When I play a simple melody on my guitar while I strum (to create the sound) I can quite easily determine where to put my frethand finger for the next note.

But if I do not create the sound, currently I can't almost at all recall the fingering sequence. I.e., I can't mock practice the finger sequence silently.

My question is; is there a name for this phenomenon in which auditory experience facilitates the memory for finger sequence??

  • plz feel free to edit the question title so that it summerise what i am trying to ask Aug 5 at 18:16
  • 5
    I think the concept youre looking for is, “you’re a musician”. Part of learning to play music is connecting your small muscles and muscle memory with what you hear. It’s helpful for guitarists and pianists. It’s critical for brass and woodwind players. It’s the whole ballgame for singers. Aug 31 at 18:29
  • Disregard the fingering aspect for a moment, can you mentally "hear" the entire melody in your head? Not a vague notion of it, but the complete melody? If not, can you mentally hear some other well known tune like Happy Birthday? Aug 31 at 21:22

When we practice repeatable tasks -whether that is a guitar lick, sewing or riding a bicycle- our brain's neurological pathways for that specific action are reinforced. This phenomenon is called 'muscle memory'. You can read more about it on wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscle_memory

  • AlwaysConfused's muscle memory is tied to auditory memory. The question regards that tying together.
    – Aaron
    Aug 31 at 17:09

I think audiation may be the topic that relates to your question.

Audiation is sort of like the "inner ear" idea, "hearing in your head", but combined with a deeper understanding of music in terms of meter, harmony, etc. The idea comes from Edwin Gordon.

In Learning Sequences in Music, Gordon writes:

...When students complain about ... a memory lapse while performing ... the most likely cause is that they memorized the music but were not audiating what they were performing.

I think the typical examples given are someone who can play some passage instrumentally, but can't sing what they can play. Or, quickly forgetting a recital piece, because the person can't audiate the syntactical structure of the music.

You descriptions is a little different, because you seem to be able to play something if actually play the strings and can hear the music. But, what I suspect may be happening along the lines of this: the actual sounds reinforce your performance and both give you positive queues that you're executing the music correctly and act as memory queues to recall the continuation of the performance. Absent those actual sonic queues, you aren't "hearing the music in your head", you have not internalized the musical meaning of the piece, and so your are not audiating the music. And according to Gordon, musical memory problems can stem from a failure to audiate.

In the above text, Gordon describes the ability to play music transposed as evidence of the audiation ability. The idea being if you understand the structure of the music within a key - where is the tonic, essential versus decorative tones, etc. - then you understand the musical meaning of the notes, and then transposing it to another key is merely a mechanical process.

You could try transposing melodies as both a test of and practice for audiation ability. That's just an idea off the top of my head. I don't know how music teachers actually apply Gordon's theory in their teaching.

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