Monday, June 19, 2023

Your mouth knows more than your brain does

I’ve pointed out before that too much thinking is bad for singers. See The curse of confusion: why thinking is bad for singing.

In fact, your mouth knows far more than your brain does when it comes to songs!

I find it fascinating watching singers as they learn a new song by ear. After only a few repeats, most singers have pretty much got it.

But then, as time goes by, doubts start to set in.

“Surely it can’t be that easy?”

“Do I go up on that word, or stay the same?”

“Am I singing the same as everyone else in my part?”

Despite widespread frowns, the correct notes and words are usually coming out of most singers’ mouths.

There’s a weird phenomenon when you don’t think you know a song. Your mind can be watching your mouth move and listening to the sounds you’re making as if it’s somebody else doing it. Which is why I say “Your mouth knows more than your brain does.” At least when it comes to singing.

This is why I teach fast, I try to prevent singers’ brains from kicking in. It’s also why songs being learnt in ongoing weekly sessions can start to fall apart (too much time to think). Whereas, learning a song quickly in a one-off workshop helps to bypass the mind chatter.

Singers need to learn to trust their subconscious. I once taught a song to one of my community choirs, but it was hard going and we left it unfinished. About a year later I decided to give it another go. Without any reminders or rehearsal, I was amazed to find that most people sung it correctly as soon as we started. It bemused the singers too. Their brains were watching their mouths and thinking “Where on earth is this coming from?”

Do you have any similar experiences to share? I’d love to hear from you.

Chris Rowbury


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