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  • Noa Kageyama

    November 22, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    Nice. This question gets at a very intriguing phenomenon. The implementation of this can be slightly different for each instrument, but what’s interesting, is that “singing brain” actually seems to help with staying ahead of the music and being in the driver’s seat with creating line, shaping, timing, even sound quality, as opposed to be constantly behind and reacting to what’s already happened. Because it takes time for sound to travel from the instrument to our ears, for the vibrations to be turned into electrical impulses, for those impulses to travel to our brain, for our brain to interpret those signals, send out a response to certain muscle groups, and for the muscle groups to activate and produce a change on our instrument, and for sound to be produced. Not a lot of time, but the standard unit of time that it generally takes most average folks to respond to an auditory signal (like the starter’s gun in a track race) is about 190 milliseconds. The implication being, if we are too focused on listening to what’s happening, we’re constantly behind and reacting as opposed to planning and creating.

    You will obviously hear what’s coming out of the piano, and adjust accordingly, but the idea is to be more preoccupied with what you want to hear, and to keep yourself out in front, creating the line, much as we do when sight-reading. And depending on what voice is most important, you could certainly switch dynamically back and forth between voices, much as a conductor might between different instruments/lines in an orchestra.

    Here’s a recent paper that provides a little more detail about this notion of visualization while playing, if you’re interested in reading more.

    As far as getting better at hearing the exact sound of your instrument in your head, you can practice visualizing sound in your head, then playing, then visualizing again, the playing, and so on, comparing and contrasting what you imagine, and what you hear, to get better at hearing something with your mind that is closer to what you hear with your ears.

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