When I attended the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music in 2011, guitarist Anthony Wilson led a brilliant workshop called Composition: Uncovering and Revealing the Already Complete Idea.
He asked us to sit in silence, listen deeply, and discover a melody in our inner hearing. We all silently captured our inner melody with notation to the best of our abilities. Next, we performed our compositions for one another. Listening to the music we composed on the spot was a beautiful experience, demonstrating the power of intuition and inner hearing.
Our inner hearing (also known as “audiation”) is imagined music. Have an earworm stuck in your head? This is your inner hearing in overdrive.
In private lessons, when students struggle to play a coherent jazz solo, I ask them to sing solos with a recording. With few exceptions, they sound more fluid and natural—even musicians without any experience singing. Many of these students walk in the door looking for they hip licks, patterns, and chord substitutions. In reality, developing a deeper connection with their inner hearing leads to their next breakthroughs.
Inner hearing is broader than just hearing melodies. The practice allows us to imagine the instrumentation, texture, form, and emotional impact of larger works. Skilled composers and improvisors have the experience, skills, and guts to transform an imagined music into an artistic reality.
This fall, I’m publishing a new book: Creativity Triggers for Musicians. The practices and strategies will help you unlock and unblock your innate creativity. Reserve a free digital copy here.