxophonist to tap dance while playing, for example.
Apart from that, other musicians on the thread (who play both instruments) pointed out that the cello seems to take more attention to play. This may be because of all the frequent and freakishly minute muscular changes constantly required to balance movement and direction in both hands and arms, for example. Some say they can sing along only if the cello line is simple enough (and, one imagines, the key). Others have problems with the rhythm of the vocal and the cello lines being different. It’s all food for thought, and provided me with an “Aha!” moment. I know how involved my torso muscles are when I play, and I wonder why I never made the connection before.