Episode 11 – Mental Rehearsal and Mirror Neurons
Updated: Sep 13, 2022
In this Episode we discuss how to take advantage of the discovery of “mirror neurons” to accelerate your singing process.
Also, there is a great way to take advantage of a really cool thing about the brain!
There is a part of the brain that doesn’t know the difference between real and imagined.
With some “mental rehearsal” we can speed up our singing progress without even actually singin more!
Listen and find out how!
The Inner Singer Podcast
Episode 11 – Transcripts
Mental Rehearsal and Mirror Neurons
You’re listening to episode number eleven.
Welcome to the Inner Singer Podcast, providing tools and techniques to strengthen your inner singer, your beliefs, your confidence, your mindset. And now, your host for the Inner Singer Podcast, Mike Goodrich.
Hi, this is Mike Goodrich. Thanks for tuning into the inner singer podcast. Today we’re actually going to talk about singing a little bit from from a little bit of a different perspective.
Everybody wants great high notes, great voice and to sing easier, better, higher or lower, louder or softer, better phrasing, everything that is included in what we would call great singing and what we want to do. But I’m going to give you a couple of ways to help expedite your progress a little bit without actually singing more. This is going to be fun.
There are two things and we’ll start with the first one. The first one is mirror neurons. Mirror neurons scientists are beginning to understand, but there’s a lot that they don’t understand about mirror neurons but there is enough that they understand to know that it’s something that we could take advantage of in our singing and we want to get better. Let me tell you how it works.
If you were sitting here with me, for example. We were having a tea together or coffee or something and you were sitting across the table from me. I reached for my teacup, I picked it up, took a drink and you were watching me do that. If they had little electrodes on each one of our heads and we’re monitoring what the activity in our brain was during that little experience, they would see a certain part of my brain light up because I’m actually picking the cup up, drinking the coffee and then they would actually see a very similar thing happened in your brain, even though you were just watching me drink the coffee. They came up with that years ago. They figured that out. I think it was accidentally. I think during an experiment with monkeys if I’m correct about that. That’s neither here nor there. The important thing is how we can take advantage of that.
Years ago when I used to play tennis, I think I may take it up again because my little boy is taking tennis lessons and I’ll have to keep up with him somehow, I would notice and it was very common, I would say this to many people everybody would agree and none of us could figure out what it was, but I would always say, “Isn’t it interesting that when you’re playing with somebody that’s better than you are, you actually play better.” and I could never figure that out and nobody I knew could figure that out. But we all agreed when we were playing with somebody that was really good, it upped our game and we played better. Conversely, if we played with somebody that was really bad, we played worse. Years later, it seems like what’s going on is actually the mirror neurons.
How can we use that in our singing? I would advise you to find a singer that you can really identify with. And be really realistic when it comes to this because this really worked in my favor years and years ago, I’m sure. Sadly though I was using a couple of singers that were I think much different than my voice. This was years and years ago when I wanted to sing opera.
I listened to two guys. You probably never heard of Franco Corelli and Mario Delmonico. Two of the biggest voice Tenors that ever lived on the planet and I was trying to emulate them. I constantly listen to their high notes all the time and all the time. What I actually ended up doing was I ended up being able to sing high notes, but they were so pushed I couldn’t sing that the end of anything. I sing like an isolated high note. I couldn’t sing a song or an aria and end on a high note. I couldn’t even really get through anything because I was pushing so hard, but I also, just to warn you, we ended up copying all their bad habits. What I’m saying is she want to be really wise with this and be very realistic and see if you can find somebody’s voice that you can really identify with. Somebody who sings the way you would really enjoy singing and you don’t imitate them but somebody who has the same kind of voice that you have. Say if you’re a tenor, somebody who sings in the range you want to sing in the high notes and the style that you like to do. If you’re a woman with soprano or metzo, the same thing.
When there’s musical theater pop gospel country, it doesn’t matter. Any kind of music. This is a tool you can use for anything. You want to begin to listen a lot to that particular singer or that particular style or somebody who has high notes like that or a voice like that.
Let’s use high notes now because everybody wants better high notes, right? Let’s just say that for a second. Let’s say you’re a woman you want a really strong mix, you know up Randy E-flat F G something like that. And say you’re a guy and you want real strong high notes A-flat A B-flat B C up there. If you’re a lower voice, don’t worry about that. You can think of the relative pitches to that in your voice category. But anyway, what you’re doing is you’re listening to this and what I have found, what I enjoyed doing actually get a kick out of this, it’s kind of fun. I have this part of a little bit of a routine that I do. I like to put the singer on. I like to really know the song and I like to just close my eyes or leave them open, it doesn’t matter. The words with their voice singing. I don’t sing and I don’t sub vocalize. I don’t even hardly use any necessarily cord bush or anything. I just move my mouth like I’ve lip syncing and I let their sound pour through me – the emotion, the feeling, the joy and the energy. I actually do that as an exercise. I’ve done that with the Pavarotti when I was trying to learn different things that he’s singing and trying to develop a lot of freedom in my high notes. And I’ve done it with Broadway singers, I’ve done it a number of times. Not only is it really fun because there’s something that this is going to move into the next thing. But I don’t want to go there quite yet.
There’s a part of the brain that we’ll talk about in a minute that doesn’t know the difference between real and imagined. Let’s delve into that right now. As I said these things aren’t scripted. So let’s delve in now. I’m kind of jockey back and forth. Maybe between the mirror neurons in this next thing which I’m going to talk about which is mental rehearsal.
We can take advantage of the fact that the brain doesn’t really understand the difference between real and imagined. When we are pretending to sing yet, and we’re feeling the emotions of the sound just pouring through us, the song that we love just pouring through us and we’re just mouthing it. But we can feel it, we can hear it and it resonates with us and we’re imagining it. Then what’s happening is not only the mirror neurons kick in and begin to fire the same way it’s happening in the singer. Maybe not exactly but enough to help us. What we’re doing is we’re mentally rehearsing this song and singing this way.
Since the brain doesn’t understand the difference between real and imagined, this benefits us in a big way because the brain actually thinks that we’re singing this song. If we do it with great emotion like an actor playing a part, and we do it enough. This will really help expedite our vocal progress.
The other thing we can do with the mental rehearsal is if we’re vocalizing and singing. We do something particularly well. Something that we like. Talking very positively. There have got to be some really cool things that you do where you stop and you say “Wow, you know, that was pretty good.”. When that happens and in the other podcast you have now been sort of educated. As far as how to look for those things.
You should by now be in a place where you’re beginning to be much more aware of those things. Look for them on purpose. When you find them and you find yourself saying “Well, that was really good.” Close your eyes, re-experience it and mentally rehearse it again. Maybe once, twice, two, three, four, or five times. Because the brain will think that you have done that five times. If you sing a great phrase, a great high note, you have a great vibrato or whatever you do. Whatever works well. Whatever’s working well and you do that. You stop for a moment. And you imagine doing that same thing you feel the feelings of what that felt like and with each one maybe we can get better and better and better and better.
Some part of our brain doesn’t get that. We’re not really doing that. That we’re faking it, that we’re imagining it. It begins to accelerate our vocal progress and expedite our vocal progress without actually even having to sing more. They’ve actually tested it with opera singers. I can’t remember the exact experiment.
I know the one that they did with piano players and they’ve done with basketball players. Let’s start with the basketball players. I don’t know if it was two or three groups because it’s going back some time, actually. They had two or three groups of basketball players. The control group that did absolutely nothing; one group that practice free throws from the free-throw line for a certain amount of time a day; and the other group that visualized and mentally rehearsed practicing free throws and naturally did not even throw a free throw. They just mentally rehearsed with feeling and emotion and kept seeing the ball swish right through the hoop. When it came time to put them all together and have a little contest if you will to see who is better, who would fire more free throws into the basket.
Clearly, the group that didn’t do anything wasn’t very good. But the group that visualized and the group that physically practiced were about neck and neck. Isn’t that amazing?
And they’ve done the same thing with piano players teaching some kind of a scale- they had three groups. The first group did nothing, didn’t practice at all. The second group practiced physically on the piano. While the third group watched them practice enough to understand the fingering and be able to visualize it and mentally rehearse it on their own. And that’s exactly what they did.
The first group did nothing. They didn’t know mental rehearsal, they didn’t know practicing. The second group practice the piano physically. And the third group mentally rehearsed it without touching the piano.
When it came to the little contest that they did, of course the first group that did nothing wasn’t very good. The second and the third group, the ones that had physically practiced and the ones that had mentally rehearsed and just imagined it seeing themselves in and feeling what it feels like to do it, were about neck and neck.
We can take this and run with it to expedite our singing progress. Because really it’s not even great for the boys to be singing for 5-6 hours a day, obviously, right? I mean we do have to rest. We have to look at practice and rest, movement and rest. The ebb and the flow.
We have to look at practicing like a sheet of music. You see a lot of black notes and a lot of white spaces. Well, if there wasn’t the white between the black notes, the black notes wouldn’t make any sense at all. Black notes are the working the vocal work, the exercises, the singing. The white is the rest between those sessions, which is really really necessary.
When you’re mentally rehearsing, it doesn’t take any energy. It doesn’t take any physical energy and it’s not taxing at all on the voice. So you can do that as much as you want to. If you vocalize for 15 or 20 minutes, you can turn around and mentally rehearse for another five or ten minutes. And expedite your vocal progress, which is a really phenomenal tool and a great way to get better faster and get better high notes or better vibrato or better everything.
I hope this has been helpful for you. I hope you do this and have a really good time with it. I notice as I look here that this is the shortest podcast that I’ve done so far. But I think it’s packed with some things that can really help you and help you in a pretty quickly. You can use this for any aspect of your singing or performing. You can use the mental rehearsal to help you develop confidence on stage. Because you can do a visualization imagining that you are on stage doing whatever it is you’re doing. Whether you’re performing karaoke, whether you’re singing for a wedding, whether you’re singing professionally with you’re in a Broadway show, on television, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter at all. You can use this to your advantage.
As a final wrap up let me just kind of explain how you might do this. I may have done this in a past podcast but forgive me it always helps to hear things again if I have.
What you might do, let’s just say you are as benefit. I know I have done this in and I remember the time so we’ll use a different situation here.
Let’s just say that you were singing in a show and you’re nervous about singing in a show. You’re doing a recital and you have to do two songs. You don’t even know where the venue is. You don’t even know how many people there be. So you take that and you create a visualization in a mental rehearsal with regards to the songs that you’re doing, where you will be even though you don’t know where it is. You can put yourself up on the stage. You can go through the entire thing in your imagination. And you want to go through it with emotion.
If you happen to feel nervous while you are doing the visualization, while you’re doing the mental rehearsal, I prefer actually to call it a mental rehearsal. Well, you’re doing the mental rehearsal. If you feel nervous go ahead and feel nervous. That’s fine. Just be with the nervousness be aware of it, but have a phenomenal time and a phenomenal success any way. That way, when you do the actual performance, if you happen to be a little bit nervous, you’ve already experienced success and joy in spite of the nervousness.
You don’t have to try and make the nervousness go away. If you’re having the mental rehearsal and you’re experiencing some nerves or your butterflies or any of that, just let that be there and succeed with Glory in spite of the nerves. Just do that. And every time you do that, your brain thinks that you have really done it. Have really succeeded.
I know that I have covered this in a previous podcast. But maybe you haven’t heard the previous podcast and it never hurts to hear this stuff again. Because it really really can benefit you.
So anyway, shorter podcast today. Hope it’s been helpful. Take this. Run with it. Have fun with it. And I look forward to the next one, and I will talk to you soon. Bye.
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Thanks so much.