Are you a technical singer or an emotional singer?

  • Author:Angie Arsenault

…Or perhaps, a bit of both?

A while ago, I sent out a tweet on the topic of left brain vs right brain. Most of us have a natural inclination toward one of these, and so my question to you was, which is yours?

One quick way to find out, is with the famous right brain vs left brain test with the turning dancer (yes, the one that pops up in advertisements all over the web!):



Do you see the dancer turning clockwise or anti-clockwise?

So what does this all mean? Well, if you see the dancer turning clockwise, it is said that you tend to use more of the right side of the brain and vice versa. One side may be more dominant for you than the other. Some can see the dancer switch from side to side but in most cases, one side still leads the race.

Both the left and right brains have their strengths and weaknesses and so there is no right or wrong here. Both sides of the brain can reason, but by different strategies.

 

Dancer Rotating Anti-Clockwise:

Your left brain is likely more dominant and you may prefer a more “analytical” style of learning and performing.

 

LEFT BRAIN FUNCTIONS

Uses logic
Detail oriented
Facts rule
Words and language
Present and past
Math and science
Can comprehend
Knowing
Acknowledges
Order/pattern perception
Knows object name
Reality based
Forms strategies
Practical
Safe

ANALYTICAL MODE (in music)

Regulates sequential order.

Regulates physical movement.

Produces and controls articulations and attacks – the beginnings and endings of notes
is responsible for memorization of muscle movements.

Allows to repeat scales, recognize rhythms and play with correct pitch without having to relearn a piece every time we play it.

 

Dancer Rotating Clockwise:

Your right brain is likely more dominant and you may prefer a more “global” style of learning and performing.

RIGHT BRAIN FUNCTIONS

Uses feeling
Big picture oriented
Imagination rules
Symbols and images
Present and future
Philosophy & religion
Can “get it” i.e. meaning
Believes
Appreciates
Spatial perception
Knows object function
Fantasy based
Presents possibilities
Impetuous
Risk taking

HOLISTIC/GLOBAL MODE (in music)

Provides intuitive insight into style, emotions, and meaning of the music performed.

Provides creative, dramatic, and interpretive qualities to a performance.

Can bring spontaneity and flexibility to the playing.

Gives a sense of the whole piece.

 

We all think and learn in different ways and as Barry Green states in his book “The Inner Game of Music”:

“The more we come to understand about these two approaches, the easier it will be for us to recognize where our music is out of balance and to draw on the appropriate mode, whether analytical or global, to handle the situation and arrive at a successful integration of both.”

 

How To Find Balance

Here are some suggestions given by M. Green (p. 186-187), which I have modified ever so slightly to be more “singer friendly”:

If you tend to favor the analytical approach (left brain), you can make a point of emphasizing the global side of yourself during your practice for a day, a week, or more. Here are some suggestions:

  1. If you normally keep a journal or goal notebook for practicing, give your journal a break for this period.
  2. When you have rehearsed a piece, respond only to your feelings, intuitions, and physical insights.
  3. Let your practice time pass without monitoring a watch or clock. Forget about time, and practice until you feel you have accomplished enough for the day rather than until a given time period is up.
  4. Do not use a metronome or any other time-beating device while practicing. Notice whether you learn as well this way as you do when you’re using a metronome.
  5. Be creative with the song or music; set yourself positive experience goals for your practice period and give yourself room to play and enjoy.
  6. Experiment with imagery to enhance your sense of the feeling and meaning of what you are playing. Practice letting go.
  7. If you make mistakes while you’re practicing, simply continue with your singing without stopping to correct every last detail.
  8. Allow yourself to follow the interests and explorations of the moment; don’t feel obliged to limit yourself to the goals you have set for yourself, but allow yourself to develop new musical goals as you go along.

 

If you tend to favor the global approach (right brain), you can make a point of emphasizing your analytical side during your practice for a day, a week, or more.

  1. Set yourself specific goals, list them, and cross each item off your list when you’ve accomplished it.
  2. Plan the order of your practice session, beginning with the simplest tasks and progressing to more complex ones.
  3. Set yourself a specific time limit for accomplishing each goal.
  4. Observe the proper rhythm, pitch, articulations, and dynamics.
  5. Use a metronome and tape recorder to help you analyze your singing and control inaccuracies.
  6. If you make a mistake, stop and correct your error before moving on.
  7. Play in a logical and orderly manner, and be aware of how each measure fits into the complete structure of the piece.
  8. Maintain a critical and analytical attitude to what goes on during your practice session, noticing the order and efficiency with which you do things.”

 

Do not be concerned with trying to get a perfect balance of both left and right brain functions. Having a dominant side is not a negative thing and these suggestions are simply to help observe which areas of your practice need to be reinforced.

Some singers are known and well respected for their strong technical abilities while others are loved for their strong emotional connection to the music. Some have 50% technical focus and 50% emotional focus at the same time. It is all very personal. The importance, is that you are indeed, using 100% of a relaxed focus during practices and performances. Just think of this exercise as personal challenge and just run with it; or just sing with it…

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