Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Monograph

Degree

Doctor of Musical Arts

Program

Music

Supervisor

Roland, Sophie L. C.

2nd Supervisor

Hall, Craig R.

Co-Supervisor

Abstract

Sport and dance psychology researchers have shown, time and again, how imagery improves performance in their respective fields. In singing, imagery has a long history in the bel canto (beautiful singing) tradition but it is more linked to using metaphor and simile as teaching aids rather than a mental practice technique to improve performance. Because of this, imagery in singing is even broader than imagery in athletics or dance. Moreover, imagery in singing psychology has not been as thoroughly examined in an empirical setting, especially not from a sport and dance psychology perspective.

This monograph aims to outline the term “imagery” in its many forms and applications to sport, singing, and other fields to better understand the term across disciplines. For the purposes of this monograph, the author is operating under the definition of imagery from a sport and dance psychology perspective, whereby imagery is an experience that mimics a real experience. It occurs in the mind’s eye. It is multi-sensory, meaning that it is not limited to visualization, but encompasses all five senses as well as the kinesthetic sense.

The guiding questions of this study were concerned with the individual singer’s use of imagery and how this differs between professional singers and student singers. This study was based on the author’s previous work where singers used imagery for vocal technique, performance anxiety and goals, and characterization, i.e., portrayal of characters, in their own personal singing. This research used a study-specific survey to explore the nature and function of singers’ imagery use with respect to vocal technique, performance anxiety and goals, and characterization. 130 singers were surveyed to determine the nature and function of their imagery use. Findings of the study revealed that no group differences exist between professional and student singers’ imagery use. There was a significant difference between males and females on the characterization subscale, suggesting that female singers may use imagery for characterization more so than males.

Summary for Lay Audience

This investigation uses a study-specific questionnaire to examine the reasons why classical singers (sometimes referred to as operatic singers) may use imagery. Imagery is an experience that mimics a real experience. It occurs in our mind’s eye and it is different from dreaming in that we are awake and conscious. It is different from thinking because it is often associated with a performance goal, e.g., memorization or characterization. Imagery users may not know they are using imagery or may refer to it as “mental practice.” A review of the literature demonstrates this overlap in the understanding of “imagery” and “mental practice.” Some researchers view imagery as a component of mental practice while others view them as the same. Both perspectives are outlined and discussed. Furthermore, in past musical imagery studies, there is a lack of consideration for previous work that has been done in the sport psychology domain, as well as in dance psychology. The literature review aims to correct this and build upon similar imagery work in other disciplines.

A survey method was chosen to reach as many classical singers as possible. The survey was based on a previous study where the author found that singers use imagery for vocal technique, performance anxiety and goals, and characterization. 130 singers comprised of both professionals and students were surveyed to understand the reasons why they may use imagery in their own personal singing. This survey also sought to determine if there were any differences in imagery use in professionals and students to inform future training of young singers.

While no group differences were found, this study revealed that female singers may use imagery for characterization more so than males. The practical implications of the study are wide and varied for classical singers, singing teachers, and future researchers into singing psychology.

Available for download on Friday, December 10, 2021

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