exploring the mind’s musical ear
In this section...
Many people never got the chance to learn to sing at an early age when the part of your brain reserved for developing the mind’s musical ear took shape. If you heard your parents singing around the house a lot or singing you to sleep, chances are your mind developed that important imprint of the way music is organized, necessary to being able to perceive and produce musical sound. Singing is fun and is a learned experience. If you are one of many who seem to struggle with nding their voice, opening it up, and feeling not only comfort- able but thoroughly enjoy singing and the vibration of sound, then this program is the missing link to being able to sing and sing in tune, harmony, and enjoy your life more. Or, perhaps you are a parent or older sibling who wants to help themselves and a young one, then this book gives you a keen understanding of what you’ll need to know to be able to sing well and communicate musically with others. Once you open the listening part of your mind’s musical ear, your singing will become much stronger and easier. You’ll have a wonderful skill and a means of communication that you’ll share with others for the rest of your life. You may decide to take it to a professional level where the information you’ll learn in this program is necessary to your success in achieving your goals.
Before we dream ahead of ourselves, rst you’ll need to know what the mind’s musical ear is and how it works; second, why you can or cannot sing in tune; third, the stages of development the brain goes through, and last but not least, have an opportunity to exercise your mind’s ear-to-voice coordination by mov- ing your voice around with some fun, pitch and tonal memory games.
T-CD 1 Track #5
The two most important things in singing are: #1 breathing correctly and #2 listening to yourself—
listening to your mind’s musical ear, listening to how your mouth is shaping the words, listening to how your voice relates to your musical accompaniment, listening to where the music is going and how your voice ts into it, listening to the sound you are creating in your mind’s ear become the sound you want to make, and where you want it to go. The mind’s musical ear is foremost and its process is called Audiation.
Audiation is to music as thinking is to language. A person learns to think musically or audiate, just as they learn to think with words. Audiation is the ability to hear something heard before, or never heard before, and recreate it or create it in your mind’s ear, to imagine accurately or hear mentally. Singing whistling, humming, speaking, or chanting, is the ability to reproduce what is heard in the “mind’s ear.”
Audiation or thinking musically also allows one to create music that’s never been heard before, just like putting a sentence together to speak. A person is not born thinking language right away, so too, it is with music. First you hear sounds, then you learn what that sound means, then you connect the sound with the meaning and it “becomes” a word. Then you put words together to make phrases or sentences; then whole paragraphs and before you know it, whole stories. Music is much the same way. First you hear the sounds, then the sounds make sense to you and you can identify them, give them meaning. Then you can start stringing the patterns or sounds together and like a miracle, you have organized sound called music!
Audiating is like hearing in color when you’ve only heard in “black and white.” The more you audi- ate, the more you experience the nuances, contrasts, and textures found in music. Musical notes, in fact all vibrations, have their own color experience. We just can’t see the colors of the musical spectrum; we can only hear them.
Singing and audiation both are learned experiences. Some people can audiate but cannot sing. Even some musicians may audiate but lack the ear to voice coordination to be able to sing. Some people are born with more cortical connections in the brain than others for the “music experience” and so have an easier time of it, provided they had meaningful musical experiences at a very young age. Listening to music, pitch recognition and comparison, melodic recall, singing or playing music, and reading music, all use different parts of the brain. Processing music will activate more neural pathways in the brain. At a young age, it enhances and accelerates intelligence. As we age, it keeps your brain/mind and speaking/ singing apparatus healthy and young.
Section 1: Exploring the Mind’s Musical Ear
Learning to audiate and learning “singing basics” and its “breathing process” will connect all these necessary elements together for reproducing sound in tune. Once you’ve learned to audiate and sing, you won’t be embarrassed to sing with others anymore and you may even enjoy joining in harmony. You’ll enjoy the feeling of singing as it vibrates the whole body. It will make you healthy, feel good, and experience more of the good in life . . . and that’s a good thing. R☞
Being able to audiate will open up a whole new world of listening to your environment and to music.
You’ll hear things you’ve never heard before! It will also make learning any instrument easier and more enjoyable. You’ll be able to recall and create your own music on that instrument. It’s part of what is called “playing by ear.” Memorizing music also becomes easier. Singing becomes more enjoyable with more freedom to explore.
Audiation and singing will enrich your life in more ways than you can imagine. You’ll also appreciate music more because you’ll be able to hear and distinguish different sounds that make up a simple song or a whole symphony. Instead of hearing a “blob” of sound, now you’ll hear the whole sound and all it’s parts. You’ll bring music into yourself instead of keeping it out. You’ll be really hearing and creating music instead of learning it as a memorization process—see this note and press this key. You’ll also be able to communicate with musicians and others who understand musical sound.
Causes and Solutions for Inaccurate Singing
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Pitch matching, pitch discrimination, pitch memory, and pattern recognition are necessary requirements in good singing. The same applies to the rhythmic aspects of music, which will be covered in the chapter on rhythm later on. To identify what level of abilities you or your child has, and what kinds of exercises in this program to do first, you’ll need to understand what these requirements are and locate what causes inaccuracies.
Pitch matching is the ability to reproduce vocally the exact same tone as the source tone.
Pitch discrimination is the ability to tell if a note is higher or lower than another note.
Pitch memory is the ability to remember melodic patterns or phrases.
Pattern recognition is the ability to relate groups of notes to a larger structure such as a scale or melody.
“A singer must hear accurately, determine the source of the pitch, compare the source pitch to an internal map of high-low, produce a pitch vocally, hear the produced pitch, and compare the produced pitch to the internal map and to the source pitch . . .”
Now, that may sound like a lot. I assure you it all happens almost all at once and the better you are at audiating, the faster and more “natural” or sub-consciousness it becomes. When you learn anything new, it feels awkward at first and seems like it takes a long time. But if you don’t give up, the more you spend time with it, the easier it becomes because it starts to seep into deeper layers of your mind where it seems to happen “naturally” or without thinking about it.
“The underlying causes of poor pitch matching may be organic (neurological, audiological, or medical), cognitive (developmental or, again, neurological), functional, or any combination thereof.”
Amusia is the neurological medical term for “tone deafness” and it can occur from organic, cognitive, or functional causes. R☞
Organic causes of amusia can come from a genetic defect or brain trauma. Or audio-logically, a person may not hear the sound source or even his or her own voice. This is more simply called, “hearing loss” and there are a variety of organic causes for this. Organic causes may or may not have remedies.
1 Marty Hersniak, “The Care and Training of Adult Bluebirds (Teaching the Singing Impaired),” The NATS Journal of Singing, Volume 61, No. 1, (September/October 2004: 10
Section 1: Exploring the Mind’s Musical Ear
Some people have trouble hearing their own voices when the note they are trying to sing is in the same octave or frequency as their own voice. This is called “selective frequency damping” of the auditory nerve.
Some cannot distinguish pitch whether musical or not, including hearing the natural rise and fall of speech; but they sure can dance, focusing on the rhythmic aspects rather than the tonal aspects of music.
Some have cochlea hair cells, essential for distinguishing sounds, which are structurally damaged or nonfunctional from either genetic causes or damage from loud environmental sounds.
Some even hear more than one tone when only one tone is given!
Medically, one could have problems with the larynx and its nerve or muscle or joint disorders or even with the dreaded Acid Re ux Disease which affects the arytenoids, singing muscles, causing them to be less capable of normal response to typical breath and muscle management.
Cognitive causes however, can be repaired with focused, short-term training. The brain CAN be taught how to process musical information. That’s where this program comes in; however, some cognitive causes may require feedback from a qualified musician, software feedback program,
or qualified voice teacher in the early stages. R☞
Are you an adult or child singing novice, never having learned to match pitch before?
Do you have a dif cult time with short-term memory or the syntax of tones, or the words to a song or a poem?
Does it take you longer to retain a melody (tonal memory) or to follow the direction or map of how far pitch moves up or down in musical space, or retain/understand how fast a rhythm pattern happens in musical time?
By the way, if you sing only with the radio or prerecorded music or an accompanying instrument,
you may never develop your own internal musical map, which is essential to good singing.
Are you from a Middle-Eastern, East Indian, or another different musical culture? If so, you have acquired a different tuning system with many more notes, or in some cases, less notes, than in our Western way of organizing music. You may sound to Western ears like you sing “in the cracks.” If you want to sound “out of the cracks” it is wise to know how Western music is organized and perceived.
Are you a musician who has played a transposing instrument for many years like a saxophone or trumpet, so you carry the difference of that transposition into your singing?
Answering yes to any of the following questions is a good indication that a good voice teacher is also necessary while you are going through the course. R☞
• Are you born with a voice that is very high or very low from the norm and try to force your voice into the normal range of most people, instead of just singing an octave higher or lower?
Chapter 2: Causes and Solutions for Inaccurate Singing
Do you think that singing is harder to do than speaking? Are you “squeezing” your vocal cords together and trying to push that tension throughout your entire singing range causing pitch to go out of tune?
Do you go out of tune when the vowel of a word changes?
Do you hear more overtones, which are high acoustic frequencies that make up a tone, other than the fundamental frequency? Then you may have trouble with acoustic instruments and nd it easier to match pitch to electronic instruments with more limited overtones?
Do you not perceive the pitch because of the resulting buzzing of vibrations in your own bone structure?
If you can already audiate but cannot properly reproduce the sound with your voice, learning a healthy vocal technique will usually x any of these areas:
If you drift from key to key in a song because you think you are reaching an uncomfortable area of your vocal range.
If you put too much tension on squeezing your vocal cords together thinking that you have to push to get a sound.
If you hold too much tension in your physiology—neck, jaw, tongue, and surrounding muscles near the larynx.
If you have a lack of good breath energy which causes pitch to lower or flatten.
If you have too much support or push too hard which causes pitch to rise or sharpen.
If you have impaired lung function due to asthma, toxic molds, environmental allergies, or duodenal hernias which can also effect your breath capacity.
If you use a lot of vocal fry (that gravelly sound) in your voice because you are not supporting from the diaphragm and are squeezing the cords together.
In my many years of teaching voice and audiation, teaching thousands of adults and children how to sing, my students have had much success with a combined program of ear training and vocal training no matter what level they are at. I’ve helped many people and their voice and find their pitch, including ones who come to me with just one or two notes of vocal range. After a few months, to a couple of years, they have a much wider vocal range and they are able to sing in tune. They radiate more confidence in their appearance and I hear it in their tone. I enjoy seeing the looks on their faces when they are singing in tune for the first time. Something opens up and touches their heart. Some start to laugh and some start to cry. With practice, a little patience, and persistence, the results are well worth the effort. Remember, you get good at whatever you spend the most time doing. Make good choices and remember to enjoy the process.
Section 1: Exploring the Mind’s Musical Ear
Our own ears and the ears of others perceive sound individually. Energy is behind sound. Make your sounds with the intention of balance and tuning into the highest good. “Sound is a carrier wave of consciousness.” (Steven Halpern ) Put good energy into your time spent here. Life will be more enjoyable.
Some people use the voice for many kinds of therapy and/or religious chanting. Audiation is useful, but not absolutely necessary, if you are using sound for music therapy, healing or chanting purposes. However, audiation will open up more perception centers so you have a deeper understanding of or be more connected with how sound works. The power of sound may enhance many healthy elements of our being. Sound vibration even goes into our cells and rearranges our cellular structure, bringing the body back to a healthy state of homeostasis, which is the basic theory behind ultrasound medical equipment, and quartz tuning forks and singing bowls, Nada Yoga and more. Further, sounds or music in general has an effect on our physical being.
Making sound and music is like a brain massage, balancing the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Some people and great assistance with the use of Toning. R☞ Toning, simply put, is holding long tones on various vowels with positive intentions. Long tones in singing develops the voice and ear simultaneously. Done correctly, it strengthens our vocal (sound making) apparatus, which helps us sustain a pitch in tune. It also activates (depending on the type of music) or relaxes the heart rate, calms the nervous system, and enhances our life energy.
Jonathan Goldman, “Vocal Toning the Chakras,“ CD on Sounds True © 2005
Stages of Development
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Whether child or adult, if you are a singing novice, have memory de cit, are musically “map-less,” or come from a different musical culture, there are stages you will go through on your way to develop your mind’s ear and your ear’s voice—the team that makes up your “Voice’s Musical Ear.” Tune Your Voice is designed to take you through these stages and on to more enhanced audiation & reproduction skills. Here are a few helpful things to know.
The brain learns music at various stages.4 If you have children, generally from 5 months prior to birth, to age 9 thru 12, is when the brain has the most available “receptors” for music just waiting to be “plugged in.” If these are not used for music, they will go towards other uses in the brain. After age 12 it takes longer to learn. Our singing novice and our map-less singers were probably not exposed to music patterns, especially sung music, during their early lifetime, or were told to “mouth the words” when everyone else was singing so they never got a chance to work it out.
5 months pre-birth to 2–4 years, including your whole life, is an Acculturation process. As you hear music, it seeps into your audio learning centers in your brain. It is important to listen to a lot of simple instrumental music at rst. Sing and chant without words during this stage to allow the brain to build a bigger library of music patterns rather than building more language vocabulary. Use the syllables “Bah” for melodic and “Bup” for rhythm patterns.
From 2 years old to 5 you begin an Imitation process of what you have been hearing. Most adults are able to imitate but some cannot because most likely they were not exposed to much music at an early age when the brain is more receptive to music—up to age 9 or 12. You can learn to match pitch and learn to audiate after that age but it just takes a little longer. You will get the help you need from experiencing this program.
From age –6 is the Assimilation process. Here you have been collecting a larger vocabulary of sounds with which you can begin to audiate. This program offers many examples to assimilate from basic to somewhat advanced listeners & reproducers.
This does not mean it takes six years to audiate. In my experience with my adult students, I’ve seen it take on average, less than a year. It just depends on how much time was spent at it and how many of the causes for poor pitch matching a person has. If you are you ready to step up to a new musical experience, let the fun begin.
4 Edwin E. Gordon, “Music Play” –The Early Childhood Music Curriculum Guide for Parents, Teachers and Caregivers. ©1998 by GIA Publications, Inc., Chicago, IL ISBN: 1-57999-027-4
Section 1: Exploring the Mind’s Musical Ear
Practices for Accurate Singing
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Pitch Discrimination: Finding the High versus. Low or Up versus Down
Can you tell if any given note is higher or lower, or if several notes are going up or going down in pitch? If you can, when you sing it, are you allowing your voice to extend to where the pitch is naturally, without strain?
Using your voice, explore nding high and low pitches to understand what is called:
Ascending—going up (higher)
Descending—going down (lower)
Sometimes it helps to sing lighter when pitch matching. Just don’t lose energy when
reaching comfortably for higher or lower notes you’ve never tried singing before.
Start by sliding the voice through musical space from low to high and back a few times. Listen to the demonstration on T-CD 1 Tk #8 (approx. 1 min. in)
This is also a good vocal warm-up on the syllables “uh,” “n,” or “ng” as in sung or hung:
OK, now it’s your turn. Repeat after the example as best as you can.
Slide your voice up or higher—ascend by starting in the middle range
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Start in the middle and slide the voice going down or lower—descend
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Section 1: Exploring the Mind’s Musical Ear
Start high and go down, descend, like this faster
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Start low and go up, ascend, like this faster
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Start in the middle and go up and down a few times,
starting slowly, then speeding up
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Pattern Recognition: Same or Different
Melodic Pattern Recognition
In T-CD 1 Tk #14, listen for two pairs of notes. Are they the same or different? There will be a silence space for you to answer, followed by the correct answer.
Rhythm Pattern Recognition
Next, in T-CD 1 Tk #15, listen to the clapping of two rhythmic patterns. Are they the same of different?
Melodic Memory Matching
T-CD 1 Tk #16 Listen for some short sung melodies. Are they the same or different?
Can you tell when a note is wrong in the melody?
Which note is wrong or on which word the wrong note happened?
Pitch Matching: Finding the Center of the Pitch
In the introduction you read that pitch is like that lollipop with the hard candy on the outside and the chocolate center. If you are singing in the “candy” part of the pitch, we can almost tell what pitch it is supposed to be because you are orbiting around the center; but it doesn’t sound great until you land on the “center of the pitch”—that sweet chocolate part.
Singing in tune means getting to the center of the pitch, “the chocolate center,” as fast as you can. A singer may slide in and out of the center through the candy part on purpose just to express more emotion but each “slide” or “scoop” or “lick” still needs to get to the center sooner or later to make it sound good to the ear.
Steps for adult or child Singing Novices:
T-CD1 Tk #17 mid-way
To assist in maintaining a steady pitch center, make sure you have enough steady energy from taking in a good breath. First, try to hold out a note on a long steady tone. Then have someone who you know that can sing in tune, hold out a note that matches the note YOU are already singing. You both should be singing at the same time. This will help you to realize what it feels like and sounds like to have someone match your pitch. Listen carefully while you both hold out long tones and synchronize with each other.
Second, ask them to sing a different note and then you try to match their note, always listening for that “matching” sound. Have them tell you if you are too high or too low or right on. R☞ Third, never tell a beginner they are wrong; rather, ask them if they can slide their voice to match yours. Sometimes a hand movement in the direction you want the person to go will help those more visually oriented.
Use T-CD1 Tk #25 & #26 for pitch matching practice.
Use L-CD Tk #1–#12 and on, for more pitch matching practice.
Use S-CD Tk #1–#24 to stabilize the voice, makes matching pitch easier.
Each note is played for one full beat. The rst time you’ll hear what the target note is and the second time you hear the note, you then match with the note. There are two beats between each note. You’ll be able to hear the note, match with the note, and check yourself that you are on the right note.
Repeat each exercise as often as needed. But don’t get bogged down if you get stuck. Move on to other exercises. Just come back to visit this exercise daily until you can get to the center of the pitch very quickly.
Pitch and Pattern Memory: Remembering Tones
Try to sing the notes being sung on the example in
T-CD 1 Track #18
You might match it right the very rst time. If not, slide your voice up and down slowly towards the target pitch. When you match it, hold it for a few seconds to listen to yourself closely matching it right in the center of the pitch.
Sing (Echo–Sing) after the example to match these -note melodies.
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Match these rhythms. Echo–Clap.
Tap your foot with the big beats played on Indian drum and Echo–Chant.
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Match these pitches and rhythms with Echo–Singing.
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More Pitch and Pattern Memory: Audiating—Remembering Your Note
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Listen for the special note to sing and remember.
Match and sing this note.
Then remember this special note in your mind’s ear but don’t sing it out loud until you hear the pause in the music. Listen while the example plays a bunch of notes, different from your note, to try to knock you off your note. But you keep thinking about your special note. You just do everything you can to stay on your note.
You may sing it out loud but when you can sing it in your head and hear it in your head and not lose it no matter what is going on in the music, then you know you’ve got it.
When the music pauses, sing your note.
Then you will hear the correct note to see if you stayed on the special note.
Without music, the world would be monochrome.
Those who hear not the music . . .
think the dancers mad.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
Practice. Practice. Practice.