Singing is like juggling. There are many elements that come into play and it takes time for our mind to understand them and build the skills we need.
It can be useful for singers to understand some of the psychological aspects that could affect how you learn so you don’t get discouraged and you’ll know everyone else is in the same boat.
So, what can we do to grasp all the elements more quickly? Here’s what you need to know.
PLAY vs SELF CRITICISM
When we sing as children it is more playful and fun which allows the musical concepts and skills to be developed in a gentle, and generally easier way.
As adults we may not acknowledge how play and fun can increase the speed of learning and the retention of new information. We often tend to criticise ourselves when we don’t succeed in gaining skills quickly.
When I’m working with adults who don’t have good pitch and that can’t hold a tune, it is essential to make the process of learning fun, if it isn’t fun they would find it hard to keep practicing until the skills become automatic. So, just repeating silly noises together may be the most important part of my lessons!
Most importantly don’t be hard on yourself as you are learning.
Research shows that children develop music skills in a certain order.
A baby will naturally interact with music if they are giving a rattle or spoon to hold in their hand. They will start to move with the music which develops their rhythm skills. So, if you are just starting to develop your music skills and learn singing, interact more with the music more by tapping or clapping along as you listen to your favourite songs. It’s fun!
Interestingly, young children tend to respond mainly to larger intervals between notes, for example a low note followed by a high note. They find it much more difficult to hear the smallest gap between notes called a semi-tone.
Beginner adults will also need to take the time to listen carefully to music to develop their “ear” so that they can accurately discern the gaps between the notes.
So, try listening more to the movement of the notes in the melody as you learn songs and avoid joining in too soon.
Another interesting aspect of the psychology of music is the interaction between the left and right sides of the brain.
The right side of the brain has been traditionally seen as the creative side. It’s the playful side, the side that emotions can be expressed with. The creative or right brain deals with the melody of a song and also how we express the emotions and meaning in the song.
The left side of the brain is strongly connected to speech, it is like a task master, it likes to control things and bring order to situations. It’s also the critical side of the mind that could be hard on you if you don’t pick up new concepts quickly enough. For singers, the logical or left brain deals with the musical structure of songs and physical skills of singing.
The rhythm or beat in the music uniquely activates both sides of the brain and is a great starting point when you’re learning new songs.
Research shows that musicians use both the left and right side of the brain when they are problem solving much more than non-musicians. This may be one of the best side-effects of singing – it improves your problem solving skills!
To integrate both sides of the brain, I recommend taking a step by step approach to learning songs which separates the skills of the left and right sides of your brain.
HOW TO LEARN SONGS
- Listen to the beat and rhythm of the song before trying to learn the words or melody.
- Hum along with the song, this keeps the practice playful (right brain thinking) and stops the left brain from kicking in too soon.
- Print out the words and read them through (left brain thinking) before adding them to the song.
- Learn one verse at a time. Don’t try to learn the whole song by singing it through as that’s too much information for your brain to take in.
- Use ALL your senses to learn the lyrics. What do you see, hear, smell, taste and feel? Visualise the scene and you’ll learn the words much more quickly.
- Do regular warm ups and ear training exercises too. These relate to the left brain and can feel more tedious but they are very, very helpful for improving your tone and vocal agility.
Even if you have been told you can’t sing I believe it is possible to learn it later in life. Bear in mind that musical skills can only be gained and integrated together over a period of time. It is better not to rush the process in case you miss some of the essential steps along the way.
Knowing a little about music development in children and the role of left and right brain in singing has certainly helped me develop a way to teach singing to adults that is fun yet helps their skills and confidence develop bit by bit. I hope this understanding helps you too!
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About AideenAideen is an Intuitive Voice Coach, Mentor and Singer. She unlocks the mental and emotional blocks to being seen and heard so that you can speak up, Sing OUT and step forward in life with renewed faith in yourself. She blends her knowledge of psychology, spirituality and voice training to uncover the hidden treasure within your unique voice. Aideen can help you to sing & live joyfully by transforming your self doubt into self confidence! Since launching Confidence in Singing in 2016, Aideen has been featured on RTE’s Nationwide, Beat 102 103, and South East Radio, with mentions for her work in Ireland’s Own and the health supplement of the Irish Independent. Aideen also produces her own original music and is currently working on new material. Click HERE to book your free Consultation