By Lynn Swanson
This post launches a new Tuesday ChoralNet blog entitled Developing Voices, a team effort by Lynn Swanson, Jamea Sale, Jennifer Berroth, and Melissa Shallberg. The blog is meant to offer insight gained from research and experience on how voices should develop in a healthy manner for the whole of our lives. You may access previous posts of the Developing Voices blog at developingvoices.blog.
We have established the Webb-Mitchell Centre for Choral Studies in Zhuhai, China, as a “No-Humming Zone.” Our Chinese character:
Rather than hum, we audiate. Audiation is a cognitive learning process by which the brain receives input, digests it, then defines it. In other words, one internalizes the pitch before one produces the pitch. Retention and production of the pitch must take place in the head before it can be accurately produced via the mouth.
There are other benefits to audiating:
- Listening to an entire phrase with an engaged brain organizes sequences and patterns so they may be recalled with greater precision.
- It decreases intonation issues. If you can hear it in your head, you can sing it correctly. As my colleague Dr. William Baker of the Choral Foundation always says: “Choirs that sing in tune, don’t hum the pitch!”
- Focus is maintained. Humming along to the piano or while others are singing interrupts the audiation and production process of others. It also contributes to a noisy learning atmosphere encouraging others to hum along.
- Sight-reading and tonal memory aptitude improves. Singing too quickly can bring about confusion with other patterns already stored in the brain. Hearing then thinking about the current intervals and rhythm will bring about more success with the initial attempt.
- Avoids adding noise to the rehearsal room. Noisy rooms produce the Lombard Effect which has a negative impact on the singers via the instructor’s compensation for this situation. Any noise levels that are increased during instruction causes the instructor to increase phonetic fundamental frequencies, sound intensity, volume, and overuse of articulators. This can cause vocal fatigue and produce other negative results.
Increase your musical aptitude by becoming a disciplined audiator. The more you audiate the more others will audiate. And the more pleasant our world will be.
Lynn Swanson is a sought-after conductor, vocal pedagogue, clinician, and organist. She holds the Bachelor of Music in Organ Performance from Shorter University in Rome, Georgia, and the Master of Music Education in Choral Pedagogy from the University of Kansas in Lawrence. She presently serves as Assistant Director of the Zhuhai Children’s Choir in Zhuhai, China. Lynn directs eight ensembles under the Webb-Mitchell Centre for Choral Studies in cooperation with the British Schools Foundation. Prior to her move to China, Lynn served as Executive Associate Music Director with the William Baker Choral Foundation leading numerous masterwork and a cappella ensembles. Maintaining her position as the Director of the Institute of Healthy Singing she continues to lead workshops centered around the “science behind the voice.” Upon her return to the United States Ms. Swanson will become director of the Choral Foundation’s first fully professional ensemble, The Lynn Swanson Chorale.