Enhancing Awareness through Learning Modalities and Tone-spiration

This post discusses the importance of awareness and varied learning modalities in self-improvement, particularly in music, introducing the concept of "Tone-spiration," which uses adjectives describing textiles to inspire sound concept and affect the way one relates to an instrument.

With David Allen Moore · Los Angeles, CA

The singularly most important topic in any kind of self-improvement (we’ll stick to bass playing and music in these articles) is Awareness. Without the ability to observe and analyze what we are doing and how we are reacting to stimuli we are destined to circle around the same tired patterns and stunt forward progress. The “A”-word has innumerable applications, but the area I want to focus on today is “learning modalities” or “learning styles”. The concept of “learning styles” has been debunked in the sense that tailoring lessons to certain learning styles for different students is a waste of resources as all students would benefit from learning through varied methods. I would propose using the different modalities to stimulate and invigorate the learning process. I was always Aware (see, it’s unavoidable) of 4 modalities, but there are 7 we should consider:

  • Visual (Spatial)
  • Aural (Auditory-Musical)
  • Verbal (Linguistic)
  • Physical (Kinesthetic)
  • Logical (Mathematical)
  • Social (Interpersonal)
  • Solitary (Intrapersonal)

A good teacher can vary their approach to most effectively engage different students, but in this context we are examining how you can leverage it in an auto-didactic context. First you need the Awareness (there it is again) of your own preferences and biases, and then you need to actively cultivate and stimulate the areas that you do not respond to as readily. I would like to give you a Logical concept presented in a Linguistic context that stimulates your Kinesthetic imagination in order to achieve an Aural result in the process of your  Intrapersonal practice (whew!).

Synesthesia is defined as “a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second cognitive pathway”. One famous example is the experience of actually seeing a color (not metaphorically) when hearing a sound. It is useful to visualize what this experience might be like in order to access creativity that might otherwise lie dormant. A concept that I would like to introduce is what we will call “Tone-spiration” (it was introduced to me as “Tone Triggers”, but in light of the current colloquial usage of the word, I certainly don’t intend for anyone to be “triggered” by the ideas presented here). The basic idea is leveraging your available technique and Awareness (in multiple categories) by using an adjective to inspire your sound concept. We are all familiar with doing this utilizing words that describe mass, density, timbre, temperature, and luminance (e.g. heavy/light, dense/transparent, reedy/brassy, warm/cool, bright/dark). I am proposing that for the exercise we use a “Tone-spiration” that has more tactile connotations: textiles. Examples could be silk, denim, burlap, cashmere, shag etc.

  • Select a passage (preferably melodic, but anything will do)
  • Assign a textile to the tone quality and character desired
  • Experiment!

I find that this approach tangibly alters the way that I relate to the string with my technique in a visceral tactile way. Think of how you would interact with your chosen fabric (I’ll use silk for this example). What would the experience be like? Would it be light pressure or heavy? Do you glide across the surface, or is it a more deliberate and concentrated contact? The only limit is your imagination and creativity.

Check out more Fractal Friday writings here.


About the Author

David Allen Moore, 4th Chair Bass of the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 2000, was previously a member of the Houston Symphony. He is an internationally sought-after Guest Principal and has performed with the Helsinki and Israel Philharmonic.

Moore is the author of Fractal Fingering, a required text at notable universities. He joined the USC Thornton School of Music’s full-time faculty in 2010 while maintaining his position in the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He also teaches at Domaine Forget in Canada and DiscoverDoubleBass.com. His students hold positions in orchestras globally.

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