The Mind's Ear: Exercises for Improving the Musical Imagination for Performers, Composers, and Liste

PDF The Mind's Ear: Exercises for Improving the Musical Imagination for Performers, Composers, and Liste 1 janvier 2013

Book author
  1. Bruce Adolphe


The Mind's Ear offers a unique approach to stimulating the musical imagination and inspiring creativity, as well as providing detailed exercises aimed at improving the ability to read and imagine music in silence, in the "mind's ear." Modeling his exercises on those used in theater games and acting classes, and drawing upon years of experience with improvisation and composition, Bruce Adolphe has written a compelling, valuable, and practical guide to musical creativity that can benefit music students at all levels and help music teachers be more effective and inspiring. The book also provides provocative ideas and useful tools for professional performers and composers, as well as offering games and exercises to serious listeners that can increase their musical understanding and level of engagement with music in a variety of ways.


HAVE YOU EVER heard a pianist who was “all fi ngers and no soul,” as the saying goes?

At conservatories and music departments, young musicians are taught technique. Th at is, they are taught the mechanics of instrumental playing and usually learn phrasing and style by practicing pieces. Technique is extremely important. Without a solid technique, a musician cannot begin to realize her own musical ideas or communicate a piece to an audience. Typically, it is expected that a student’s interpretive powers deepen as more and more music is practiced and performed, and through coaching and chamber music experience. Certainly, for many very talented young musicians, this works very well. But what about those who need something more, whose musical imaginations are not engaged by the routine of practicing for hours a day? Can something be done to unleash the musical imagination, to help a young performer “open up” emotionally? Some would say that not everything can be taught and that a student is either imaginative or not, emotional or not, talented or not, and that the musical imagination will blossom of its own accord.

During many years of teaching at Juilliard, Yale, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and at music departments and festivals around the United States, I have learned that it is most defi nitely possible to stimulate and enliven students’ imaginations through emotionally and intellectually engaging exercises. We must face the fact that the creative energy of many young performing musicians is not fully nourished by practicing, performing, and the conventional theory and solfège classes.

The musical imagination and the mind’s ear can be improved by practicing the appropriate exercises, just as is typically done with instrumental technique. Th e primary goal of developing the mind’s ear is to improve the ability to imagine and remember music, to hear music in silence, and to be able to hear in the mind music that is printed on the page without the aid of instrument. Another benefi t of this skill is the ability to imagine how one might play a phrase before physically trying to do so on an instrument. Th is is essential to freeing oneself from habits and discovering deeper levels of interpretation as a performer. While some musicians do this quite naturally, those who fi nd it diffi cult can work on it and learn to do it well. Th e exercises in this book are designed to provoke and challenge the mind, and to develop the mind’s ear.

Equally important is the ability to bring authentic emotions into play during performance. Th is is not the same as imitating the emotional posture of one’s teacher or favorite artist, nor is it the same as “indicating” emotions by employing clichéd physical gestures, whether or not they are deliberate or unconscious. How do you get a young violinist who is technically capable of playing a diffi cult concerto but who does not seem to be communicating the music emotionally to be genuinely expressive, to connect more deeply with the essence of the music? For the answer to this problem, I turned to the techniques used to train actors.

I have based my approach to this issue to a great extent on the theater games that are so familiar to drama students but generally are unknown to music students and to most music teachers as well. My inspiration has been the work of Stanislavsky, Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg, Jerzy Grotowski, and others who have brought vitality and technique to the training of actors, helping them to get in touch with their emotions, stimulate their memories, and free their imaginations. My work with drama students at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts from 1984 to 1993 was synthesized with my experiences teaching composition, theory, and solfège at Juilliard to produce this approach to training the musical imagination.
Practicing for three or more hours a day, as many musicians do, will not produce a mature performer unless the musical inner life is also addressed. Strengthening emotional memory, imagination, and the mind’s ear can lead to more meaningful interpretations, more communicative performances, and even shave off a few hours of learning-by-rote time.

Some of these exercises may seem extremely simple at fi rst. Do not be fooled. It is important to warm up the imagination just as you would your voice before singing or your limbs before dancing. Any good musician knows that to play scales and arpeggios beautifully is not at all easy, just as a good dancer or athlete knows the diffi culties of moving effi ciently. If you come back to the more basic, introductory exercises after doing the advanced ones, you may fi nd that the simpler exercises now seem to off er a new experience, a deeper level of awareness.

And yes, do try this at home!​
Extention type
File size
1.1 MB
First release
Last update
0.00 star(s) 0 ratings

More resources from Tokyo