Here’s how HearFones® actually work—the wonders of the ellipse…
The secret? Every path of sound from point A to point B is the same length, so there’s no difference in the time the sounds of your mouth reach your ears; you hear what comes out of your mouth—acoustically and accurately! No electrons, wires, or batteries.
The typical reaction if we hear ourselves played back is, “Do I really sound like that?” Needless to say, we do, but hearing ourselves afterwards is like reading about your golf stroke in tomorrow’s paper, as if your eyes went blind the instant your racquet hit the tennis ball. What can you learn toward improvement? Every muscle in our arms, shoulders, legs, and feet is equipped with ‘proprioceptive’ nerves that are feeding back to the brain about what’s going on at every instant. But if we can’t watch the ball going away, with spin, curve, and wind effects as it nears the goal, then all these signals teach us nothing. If we watch the ball as it races away and sense the immediate effect of our actions in terms of follow-through and results, then our brain, and even our brainstem and spinal column, will cement and solidify these motions as a memory. This feeling marks a special moment, a learning moment. We need to be sensitive to the details of how the ball is arriving, how we feel, and how it departs, in order to hone these skills to a performance level. To be useful in motor learning, feedback needs to be immediate, appropriate, and sustained as the task is evolving. A vocal coach listening to you sing is invaluable, but their delayed verbal feedback is hard to apply to what you were actually doing as you sang. A whole obscure language has developed for this… words like “sing into the mask,” “let it resonate behind your nose,” or “make your voice darker.” Of course, one way to affect individual singing feedback is to use a microphone, amplifier, and headphones to carry sounds from the mouth back to our ears. In general, this would work well, except for the microphone’s sensitivity to distance and the impact of plosive sounds like the letter “P,” its spectral sensitivity curve to different pitches, its wiring, and batteries, and sound isolation. A simpler, more traditional method is to cup our hands to our ears (think Lily Tomlin on Laugh In). We’ve even seen people try to plug their ears entirely with their fingers! But hand cupping is a nuisance when you’re holding sheet music and a pencil, and the sounds you hear depend entirely on resonances produced by the shape of your hand. And ear plugging well prevents you from hearing your voice; it cuts out all airborne sound and lets you listen to your throat shaking your inner ear. Which is why HearFones® were invented. Hands free, binaural, live, no electronics—just simplicity. HearFones®’ direct feedback gives you the information you’ve never had before, to use your lungs and your throat and your mouth to produce, perfect, and practice the sounds that you want to make while simultaneously learning how to do it. People who try it are always amazed at what they hear. Fully equipped choirs instantly sound better, be they young children or seasoned adults. Individuals learn confidence as well as new tricks.
Let us pass along to you the observations we have made from the thousands of HearFones® now out there in several countries. Lots of people are very excited about how their ‘fones’ can help them, especially teachers and directors. The following are some of the reasons why:
1. First of all, HearFones®help focus the attention on each singer’s own particular vocal production, often for the first time. Ultimately, this amounts to having vocal coaches for each singer in the ensemble—the singers themselves.
2. With attention now focused on quality, the teacher/director can demonstrate the desired vowel sound or vocal quality for any particular spot, then ask the singers to imitate them.
3. Any singer (or all of them) may “practice his own part” while singing with the ensemble, thus improving individual quality while enhancing the group’s overall presentation.
4.HearFones® may be used in one-on-one sessions with the teacher to work on general vocal quality or on specific problems. Thus, singers learn to hear exactly how their own best singing sounds and just how they achieved this improvement. In time, they learn to produce this better singing without the aid of the acoustic device; something like discarding the “training wheels.”
5. While it’s not necessary to outfit the whole chorus or choir with HearFones® to achieve very satisfying results in quality singing, this has been done. A nearby high school chorus borrowed 32 sets of ‘fones’ for a recording session. One of their key soloists remarked that they really helped her hit her song with new confidence. You could sure hear the difference.
6. Although many see HearFones® as a breakthrough in music education, we do not suggest that they supplant more traditional vocal training. This policy is clearly stated in the accompanying Singing Secrets booklet. However, this new product allows for the direct approach: to improve the quality of singing, improve how it sounds. And it works, often making dramatic changes in a very short time.
7. Directors find it less work for themselves to help their vocal groups sound better quicker. It seems that the responsibility for good sound and effective musical presentation is placed just where it ought to be—on the singers. If they don’t do their job of making the sounds right, what can the director do to save it?