Learning to sing – 20 questions for Sven Fürst


Sven Fürst

The opera and concert singer Sven Fürst started learning singing at the age of 20. He teaches at the Hochschule für Musik Würzburg ...


What is the perfect starting age?

For music in general and singing in particular, I don't think there is a perfect age to start. Professional singers often start singing relatively late compared to instrumentalists. Generally speaking, singing lessons and/or singing in a choir can be started as soon as a child/young person feels the need to be 'artistically' active in this direction.

Do I have to learn to read music?

Every future musician has to learn to read music at some point, so I would put it right at the beginning and, again in a playful way, start with learn to read music at the same time as singing.

Welches Instrument kann neben dem Gesang erlernt werden?

When singing as a 'melody instrument', the piano is always recommended as a second instrument for harmony, because you learn to understand the pieces better musically, and as a singer - with the help of the piano - you can work out your pieces independently - and accompany them if necessary.

What physical requirements are advantageous?

Looking at the great visual variety of singers shows that anything is possible. A deep chest (after growth), a flexible jaw, etc. are certainly advantageous. However, since singers cannot buy their instruments off the shelf, but have to 'build' them as they grow and practise, many things can be trained that are not yet present (breathing muscles, more direct access to the speech muscles, etc.).

How do you know if you are ready to sing?

Give it a go! After a while you will find out if it was the right thing to do, or if your interests have suddenly shifted, whether to the instrument or to other areas. There is no guarantee of success, but you can never take away what you have learned.


How much does it cost to sing?

The biggest advantage of singing is that it doesn't cost anything (apart from the lessons) and you always have your instrument with you (which can be a disadvantage in the snow and drizzle if you don't have a hat and scarf...).

Are there any other costs?

Singing costs lessons, of course, but they don't have to be expensive to be good! You will also need to buy the music you want - or put it on your wish list.

How much time does it take to maintain the voice?

As a singer, you always have your instrument with you. This is both a blessing and a curse. Over time, every singer has to get to know his or her body and know how the voice reacts to certain stimuli - be it cold, smoking, sick family members, too much partying, not enough sleep, and so on.

The best thing to do, of course, is not to strain the little cords in your throat too much too often and to practise a little vocal hygiene: drink plenty of healthy fluids, get enough sleep, talk less...

Unfortunately, we can't call in the piano tuner or just say we've got a broken string when the 'vocal carnival' – as one of our colleagues so delightfully put it – is on...

How is the instrument transported?

In us, with us... So there should be no need for bulky luggage on the plane.

For the start


Can you teach yourself to sing?

When it comes to singing, self-instruction (with the exception of a few stories about gifted autodidacts) is not really sensible and advisable, because physiologically/anatomically correct singing should always be accompanied and corrected by proven experts, especially in the beginning, so that things don't go in the completely wrong direction, especially for the young untrained singer. As a singer, you cannot buy a new instrument if the 'old' one is ruined.

How do you go about choosing the right material to study?

This should also be done in consultation with the teacher in the beginning, so that you do not over- or underchallenge yourself too early. New pieces can and should contain difficulties that the previous ones did not, so that you can progress, but step by step.

How can you practise without disturbing others?

Unfortunately, it is always the neighbourhood that judges...

What are the different vocal techniques?

There are many different singing techniques, depending on the genre in which one wishes to compete. The most obvious difference is that between so-called 'classical' singing, i.e. the style of singing that predominates in opera, concert and song (with exceptions), and musical/pop singing. The different timbres are created by a different leading of the voice and an overemphasis of individual registers, i.e. vocal ranges, in favour of others, which is due to the respective sound ideals of the different genres.

But even in the field of 'classical singing' there are differences in technique when it comes to vocal literature, be it early music or contemporary literature, which place completely new demands on the human voice.

When can we expect the first results?

When you sing, if you put your heart and soul into it and don't want to achieve the unattainable too quickly, you can actually see success relatively quickly.

Learn to sing


What are popular pieces for the first audition?

There are wonderful collections of songs that lend themselves to the first audition: Arie Antiche in appropriate keys, early Mozart, early German-language art songs, lighter Disney- or Musical Songs

What are the classics and what is your favourite?

The classics in singing are, of course, always Mozart, Schubert, Bach, where one can find an infinite number of suitable, feasible and touching pieces, but one is also shown one's limits from time to time, which gives new incentive to overcome them. I don't really have a favourite piece; if I had to choose music for a desert island, it would certainly be the bass arias from Bach's Matthew Passion, Mozart's Don Giovanni and songs by Richard Strauss... or Schubert's Schöne Müllerin... or or or ....

Sven's notes for the island

Which piece really makes you want to sing?

A wonderful audio example to see where the journey can go is certainly Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen, the aria of the Queen of the Night from The Magic Flute by W.A. Mozart.To experience what the human voice is capable of in terms of expression and art makes one very grateful, happy and humble!

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How can you make music together with others?

Singing is universal, solo, duet, in a small ensemble, in a choir, with instruments and instruments...

What function do you fulfil as a singer in ensembles?

Using human language to convey emotions - what instrument can do that?

Are there clichés about singing or about singers?

There are so many clichés that they could fill books: Sopranos are moody and difficult, altos are well-balanced and usually two metres tall, tenors are unpunctual, egocentric and stupid, basses are slow, and so on and so forth. As a rule, however, most singers today are the exact opposite of their stereotypes - with the exception of the giant contralto.

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