Modern Style Singing (Crooning) – Chapter Four – Al Bowlly (1934)

Music Training Necessary .

It may come as a shock to some of my readers to learn that I consider careful and painstaking study and practice the only w ay ever to become a successful dance-style singer. Even if the beginner is gifted with a” natural” voice, and can speak clearly and distinctly, he is a very long way from being able to join a dance band as a singer.

Out of all the hundreds of aspirants I have seen or who have written to me, not one per cent knew the first thing about music. Even less had the ability to sing ,at sight, a number which they had never previously seen. Sight-reading is absolutely essential for the ambitious singer, as is an all-round knowledge of the elements of music.

Without it, no singer will ever get beyond the drawing-room stage. Certainly they will stand no chance amid the fierce competition of professionalism. This may be disquieting news to many who had hoped that this book would contain a few hints which, having been hastily read, would assure success as a singer.

But I’m afraid it has got to be faced that without a practical knowledge of music, and in particular the ability to sight-read, the would-be crooner is so heavily handicapped as to be a non-starter. But do not let this be too discouraging. All the musical knowledge you will need will be given to you within these pages and in a form, I hope, which will make it easy and pleasant to assimilate.

But there is no use skipping or skimping it. If your ambition goes no further than to sing at occasional concerts, or to amuse yourself and a small circle of friends, then perhaps you need not practice quite so hard. But even in these circumstances the knowledge will be an enormous help. I have no doubt that there are many instrumentalists who will read this book, both professional and semi-pro. These, no doubt, are congratulating themselves on already having a knowledge of the rudiments of music, which they may well do. But do not let them think, however, that there is no necessity for them to learn further. Many musicians can read at sight almost any instrumental music that is put before them, are quite at sea when it comes to vocal reading.

The first subject to be dealt with, then, is music. If I were teaching in person instead of through the medium of the printed word, I would regard voice culture as being the first consideration. But this latter calls for examples in written music, and without a knowledge of at least the rudiments of notation how is the student to be able to understand them ?

2 thoughts on “Modern Style Singing (Crooning) – Chapter Four – Al Bowlly (1934)

  1. E. Z. Marc May 4, 2019 / 1:17 pm

    Sight reading is necessary? Crushing news to Ray Charles and so many others.


  2. Wistful Nostalgic July 20, 2020 / 4:56 am

    This is interesting because I read that Al couldn’t read music himself- that is what people who knew him thought. I am of the mind that he could recognise the basic notes and chords but may not have been able to sight read to a complex level. Irving Berlin also could not read music!


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