Being able to analyze music aurally and process everything you hear at once is a very important skill for a musician. Learning to hear more parts at once and comprehend what is happening in each of those parts simultaneously can be done with what’s called “audiation”.
This mental listening technique will help you to internalize all the parts of a piece of music when reading or hearing music for the first time instead of just focusing on what we tend to naturally hear. As a result, all of your existing musical skills are enhanced and your instinctive musicality increases.
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What is “Audiation”?
In a nutshell: audiation is to sound what visualization is to images. In the past century, Hungarian composer and music theorist Zoltán Kodály created a revolutionary teaching approach based on using “inner hearing” to aid his student’s ability to learn music. Audiation is a technique derived from the Kodály method and is a relatively new way of learning to internalize and hear music inside your head.
Just as an artist visualizes the entire image before they draw it, audiation is used to train your ears to grasp in your head all of the parts of the music at once. With practice, you will eventually be able to relate the musical concepts you hear to the visual representations of the music because your brain will begin to relate the two.
Audiation Improves Your Musicality
The use of audiation applies to nearly all aspects of musical discipline and its application can make you a more versatile musician. For example if you are struggling with rhythm, practicing the auditiation of rhythm strengthens your internal sense of the pulse because you learn to identify patterns of strong beats. If you are challenged by sight-reading or sight-singing, imagining the score notation when you hear music in your head helps you transfer what you hear to what you see.
In an ensemble, all musicians are important. If you are focused on your part alone you may not be able to play “in the pocket”. Ensemble performers have a better understanding of tempo, blend, and the balance of dynamics when they learn to listen to all the parts.
Music producers, too, are aided by audiation, as it helps in hearing the layers of mixing, compression and other details of the recording.
And what do you do if there is simply no written score from which to play? This is actually fairly common in real-world musical life. Practicing audiation will help you to learn to play by ear when no notation is available.
Practice Outside of Your Normal Routine
As musicians, you are likely often listening to music anyway so that’s a good time to actively listen to all the parts of a piece of music and apply audiation. Our brains naturally latch onto things such as melody and strong beats when we listen to music so when listening to recordings of your favorite bands try focusing on each of the parts. For example, listen to the bass and drums, too, and not just the vocals or lead guitar.
If you are apart from your instrument or if you are a singer and can’t sing for six hours a day, audiation means you can still practice! You can sing the music in your head or work on fingerings while listening to music. Practicing in your head as you listen helps memorization, too, if your music must be memorized.
If you start to practice audiation, when you see a pattern of notes on the page, your brain will instinctively be able to imagine how they should sound and vice-versa. All it takes is a little practice and imagination. As a musician you are already a creative person, so imagining will come easily to you!
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