Most of us have a set of ears on the side of our head; one on the left, one on the right. These ears carry auditory signals to the brain, leading to action commanded by the brain. We hear a door open and we turn our head to see who is walking into the room. We hear the sound of dripping water which leads us to tighten a leaky faucet. These sounds come to our brain from the ears on the side of our heads. But, are you aware you have a SECOND set of ears?
That’s right, your brain ALSO has a set of ears. Let me demonstrate. Sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” aloud listening with your external ears. Now, without making a sound, sing the song to yourself again. Can you hear yourself singing it? You can also change the imagined voice. Again, without making a sound, try singing the song with the voice of a dramatic soprano opera singer. How did you do that? How can you hear these sounds, when there is no audible noise? You can hear them because your brain has its own set of ears. That’s right; YOU have ears and your BRAIN has its own set of ears. And it is this SECOND set of ears that turns weak singers into wonderful singers. Here are three easy ways to help your singers develop that second set of ears:
- INTRODUCE NEW AURAL MODELS – Directors must work to change some of the brain’s ears pre-conceived sound models. Do you ever wonder why singers often sound like their favorite pop star of the day, or why choirs tend to shape vowels certain ways in different regions of the country? Those musical models have shaped the brain’s ears to accept and emulate the way those sounds are made. Directors must introduce NEW aural models to singers, training singers to emulate desired sounds. Humans are amazing mimics. We can copy nearly any sound our brain can imagine. But, if the brain’s ears have never heard these sounds, the vocal mechanism can never produce them. Introduce new aural models every time you rehearse!
- REHEARSE IDEAL IMAGINED SOUNDS – It is the brains set of ears that tells us how to form sounds and how it wants us to sound when we sing. If we wish to improve the sound of our singers, we must shape the imagined aural image of the brain’s ears. From pre-imagining vaulted, warm, rich and resonant tones to pre-imagining correct notes in a bass line, much can be accomplished in rehearsal without making a sound. Work daily with singers to shape the brain’s set of ears to match the qualities of sound you desire within the context of a particular piece of music.
- RECORD AND DEMONSTRATE – During the process of evolving the brain’s ear, it’s important to mark progress. Audio record your ensemble. Let them listen to the sounds they are making, explaining the origin and cause of them as they relate to the brain’s ear. Then, play recordings of your ‘ideal choir’ singing the exact same passage. Explain how these sounds are made. As you record and demonstrate over time, you will transform the brain’s ear of each singer to accept a new model for ideal sound within the context of any particular song.