I didn't know that! Issue# 18- Imaginery part 1

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Imagery has long been a primary skill of high profile sports competitors like Tiger Woods and Michael Johnson. Yet, traditionally, the value of imagery in the training of singers has been regarded simply as a useful tool to increase dramatically their interpretive skills, probably by at least fifty percent. Alma Thomas and Shirlee Emmons, after many years of combined experience teaching singers to utilize imagery in far reaching ways, propose that imagery skills have more than one application and offer a myriad of benefits.

Far more than increasing singers’ interpretive skills, imagery strongly supports a singer’s ability to give an elite performance by promoting correct performance thinking. Imagery facilitates singers’ capacity to modify their vocal skills toward improvement when that proves necessary.

Imagery enables a singer to practice proficiently and to reduce musical problems to a manageable entity. Imagery provides singers with a method of avoiding distractions during performance. Imagery allows a singer to rehearse silently on those many occasions when that is useful. Imagery helps makes it possible for singers to do under the stress of performance what they have been doing in rehearsal. Imagery can even be utilized to work at controlling singers’ performance anxiety levels.

Our theory, based upon eleven years of shared work as the only known voice teacher/ performance psychologist team, states that imaging for singers can be described as a “method of using all the senses to create or re-create an experience in the mind.” It is clear that those singers fare better in their careers who have acquired a heightened awareness of all their senses: of visual, auditory, and tactile stimuli, of kinesthetic feedback signals, of taste and smell—and are skillful in their use.

They bring a much greater detail to their interpretations and do so with far more ease. They see colors; they hear sounds; they feel the emotions; they sense the performance kinesthetically as part of the body. In addition, it is a simple matter for them to rehearse repertoire while awaiting their turn at an audition or competition. Efficiently and silently they see and hear and feel themselves executing the piece perfectly (while not being distracted by their surroundings).

Those singers who have honed their imagery skills will find it simpler to remember more clearly the essence of a vocal technical skill and repeat it efficiently until it is firmly within their grasp. In this way, they will eventually move from analytical thinking, which is decidedly not recommended during performance, to the intuitive, musically-responsive thinking that is necessary for elite performance.


Alan Thomas