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Brain-Based Music Listening Training

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Diary Info
Minhun Kang

Everyone can imagine and play their favorite music in their minds. However, usually, without listening through the ears, the sound is faint, the pitch unstable, and only fragmented melodies come to mind.

However, with consistent training to improve musical ear, the range of music that can be played through the brain widens, and its accuracy also increases.

From now on, I will introduce some methods I have learned.

First, it’s important to understand the difference between listening with the ears and the brain. The ears directly affect hearing, but brain playing does not.

The basic pathway for ears receiving sound is ‘sound -> eardrum vibration -> amplification -> nerves -> brain’, but playing through the brain does not involve any external pathway and all activities are carried out within the brain.

Therefore, compared to hearing where vibrations are amplified and directly transmitted, the quality of playing through the brain is inevitably inferior.

However, hearing through the ears eventually converts into brain signals through the nerves. This means there is no essential difference between ear listening and brain listening.

Then why is it difficult to appreciate music through the brain?

When humans are awake, they operate on beta waves, the fastest brain waves. Since all brain functions are divided to focus on everything around, it can interfere with deep mental activities through the brain.

In fact, music thought of during dreams (alpha + delta waves) or just before waking up (theta waves) can be heard through the brain as clearly as through the ears.

But in an awake state, generating these brain waves is difficult, so the most suitable state for brain-based music playing is the alpha wave. Think of music as if meditating with a relaxed mind.

Now let’s get into the main story. First, the training stages are:

  • Step 1. Increasing the Volume of Brain Playback
  • Step 2. Correcting Unstable Pitch and Expressing Fast Melodies
  • Step 3. Expressing Instruments Besides the Main Melody and Polyphonic Instruments
  • Step 4. Expressing the Fine Texture of Sounds
  • Step 5. Expanding the Sense of Space and Simultaneous Expression of All Instruments
  • Step 6. Adding Auditory Realism
  • Step 7. Perfect Reproduction of the Song

The duration of these processes will vary depending on one’s musical ear ability. However, for perfection, it requires lifelong training, so one must consistently practice.

Step 1. Increasing the Volume of Brain Playback

Increasing volume literally means making the sound imagined in the mind louder. This process is the most basic and important in brain music expression.

Music heard through the brain, unlike through the ears, poses no risk of damaging the eardrums or nerves, no matter how loud the volume. Thus, the closer to the maximum volume one can imagine, the greater the expressiveness. (However, avoid imagining so loud that the sound becomes distorted.)

First, think of a single piano note. Imagine pressing a piano key. Start quietly, gradually get louder, and then as loud as if the key were to break. The sound grows louder and vibrates in both ears. Imagine the key is right next to your ear.

Once comfortable with the piano’s dynamics, try increasing the volume of a song you’re confident in. Over time, you’ll feel the transparent sounds deep in the brain approaching closer.

Step 2. Correcting Unstable Pitch and Expressing Fast Melodies

Brain music has several advantages. One can freely adjust tone and volume, and even the playback speed. And it’s possible to remake it as one wishes.

However, this is only possible with a basic musical ear. If the pitch is wrong or it’s difficult to imagine certain notes, it can be frustrating. Let’s look at training methods for pitch correction and fast melody expression.

First, think of ‘do-’ in your head. Then follow with re, mi, fa, up to do in the next octave. At first, think of the notes slowly and elongated. If it’s difficult, trying out loud or using an instrument like a piano to achieve perfect pitch is also good.

As it becomes familiar, gradually increase the speed. Once you’re comfortable with a certain speed, try changing rhythms or practicing other scales. Such fast scale practice is a highly advanced technique. It’s always good to practice this stage.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, move on to practical exercises.

First, prepare the MR (music recording) of a song you know well. Then, listen to the MR and sing the song in your head. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the lyrics; just think of the tune.

It’s beneficial to feel the singer’s technique or the texture of the sound during this exercise. This method is easier to improve melody skills as the MR helps with pitch and rhythm.