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#553793 - 08/18/07 03:42 PM Can you hear music in your head?
Akira Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Of course, the answer for most people, is "yes." We probably all been in that situation where a song pops into your head and you can't get it out. Obviously, you're not hearing with your ears, but with your mind.

This made me wonder if some of you are able to look a sheet music (at your level) that you've never seen before[/b], look at the notes and 'hear' the entire piece (not just the melody line) in your mind. I suppose its the opposite of how Beethovan was still able to continue composing music after losing his hearing (i.e. music in his mind committed to paper).

Can you do it? Is this a natural bi-product of just being exposed to music and the piano for an extended period of time, or is this an ability few can master?

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#553794 - 08/18/07 04:44 PM Re: Can you hear music in your head?
Alan G Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/19/07
Posts: 20
Loc: Ireland
Being able to hear music in your head after your ears are exposed to soundwaves is one thing. Being able to create in your head is another, which I believe has to be made up of previous exposure to external sounds which have made an imprint and are then somehow stored in the brain. But they both relate to the same crucial ability - being able to store and recall the elements of sound/music in the brain.

It's a very interesting topic. For a long time I've thought of different people's abilities at it as ranging from strong to weak; that people's ability to hear the music/sounds in their head was always the same. I've paid a lot of attntion to some friends, realising their ability to hear the music in their head. With those who are very weak (have a weak "ear" some would call it), I was always confused why sometimes they would have a song stuck in their head, but the rest of the time clearly not have a strong sound in their head at all.

I'm sure there's so way to practice this. Listening to music, playing music, enjoying music etc, all will provide the material for the brain to store sounds, but I just think it's a natural ability which won't change.

So your main question Akira, about being able to read music and hear it. One of the first questions that comes to mind is, "what is the timbre of the instrument(s) supposed to be?". This is one of the main questions for me. I don't believe the brain can just create a totally unique new sound - I believe it has to be made up from previous exposure.

Another aspect is the tempo. This is a more straightforward aspect, one of the easier ones for the brain to cope with I belive.

Dynamic is a fascinating one. From my experience the brain can produce dymanic in the head. But it's a very interesting one to me, and the question comes to mind, "what is the dynamic range for the sounds?". I need to think about that one a bit more.

And of course then, pitch. I'll put in a sweeping point - This topic is the reason why I believe "perfect pitch", or people's definition of it, is completely wrong. I believe perfect-pitch is an application of a strong ability to listen and store sounds/music which one has been exposed to.

I find it very frustrating when I hear or read opinions/articles etc, stating "perfect pitch is the ability to say "A" if A is played on the piano, or to say "F#" is F# is played on the piano. It's completely ilogical, as the notes on the scale of even temperment are man-made (one could argue that the mathematics behind it are natural, but it's far too complicated I believe). Being able to recognise an F# on the piano is, again, an application of perfect-pitch.
And this ability is developed by external exposure to sounds/music.

So, all of this goes together to make an ability for the brain to create sounds of music by reading it I believe. And that's officially the longest post I've ever typed here!

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#553795 - 08/18/07 08:11 PM Re: Can you hear music in your head?
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
 Quote:
I'm sure there's so way to practice this.
Yes there is! And I am. I'm OK with single lines but I've decided to go back to species counterpoint from my college days (a long long time ago) and do it properly. This time hearing each line simultaenously. It's how sight reading was meant to be.

 Quote:
"what is the dynamic range for the sounds?"
There are no dynamics. There are only changes of timbre . Our brain interprets the data as loud or soft.

A very interesting topic!
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#553796 - 08/18/07 08:58 PM Re: Can you hear music in your head?
Alan G Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/19/07
Posts: 20
Loc: Ireland
"There's no way to practice this"

I was sort of talking about the ability. Okay, well maybe that sounds obvious then. I just mean, I believe everyone has a certain ability or capacity to store sounds, or sounds with respect to time (remembering a series of sounds).

I wasn't necessarily talking about the ability to read music and hear something. Yeah, everyone can practice that. I need to practice that!! But for me that's a sight-reading issue, which everybody can get better at. The main point I was making is about the strength of the sound within one's head. I believe the brain has a fixed ability. Some people can recall sounds very clearly and strongly, others cannot so clearly. The one's who can't, still can read music and hear something I believe.

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#553797 - 08/18/07 10:51 PM Re: Can you hear music in your head?
hopinmad Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/07
Posts: 1001
Loc: Eryri/Manchester
I believe that it can be practised and I believe that it certainly can be done.
A great, incredible skill though.
Personally, and it makes me realise I have not much a 'strong' ear, I can struggle with melody lines, if I have not been exposed to a piano in during that day, by struggle I mean I can't do it perfectly, as I expect most people on this forum can. I am no ashamed of having a 'weak' ear as it does not in the least prevent me from enjoying music or knowing how it should sound.
I can no way imagine an accompaniment, unless, it is made up exactly like something I've seen before, (say there's octave chords, then some quavers in a pattern I've seen in another piece, for example) and in that way I believe it can be practised, by having heard so many different combinations of music, that it can be applied to anything.
However, even if that was so I do not believe the - call it - true notes could be heard. Besides may not even be perfectly pitched, I am unsure whether the music heard would be exactly - call it - pure. It would be like a faint outline of the music, believed to be heard properly, but not, otherwise, the same feelings would be felt on hearing the piece as there would thinking it, but that concentration is being given to thinking it?????
Hvaing a weak ear, it most likely that my view is very inaccurate and maybe just garbage, especailly when read by people with strong ears, who will be thinking, "no you just hear it!"!

"Some people can recall sounds very clearly and strongly, others cannot so clearly. The one's who can't, still can read music and hear something I believe."
This is I think what I am thinking as well, and to recall it perfectly, would be an incredible gift.
I expect it was the sort of thing Mozart could do.
_________________________
Patience's the best teacher, and time the best critic. - F.F.Chopin

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#553798 - 08/18/07 11:31 PM Re: Can you hear music in your head?
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13706
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I can do it fairly well, especially with music written between 1760 and 1860. Before or after that, it depends a great deal on the compositional style. I have a hard time hearing four-voice fugues or Hindemith, for example.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#553799 - 08/18/07 11:39 PM Re: Can you hear music in your head?
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
hopin, I hate to say it but hearing 2 part counterpoint flowing through your mind and better yet pondering it, is, maybe, the greatest thrill (until you can do 3 parts!). It's no great skill but does take a very quiet mind.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#553800 - 08/19/07 04:58 AM Re: Can you hear music in your head?
pianist.ame Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/18/07
Posts: 1164
Loc: Singapore
yes,i'm able to hear music in my head, I can look at the sheet music and it just plays like a music recorder in my head...not just the melody but the accompaniment as well.

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#553801 - 08/19/07 05:45 AM Re: Can you hear music in your head?
Rosanna Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/07
Posts: 1360
Loc: San Francisco Bay area
for those of you who have this skill (or perhaps aptitude)
1. Could you say something about how you develop or practice this?

2. Was it a conscious decision to develop this, or did it come to you "naturally" as a by-product of your musical training?

3. Does your hearing-the-music skill parallel your sight-reading skill?

4. Do you have "perfect pitch" so that the piece you hear in your head is in the right key?

[edit - adding another question]
5. Does this skill make the actual playing of the piece easier?

I probably have other questions as I think about this and read more posts. But prior to reading Keisler and Ameliaw's post, I didn't know people can do this.
_________________________

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#553802 - 08/19/07 05:59 AM Re: Can you hear music in your head?
pianist.ame Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/18/07
Posts: 1164
Loc: Singapore
1. Could you say something about how you develop or practice this?
I really have no idea, I just am able to do this.
2. Was it a conscious decision to develop this, or did it come to you "naturally" as a by-product of your musical training?
Nope, I did not develop yhis consciously, i've had it since I can remember, my mom said I was bron with it.
3. Does your hearing-the-music skill parallel your sight-reading skill?
It depends...my piano teacher said it's strange that i'm really good at this but poor in my sight reading

4. Do you have "perfect pitch" so that the piece you hear in your head is in the right key?
Yes, I was born with perfect pitch

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#553803 - 08/19/07 06:05 AM Re: Can you hear music in your head?
Mr_Kitty Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/07
Posts: 667
Loc: Toronto
of course!
I "play" vast amounts of reperetoire in my head. One of my favourite things to do is play fugues away from the piano.
It takes concentration and perfect pitch.

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#553804 - 08/19/07 06:11 AM Re: Can you hear music in your head?
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Yes, this is a very enjoyable feature of being able to sight read music and to audiate what it sounds like from the paper. I respond to everything the composer has offered, the tempo, style, dynamics, expression, melody, harmony, rhythmic interest, mood - everything comes pulsating through my mind and body as a whole body response. It would be easy to go to the piano and play the same thing so others could hear what I am hearing. Just as sound produces vibrations, I have "vibrations" going on in my being that reflect the music whether it is on the page or in my head.

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#553805 - 08/19/07 02:14 PM Re: Can you hear music in your head?
ecm Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/08/05
Posts: 1271
Loc: Republic of Macedonia
Yes I can, it does take concentration and a very good pitch. I don't have perfect pitch Mr_Kitty, but I do have an amazing pitch. But still not perfect.
Also you must have a very good memory too!

Once a funny thing happened, I woke up thanks to the 2 beginning chords of Chopin's 1st scherzo. \:D

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#553806 - 08/19/07 02:56 PM Re: Can you hear music in your head?
Cultor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/25/07
Posts: 342
Loc: BsAs
1. Could you say something about how you develop or practice this?

Playing piano first. Reading the scores, from the simple to the complex, next. Reading scores out of the piano and getting back to the piano when any doubt appears, last, until I was independent of the instrument.

2. Was it a conscious decision to develop this, or did it come to you "naturally" as a by-product of your musical training?

It was a conscious decision. Everything is a conscious decision. Almost nothing will be easily given to you.

3. Does your hearing-the-music skill parallel your sight-reading skill?

Yes. How can you possible hear sounds you can not read?

4. Do you have "perfect pitch" so that the piece you hear in your head is in the right key?

No and never needed a perfect pitch. But you certainly need ‘relative’ pitch hearing. Without it, you're done.

5. Does this skill make the actual playing of the piece easier?

Not at all, for me. I can imagine sounds, I can hear even orchestral scores in my head, I can write my own music on paper, but I’m a mediocre piano performer.

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#553807 - 08/19/07 03:00 PM Re: Can you hear music in your head?
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13706
Loc: Iowa City, IA
1. I sang in choirs for about 10 years and hand a wonderful choral director in high school who did a lot of Kodaly exercises with us. I'm a strong believer in solfege! I also used to sit around the piano and doodle a lot. Improvise, work out simple songs by ear - mostly by trial and error. I cannot overstate the importance of singing. It used to be that all musicians had to have some vocal experience. I think pianists these days sorely underestimate the benefits of singing and do themselves a great disservice by not joining a choir or taking voice lessons.

2. By-product.

3. Not at all.

4. No.

5. I don't seem any better at learning music than people without the skill, although the practical applications are useful. It's most helpful in situations where I have to "fake it" on short notice (for example, I had to serve as a substitute for a touring musical company on 6 hours notice and didn't have a piano handy - being able to hear the score in my head was obviously very helpful since I had to sight-read the show.)

 Quote:
Originally posted by Rosanna:
for those of you who have this skill (or perhaps aptitude)
1. Could you say something about how you develop or practice this?

2. Was it a conscious decision to develop this, or did it come to you "naturally" as a by-product of your musical training?

3. Does your hearing-the-music skill parallel your sight-reading skill?

4. Do you have "perfect pitch" so that the piece you hear in your head is in the right key?

[edit - adding another question]
5. Does this skill make the actual playing of the piece easier?

I probably have other questions as I think about this and read more posts. But prior to reading Keisler and Ameliaw's post, I didn't know people can do this. [/b]
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#553808 - 08/20/07 12:47 AM Re: Can you hear music in your head?
Alan G Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/19/07
Posts: 20
Loc: Ireland
1. Could you say something about how you develop or practice this?

(if refering to reading music and hearing sound) Well everybody can practice this I believe. I never really made a concious effort to practice it. If I did, I would be better at it.


2. Was it a conscious decision to develop this, or did it come to you "naturally" as a by-product of your musical training?

Naturally, developed with years of playing and reading music.


3. Does your hearing-the-music skill parallel your sight-reading skill?

Absolutely light-years apart!! My sight-reading is around ABRSM Grade 3 or something. Seriously rubbish. (just to clarify: "sight-reading", not just "reading" - sight-reading meaning seeing a piece for the first time with no previous exposure to the music whatsoever).


4. Do you have "perfect pitch" so that the piece you hear in your head is in the right key?

Yes, always. If refering to a piece of music which has been previous listened to - When I hear it back in my head, sometimes it may not be in the key's pitch if I'm not concentrating, or unsettled, or some other external noise (or especially music). The music sounds quite weak then. It feels like I'm struggling to keep it alive. But if I realise this and rectify it, the music suddenly comes alive and is as solid as a wall.

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#553809 - 08/20/07 12:57 AM Re: Can you hear music in your head?
Alan G Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/19/07
Posts: 20
Loc: Ireland
Oh extra question!

5. Does this skill make the actual playing of the piece easier?

For me, it very much affects the learning process, and how I retain it in my memory. The first thing I do when learning a piece is get the whole thing into my head so I know what it should sound like (the right notes and general dynamics etc). And then I use the score and learn it normally, memorizing as I go along. Knowing the sound seems to make it easier to remember what keys to press.

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#553810 - 08/20/07 02:57 AM Re: Can you hear music in your head?
pianist.ame Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/18/07
Posts: 1164
Loc: Singapore
yes it does, because I can read the notes and know how it's supposed to sound like. After that though, I use the score to learn and make sure that everything is done accurately

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#553811 - 08/20/07 02:59 AM Re: Can you hear music in your head?
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
i practice in my head constantly

hit wrong notes too.
_________________________
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)

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#553812 - 08/20/07 04:15 AM Re: Can you hear music in your head?
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5834
Loc: Down Under
 Quote:
1. Could you say something about how you develop or practice this?

2. Was it a conscious decision to develop this, or did it come to you "naturally" as a by-product of your musical training?

3. Does your hearing-the-music skill parallel your sight-reading skill?

4. Do you have "perfect pitch" so that the piece you hear in your head is in the right key?

5. Does this skill make the actual playing of the piece easier?
1. I don't actually practise this, as in trying to develop a skill, but I use it frequently, so maybe this has the same effect.
2. It came as a byproduct of musical training, I think. As I developed the ability to sight sing, to write down tunes I'd made up, the ability to read in my head developed - in my early teens, I would say.
3. I'm a good sight-reader, and I think for me they are linked somewhat. But my ability to hear the music came before my sight reading, which I had to work on. (by sight reading I mean playing at first sight an unknown piece) With more complex and/or modern harmonies I will usually play them more easily than I hear them.
4.I don't have perfect pitch. I imagine that it would make this sort of reading much easier, pitch-wise, but I have very good relative pitch, which to my mind is a more useful thing (sight-singing in a different key to that written comes to mind)
5.I think it does. When called on to sight-read (and as I work as an accompanist this happens pretty often!) I have a quick read through first.

I think this skill is an important part of the whole (complex) skill of musical literacy. When you really understand the language it's more than a direction to "strike this note". I can't imagine playing a C, then reading a G and not knowing what it's going to sound like until I play it.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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