When I was young, I was very into the martial arts. Not just the physical training, but the mental and spiritual awakening that can come with a serious meditative lifestyle.

One thing we were taught was to visualize everything we did. Before performing a kata, we were to see ourselves flowing through the movements. When facing an opponent, visualizing the outcome of a match helped to assure victory.

Unfortunately I was distracted from my years of study by the things that generally occupy a young mans thoughts. But one thing I did take with me that is still with me to this day, the practice of visulaizing and auralizing my thoughts and actions.

Visualization gets a lot of press and is quite commonly practiced by athletes and others who are pushing themselves onto a new performance plateau. For those who are not familiar with the concept, visualization is simply the practice of mentally seeing yourself performing an action. An old slogan reads "If you can see it, you can be it". It is that simple.

Of course we learned breathing techniques and mental disciplines to really enhance the visulaization process, but you get the idea. I really believe that visulaization is one of the great ways in which humans literally mold reality to their will.

Now, there is a belief in psychology in which people are classified into types: visual, aural and tactile. We are all a combination of these three, but people tend to fall into one category more strongly than others. This simply means that in our brain, while the mind works, our thoughts speak to us through our minds ear, eye or hand. Also, when presented with real life stimuli, our orientation towards one of these three determines how the mind organizes, processes, stores and retrieves information.

Being that this article is aimed at musicians, and titled "Creative Auralization", I bet you have figured out which of these orientations I wish to discuss. What is auralization and how does it differ from visualization? Simple. Auralization is the act of hearing the internal voice.

We all conduct internal dialog; we actually talk to our minds, sometimes even outloud. When reading, the minds voice speaks to the minds ear, if you pay attention, you can actually hear your thoughts. This is auralization. Taken a step further, the minds voice can mimick sounds we hear on a daily basis. Often in an emotionally charged moment, a conversation may be recorded in the mind and played back over and over as we try to sleep.

Mozart claimed that his music appeared spontaneously in his head and that in putting it to paper he was merely taking dictation. If true (which in his case this is likely very true) then his would be a case of perfect auralization. Auralization is what makes musical composition and improvisation possible. Without the practice of auralization, improvisation would degrade to "noodling".

When improvising, in a jazz setting, for example, one must hear the notes before playing them. The minds ear dictates to the fingers where to go. The catch: this happens so quickly that the concious mind has very little time to process it. In other words, playing over a familiar progression, your note choices are made not by thought, but by hearing them, mentally, and then the fingers react. How? How do the fingers know to play a Bb9 arpeggio right then and there.... (you know the answer....) Through practice.

So how does one practice in order to build effective communication between the mind's ear and the fingers? One way is to take a musical thought, say an arpeggio or tetrad or any string of a few notes. Play them as many times as it takes to memorize their sound. I mean really memorize. Next, skip the second note you are playing, but sing it. Do this in turn with every note in your pattern. Then change the order of the notes and do this again. Now change the key, maybe move up or down a few frets, and do the whole thing over.

What does this accomplish? When playing, the patterns you practice in this way will be internalized. You will know, not from memorizing theory, not from rules, but from your minds ear, exactly what notes come next. If you practice like this with a myriad of patterns every day, you will build your improvisational proficiency.

Internalization is the key. Now here comes the "zen" part. Once you are used to doing this, you can practice, improvise and compose anywhere, anytime. I find myself spontaneously improvising parts to music I hear on the radio while driving all the time. If I am alone and really into what I am listening to, I will suddenly realize I have been (badly) scat singing along with the radio!!

Finally, to make the connection between actual eye, ear and hand, and the minds eye, ear and hand, combine visualization, auralization and tactile conditioning. Visualize yourself playing the notes, see the fretboard and your fingers performing the action. Auralize it, as described above, hear in your mind what you are doing. Play the music. Through practice in the way described above, your fingers will connect with your minds ear; your minds ear connects to the actual ear in this way as well.
I red all your articles here, and I basically have one comment about them! They are great and fun to read I hope there'll be more and I'd love to read your book when it comes out
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