Number 2, May 1, 2021
Muscle Memory – What is It and How Does It Work?
From Wikipedia: Muscle memory is a form of procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition, which has been used synonymously with motor learning. When a movement is repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created for that task, eventually allowing it to be performed with little to no conscious effort. This process decreases the need for attention and creates maximum efficiency within the motor and memory systems. Muscle memory is found in many everyday activities that become automatic and improve with practice, such as riding bicycles, driving motor vehicles, playing ball sports, typing on keyboards, entering PINs, playing musical instruments, martial arts, and dancing.
From the above information, I think you can tell what the concept of muscle memory is and how to achieve it. But what is the purpose of muscle memory in the service of music? Is it a process that could create ease of function, i.e., making it easier for you to remember the chord progression or lyrics of a song? Or, is it a “crutch” we lean on when we want to go on “autopilot?” Could this autopilot turn into a situation where you’re less aware of where you are in a song and simply “zone out”?
To me, muscle memory is a really important tool. I think there is a very good reason to employ muscle memory in the voice, ESPECIALLY where mechanics are concerned. I’ve suggested many times that you make your physical mechanics a “new autopilot” when you go to sing, making sure your breath is intentional so the air support is there, and drop the relaxed jaw to make the resonating chambers available. This can be part of a muscle memory. But for the song itself, the process always allows me to memorize effectively, and with proper repetition, we get this memory literally in the mouth. This freedom then allows my imagination to run with the ideas, visuals, and emotions in the song.
Make a point to memorize your songs, and you will feel the balancing act between using muscle memory and soaring on the wings of your imagination to find the heart of the story.
See you next time for a discussion of how to memorize songs, performance anxiety, applying dynamics, authentic emotion and more!
Thanks for joining me!
Blessings and love,
Award-winning recording artist, Broadway singer, journalist, educator and critically-acclaimed powerhouse vocalist, Susie Glaze has been called “one of the most beautiful voices in bluegrass and folk music today” by Roz Larman of KPFK’s Folk Scene. LA Weekly voted her ensemble Best New Folk in their Best of LA Weekly for 2019, calling Susie “an incomparable vocalist.” “A flat out superb vocalist… Glaze delivers warm, amber-toned vocals that explore the psychic depth of a lyric with deft acuity and technical perfection.” As an educator, Susie has lectured at USC Thornton School of Music and Cal State Northridge on “Balladry to Bluegrass,” illuminating the historical path of ancient folk forms in the United Kingdom to the United States via immigration into the mountains of Appalachia. She is a current specialist in performance and historian on the work of American folk music icon, Jean Ritchie. Susie now offers private voice coaching online via the Zoom platform. www.susieglaze.com
VOICE NOTES: A FOLK DIVA’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY Number 2
A twice-monthly blog on topics of voice production for Folk, Bluegrass and Americana styles.