Singing Imagery - The Great Organiser!

imagery learning vocal technique Aug 12, 2022
Singing Imagery

With the popularity of science and anatomy, there has been a simultaneous dismissal of imagery. In my early coaching years, imagery didn't even figure. It wasn't concrete, it didn't work for me, and I didn't understand what it was doing anyway. That made me subliminally reject it.


Singing & Sport

In sport and other movement activities, imagery, different types of focus, and sensation, are what wraps up very complex muscle coordinations into a single instruction. It's crucial to the mastery of it, whereas thinking about the movement mechanically can only take you so far before it overwhelms you and becomes kinda, clunky.

In singing, maybe because of the information offered by research, teachers that I work with say that they go with evidence rather than the vague imagery stuff.

When they say that, it's fascinating to apply an image that instantly changes their singing and see the reaction. There might be a mini eye roll at the start, and a bit of stopping and starting with "How do I even do this?" running through their thoughts. Nevertheless, positive things happen and their thoughts on imagery start to turn.


Mechanical to imagery

It's a bit of influencing on my part, granted, but I think it's important to keep the idea open that we still need to coordinate extremely complex moves. We don't do that by managing all the parts and pieces, yet most technical singers are stuck at that very junction. On the one side junction, the mechanical 'parts and pieces' approach comprises of "raise this", "expand that" and "place your whatever".

The other side is finding a way to wrap up all those up into something more manageable. A sensation and/or image.


Are you in the 'flow'?

Of course there is the reality that, often, imagery doesn't work. To use imagery is to go with the 'flow', but as is often said "you need a flow to go with in the first place". Some singers aren't in a place where they can wrap up those complex moves into something easier, because the parts and pieces aren't working well enough to do it. In other words, it's too early for the image (that was me when I poo poo'd it).

Working a little mechanically can be really beneficial when you're in this place, short term. A change in physical position or a conscious movement of the tongue can work wonders, for example. Moving different parts through their entire range of motion also help to bring coordination to the 'parts', so that they can eventually get recruited by the image... by the whole.



Images are created and interpreted in many different ways. It's easy, with only our own limited experiences, to offer an image that doesn't hit the mark. Having a variety of images, emotional qualities and different focusses gives us the opportunity to get closer to something that can serve as the 'wrapper'.

Then, there's the creation of images by the singer themselves. We can be guides here, crafting situations where things can be felt differently. I often use resonance or 'somatic' learning for this, which brings it all into their own bodily experience. Doing this gives singers an opportunity to first experience, and then articulate what they are feeling.

"It feels like the sound is widening in my head" or "It's like the air is coming through easier but being held back at the same time!".

It could be anything. Often, what they say is something that has been said in old ped literature several hundred years ago! That's a constant reminder for me that we shouldn't discard the pedagogy of the past, pre-science.
It may have been misunderstood.
The physical reality may have been the opposite to the sensation.
That doesn't discount the idea. It just changes the explanation or reason for USE!

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