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#944041 - 02/22/08 02:11 PM When one doesn't hear tune in one's head  
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 47
Crystalcolors Offline
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Crystalcolors  Offline
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Upstate, NY
Just recently, I discovered that more than half of my students do not hear tune/melody/tone whatever in their heads.

Two of my students were going overseas for 3 months, carrying all their academic text books and stuff. So I prepared some theory exercises/drills for them to study while they were abroad. When I handed them to them, their faces turned painful. They said, "Oh, we can't do it, because we won't have a piano there." And I was like, "???? What're you talking about?"
I didn't realize that they had to have the piano, the keyboard to look at, and the actual sound to hear, in order to do the intervals, scale, and chord exercises on paper.

More students told me that they don't hear sound or melody or tune in their heads.

I was so dumbstruck. I didn't even realize such a problem existed. How can it be possible NOT to hear a melody in your head?
I can't even imagine what it is like. They must feel like Helen Keller or something.
No wonder they are having a difficult time learning.

Can anyone explain to me about this incredible phenomenon? Is it very common among people? Knowing that more than half of my students are that way, perhaps that is the normal? I always thought hearing it in your head is the normal.
Well, "normal" is probably not the proper word to use, but my vocabruary is so limited. So please don't take offense. I don't mean to be rude or anything. I just want to find out more about it so that I will be able to help my students in better ways. It's certainly slowing down their learning.

Do they hear any sound at all in their heads? Can they imagine in their minds someone talking or birds chirping, etc? I mean, gosh! If they can recognize their loved ones' voices, they must be able to reproduce those voices in their heads, right? If they can hear people's voices in their heads, how can they not hear a melody?

Do you think training their ears will help? Will they ever start hearing?
How can I help them?
I am just "Wow...!" right now.


Crystalcolors
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#944042 - 02/22/08 02:30 PM Re: When one doesn't hear tune in one's head  
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keyboardklutz Offline
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You seem a little confused. My guess is no, they can't sight sing very well, but yes, they can hear stuff 'in their head'.


snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
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#944043 - 02/22/08 02:42 PM Re: When one doesn't hear tune in one's head  
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keystring Offline
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As far as I figured it out, unless the sight singing method is used, instrumentalists process music from page to finger. They see C D E, their fingers reflexively press down C D E, and then they hear what it sounds like. They have to play the notes to hear what the music says. I didn't know that either. But I'm intrigued when I show a musician music, and instead of glancing at it, he drifts over to the piano, plays it, and then smiles. Not before.

Because I was untaught and had only a primitive solfege, I learned to hear the music, and play what I heard .... on whatever instrument. I am now teaching myself to go from eye to finger instead of from eye to ear to finger. I wnat to be able to do both.

It's like the people who have perfect pitch of the kind that is as clear as seeing the colour orange. They think it is so for everyone, until they find out that othes are blind to it. There is a family member who has that kind of perfect pitch, to the cent.

There is a story of a certain clairvoyant whose name I've forgotten who saw auras and assumed everyone saw them. He was walking with a friend when a woman walked by and he muttered "What ugly colours!" The woman was tastefully dressed, so the friend didn't know what he meant. But the clairvoyant was commenting on an aura of muddy browns and blacks, which he assumed his friend would also see. That is when he found out that he was unique in that respect.

#944044 - 02/22/08 02:45 PM Re: When one doesn't hear tune in one's head  
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Gyro Offline
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I cannot do written exercises, like, say,
4-part writing, without a piano. I cannot
look at a score and know what it sounds like.
Nor can I even look at individual notes, like,
say, middle C, and know what it sounds like,
except in a very general way. That is, I
cannot hear written music in my head like
some people apparently can.

However, I can "hear" a song that I've heard,
in my mind. So I do okay in "Suzuki"-style
instruction: when I was taking lessons
the teacher would play the piece that I
was assigned, and I would then remember what
it sounded like, which would help me when
working it up, as I could not sight-read.
And I can pick out a song that I know on
the piano, by ear. However, I cannot
correlate written notes with their sound,
except in a very general way, that is, I
don't hear written music in my head.

Perhaps this is why I take a very mechanical/
technical approach to piano playing: I
look at playing as a primarily athletic
activity, where one trains the muscles
to perform certain specific movements at
the keyboard. Thus, I consider playing
to be ultimately the development of
the strength needed to perform the
physical gymnastics needed to perform
a specific piece.

I can see where knowing what the written
notes sound like would be an advantage
in playing, but there is still the problem of
physically hitting the keys in the right
time, which is ultimately an athletic type
of activity--I don't see how you can
simply "hear" your way through that in
your mind.

#944045 - 02/22/08 03:01 PM Re: When one doesn't hear tune in one's head  
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gmm1 Offline
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I totally understand you, Crystalcolors, from the other side. The fact people can look at music and "hear" it in their heads is amazing and magical to me.

In the 80's, I took chorus in college to develop my ear so I could tune my guitar without help. I began to be able to hear well enough to tune, but I would come in 1/2 hour early where the instructor would play my part for me over and over, then play the other parts while I did mine, to break me from "following the Sopranos". On the rare occasions I was on-key, I am a bass.

Maybe someday, as I work on it every day, but I still look at music, and it's nothing. I can pick out the rhythm, but not the notes. I mean nothing. Not a clue.

To me, that's normal, and you are special.


"There is nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself." Johann Sebastian Bach/Gyro
#944046 - 02/22/08 03:02 PM Re: When one doesn't hear tune in one's head  
Joined: Jun 2005
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ipgrunt Offline
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Posts: 419
Western US
Quote
Originally posted by Crystalcolors:
Just recently, I discovered that more than half of my students do not hear tune/melody/tone whatever in their heads.

Two of my students were going overseas for 3 months, carrying all their academic text books and stuff. So I prepared some theory exercises/drills for them to study while they were abroad. When I handed them to them, their faces turned painful. They said, "Oh, we can't do it, because we won't have a piano there." And I was like, "???? What're you talking about?"
I didn't realize that they had to have the piano, the keyboard to look at, and the actual sound to hear, in order to do the intervals, scale, and chord exercises on paper.

More students told me that they don't hear sound or melody or tune in their heads.

I was so dumbstruck. I didn't even realize such a problem existed. How can it be possible NOT to hear a melody in your head?

This is how we were trained 50 years ago, and yes, it really stinks.


I can't even imagine what it is like. They must feel like Helen Keller or something.
No wonder they are having a difficult time learning.

[QUOTE]
Can anyone explain to me about this incredible phenomenon? Is it very common among people? Knowing that more than half of my students are that way, perhaps that is the normal? I always thought hearing it in your head is the normal.
Well, "normal" is probably not the proper word to use, but my vocabruary is so limited. So please don't take offense. I don't mean to be rude or anything. I just want to find out more about it so that I will be able to help my students in better ways. It's certainly slowing down their learning.

Do they hear any sound at all in their heads? Can they imagine in their minds someone talking or birds chirping, etc? I mean, gosh! If they can recognize their loved ones' voices, they must be able to reproduce those voices in their heads, right? If they can hear people's voices in their heads, how can they not hear a melody?

Do you think training their ears will help? Will they ever start hearing?
How can I help them?
I am just "Wow...!" right now. [/QB]
There's nothing to be shocked about, really--it's just that your students haven't been taught that music happens first between the ears. Another way to think of this is to realize that not everyone is a musical genius and understands this principal without being told. In fact, most people don't get this concept and see playing an instrument as a physical skill, like riding a bicycle.

But you and I both know that this is only a small part of it, right? To make music also requires a conception.

Generations of good piano players learned to play without singing. Sight reading can be a purely mechanical process, and I've seen it taught in this manner. It works, but it's not really music.

As you know, singing is the key to voicing a phrase, so the earlier you can teach this skill, the better your student's musical education will be.

So, yes, a good ear training course will help, but you'll work wonders if you can teach them to sing the piece as an early part of the learning process.


-- ipgrunt
Amateur pianist, Son of a Pro
#944047 - 02/22/08 04:37 PM Re: When one doesn't hear tune in one's head  
Joined: Dec 2007
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keystring Offline
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#944048 - 02/22/08 05:28 PM Re: When one doesn't hear tune in one's head  
Joined: Sep 2006
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dumdumdiddle Offline
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California
Mmm.... wouldn't this be called "audiation"?

From Wikipedia:
"Audiation is the process of mentally hearing and comprehending music, even when no physical sound is present. It is a cognitive process by which the brain gives meaning to musical sounds. In essence, audiation of music is analogous to thinking in a language. The term audiation should not be confused with audition, the mere perception of sound. Audiation is also more than just a musical form of auditory imagery. Developed audiation includes the necessary understanding of music to enable the conscious prediction of patterns in unfamiliar music."


Aren't all music teachers able to audiate?


I once had a composition instructor who assigned me the project of writing a nocturne. However, I wasn't to sit at the piano and create it. I had to sit AWAY from the piano and notate it, going to the piano only occasionally to verify notes. What happened was that I created something that I heard in my head, notated on paper, and then had to PRACTICE to be able to perform it. It was bizarre but very useful in that it showed me that when I sit at the piano and just improvise in trying to create something, I am limited to my own technical ability. I hear music in my head that is way more complicated than I can play.


Music School Owner
Early Childhood Music Teacher/Group Piano Teacher/Private Piano Teacher
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#944049 - 02/23/08 02:03 AM Re: When one doesn't hear tune in one's head  
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ClaraSchumann Offline
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Unfortunately, no, not all of us music teachers are able to audiate. How I wish for this gift. Every day. Teaching has actually helped me to develop my ear much more than anything else.

Crystalcolors, I'm a little surprised that half of your students don't seem to have this ability. Over the years, most of my students have been able to audiate. Does anyone know if there are any studies done regarding percentage of population with the ability?

I think your students can still do the practicing you've assigned. Even though I cannot hear the sound in my head, practicing without a keyboard is still possible; I rely on my muscles and the feeling of the touch on a hard surface.

#944050 - 02/23/08 03:23 PM Re: When one doesn't hear tune in one's head  
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mom3gram Offline
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New Jersey
I am a beginning piano student. I can not take a piece of sheet music at my playing level (beginner) and hear the music in my head. I can not sing from the sheet music either, because I have no clue what the notes sound like. I can play them, and if it is familiar music, I can usually, but not always, tell if I hit a wrong note. If you want me to sing something, I must hear it sung many times before I recall how it goes enough to sing it. I have been playing little tunes from my method book for an hour or more every day for the past month and a half. I have played some of them hundreds of times, but if you take my sheet music away I have no idea where to start.

My eight year old granddaughter without having any lessons could sit down and play a song that she heard for the first time in church. If she hits a wrong note, she can back up and get it right, and the next time she plays it she will get the note right automatically. When I asked how she does this, she looked puzzled and said its because she knows the song. Well, I know the song too - but it would take me hours to find the right notes by ear, and unless I recorded them I would not be able to find them again without the same trial and error.

What you are talking about is definitely a gift, and not everyone has it.


mom3gram

ALFRED'S ADULT BOOK 1 GRADUATE
Faber Adult PA Bk. 1 Graduate
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#944051 - 02/23/08 05:23 PM Re: When one doesn't hear tune in one's head  
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Crystalcolors Offline
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Upstate, NY
Wow! Thank you all for your feedback. Difference between audiation and audition was helpful. Never even thought of it. Thanks!
Yeah, I agree with you, dumdumdiddle. When I transpose or compose or arrange, I just sit and work without the piano. Using the piano only slows me down and I'm too impatient. When I'm all done, that's when I go to the piano to make sure what I wrote down is what I heard in my head.

Actually, I'm not a genius at all. I don't even have perfect pitch (and in a way I'm grateful for that). What I'm talking about is not something to do with talent or gift, I don't think. My non-musical husband can reproduce a melody in his head without the help of actual sound. Doesn't everyone experience a song going round and round in his head until he turns insane, from time to time? You don't need a talent to experience that, right?

What one of my students told me was that she couldn't reproduce the tune in her mind, right after I played a tune to her. I'd play something like CEGEC... and she can play it on the keyboard, but she cannot reproduce it in her head. This, I can't get it. How is it possible if she can play it back on the keyboard?
She knows the scales, but she can't produce it in her head either. I'm not talking about a perfect pitch scale. I don't care which key, even if it's off the key by 1/4 or what, as long as she can produce a scale with the proper degrees. But she can't do it. I mean, there's no scale or sound at all in her head.

These students are basically transferred students. Some of them switched to me as recent as a few months ago, some of them two years. Two of them have horrifyingly poor sight-reading skill, but the others can sight read pretty well for their level (Burgmuller Op 100).
None of them had studied intervals or cadences or scales before they came to me. Ear training, practically zero. I'd play a C, and tell them that this is a C. Then I'd play an E just above the C, and ask them what it was, and they can't tell. So I'd play CDE, and tell them I just played CDE. And play the E again, and ask them which note it was, and they can't tell. All of the students in question are this way.

The ears, they can be trained. I don't doubt about it. But the ones who don't hear a tune at all, what can be done? Or, maybe I shouldn't worry about it??? They can read the written music and play just fine. Maybe there's no need to even worry about it?
It's just that, if I wasn't hearing a melody in my mind, I'd be very sad....


Crystalcolors
#944052 - 02/25/08 12:43 PM Re: When one doesn't hear tune in one's head  
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Innominato Offline
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"I'd play something like CEGEC... and she can play it on the keyboard, but she cannot reproduce it in her head. This, I can't get it."

This is difficult to believe for me too.
It would be impossible to even remember a song just heard on the radio; say, you hear the French national anthem, but have no music in front of you and no keyboard, so *you cannot remember the tune*?

This would be very unusual.

In my eyes only a minority of people is able to audiate, but I never came across a person unable to "remember" a tune.

Makes for very sad showers for sure... wink


"The man that hath no music in himself / Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds / Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils." (W.Shakespeare)

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#944053 - 02/29/08 11:39 AM Re: When one doesn't hear tune in one's head  
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Do you or your students ever take some sheet music and play pieces you have never heard?

Some people seem to need to hear the piece, either from a recording or as demonstrated by the teacher, in order to play it.

However, this is the real test -- if someone can take "unknown" music and -- with patience -- learn to play it. (Naturally, assuming the piece is within the student's technical reach.)

The Suzuki piano method requires that people listen to melodies and imitate them. This is not uncommon as a way to proceed. But like anything else, it has shortcomings.


[Same person as former Glyptodont -- Some sort of system problem with forum.]
#944054 - 03/02/08 04:43 PM Re: When one doesn't hear tune in one's head  
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When I look at music I can hear basically teh tune in my head. Though it might not be the same on the piano.. What I mean is i heard the tune through the distance away from teh notes. I cannot magically sing a C when I see it sitting on middle C. but if a song starts on middle see I can sing the melody.. NOT starting on C. I could be start on D for all I know. But I can sing the melody just not in key..


"Derrrr dat wuz gud"
#944055 - 03/04/08 07:44 AM Re: When one doesn't hear tune in one's head  
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TimR Offline
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My primary instrument is trombone.

If I did not hear a pitch in my head before playing, there is no chance the right one would come out of the bell. Fingering alone does not give it to you.

On piano I can easily follow the melody in my head, or any individual line, but chords are so far beyond me.


gotta go practice

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