Acquiring the Language of Music

What is Audiation?

Audiation is the ability to think musically. As Dr. Edwin E. Gordon explains, “audiation is to music what thought is to language”*. In the same way that children must learn to listen and think before they can speak, children should also be taught to listen and audiate before they learn to sing.

Over the past 10 years as a full-time professional vocal coach, I have worked with thousands of individuals from a variety of different backgrounds, from complete beginners to some of Asia’s top industry professionals. I have witnessed far too many times the frustration and challenges experienced by clients who are incredibly passionate about singing but are disadvantaged as a result of a lack of adequate and appropriate instruction on how to audiate during their childhood. Learning proper vocal technique is a process of listening, imitating and internalising. In many ways, teaching students how to physically control their vocal instrument is the easy part of my profession. It merely requires time, commitment and proper guidance and practice. The real challenge is guiding a student to become artful in their musical application of proper vocal technique. To do this, which is to say, to truly master the art of singing, a singer must first and foremost learn how to audiate.

*Christopher Azzara, Audiation, Improvisation, and Music Learning Theory. (1991, The Quarterly, 2(1–2), 106–109.

Music Development Starts from Birth

There is a significant amount of scientific research that support the importance of early childhood music education. In Music Play: The Early Childhood Music Curriculum Guide for Parents, Teachers & Caregivers, authors Reynolds et. al., explain that children are born with an overabundance of cells to make crucial neurological connections and synapses. If these cells are not appropriately directed to make sufficient neurological connections and synapses related to a particular sense (be it sight, hearing, touch, etc), they will direct themselves to enhancing other senses, and, as a result, the neglected sense or senses will  be limited throughout life.  This essentially means that if a young child is not given sufficient opportunities to develop their music-listening skills, the cells that would have otherwise been used to further develop their aural sense will be directed to strengthening other senses. What’s more, Reynolds et. al. suggest that once these connections and synapses have been established, the effects are irreversible, and “No amount of compensatory education at a later time will be able to completely offset the handicap.”  

To be continued…

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