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Retrieval practice for singers


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How do you singers do retrieval practice? It seems to me that this must be done acapella. At a lesson we bassically only sing with accompaniment. I find that I have never been tought how retrieval pratice works for singers. What are your tips? I find that amateur singers who are ok at singing have sung acapella without even thinking about doing it as an exercise. 

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52 minutes ago, ithinkaboutyou said:

How do you singers do retrieval practice? It seems to me that this must be done acapella. At a lesson we bassically only sing with accompaniment. I find that I have never been tought how retrieval pratice works for singers. What are your tips? I find that amateur singers who are ok at singing have sung acapella without even thinking about doing it as an exercise. 

Hi, and welcome to the forum.

I've heard of two concepts related to your question.

1. Muscle memory.

This is the idea that repetitive actions get seared into the neural pathways, until they become subconscious. I personally believe this idea to be overrated.

2. Audiation.

This is the hearing equivalent of imagination. Just as an artist painting a picture may have an image he wants to paint in his head, so a singer can have a melody in his head. Singing then involves singing along to what you are audiating.

The more you practice audiating, and (strangely enough) the better your physical technique, range etc. is, the clearer your audiation becomes -- making it easier to sing along. I think there is a  reason for this. When we hear sounds, we may have a subconscious tendency to mimic them internally (i.e not actually aloud) -- causing muscles to actually engage, twitch or prime in sympathy. The more our muscles are in tune with the sound (or the more we feel that they are), the more strongly we can "hear the sound in our imagination" or audiate it. Conversely, having no sense of being able to reproduce a sound, can make it more difficult to hear it in your head. Even imagining that we are capable, when we are not, helps. (People can subconsciously engage all the wrong muscles, when listening to a rock star, for example -- but it still helps audiation. Having no physical engagement would have a blocking effect.)

Quite by accident of practice, my audiation has improved substantially. It used to be the case that, if I was singing a song in my head and walked into a place where some other tune was playing, it would block my song out completely. I don't know when it started happening, but now I can sing a song in my head while another song is playing in the background.

And when I get ideas for a new song, I can now remember the tune much more easily. It used to be the case that if I didn't get somewhere quickly where I could record the idea, I would lose it. (All that is probably not a problem for people who can write music).

So, I would recommend audiation as a great help in remembering and recalling songs. It is a lot more natural and flexible, too, than muscle memory, allowing you improvise, or be as close as you like to the original song. (Songs that are not for a cappella can sound strange if sung a cappella solo -- unless you adapt them.)

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