You can’t sing without ears

Try this game: put some headphones over your ears and play any song from your CD collection at random. Then try to sing ‘Happy Birthday’. Question: what do your listeners hear? Answer: a racket! You sing out of tune and out of rhythm. But how is this possible? You have heard and sung ‘Happy Birthday’ hundreds of times; you know the song through and through. And do you know what is even stranger? You can’t even hear the mistakes you are making! The reason for this is simple: in order to sing properly (tempo, rhythm, melody), you need to be able to hear what you are singing. You sing a note, you hear yourself, and your brain decides whether it is right or wrong. Your brain then sends signals to the muscles: to correct things if they are wrong or, if they are right, to maintain the same muscle tension until you change notes. The process is then repeated. This all happens continuously and at lightning speed. And the more you sing and the more you gradually attempt increasingly difficult songs, the more you will be able to hear small difference in tone – and this will help you to sing more correctly and make you a better singer.

When you sing in a choir, you listen to each other. Not only to the people standing next to you, but also to the sound that the choir is making as a whole. Sometimes you will hear the voice of one singer above all the rest in a particular tone or you will notice that everyone is having difficulty with the same tricky note combination. Sometimes you will be faced with problems that seem impossible to put right, no matter how hard you try. When this happens, just follow the directions of the choir leader – he will show you how to make the necessary improvements. You may even find that the choir leader occasionally decides to give you a challenge, by putting someone next to you who has difficulty to sing in tune. He will learn more quickly how to put this right if he is standing next to a good singer: in other words, you! But you will need to concentrate hard to avoid being influenced by his false notes. Researchers have proven that top singers are so thoroughly trained that they can sing perfectly even when they can’t hear themselves. Their muscle memory is so finely tuned that their muscles know exactly what to do with each change of tone, even without the controlling influence of their hearing.