Ear Training for the Singer: The Tomatis® Method

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The Tomatis® Method began as an effort to help professional singers, based on the idea that acquired listening difficulties of the inner ear are the root cause of a variety of functional disorders including singing off key (sharp or flat). His Electronic Ear training, now called the TalksUp® Device, was designed to re-train and re-normalize these limitations. Like any muscle, if it is not fully flexible and adaptable, it will prevent listening within a certain area within the full sound spectrum.  He said ‘if the ear cannot hear it, the voice cannot reproduce it’.

One of the historical areas of application for the Tomatis® Method concerns the improvement of the singing voice, as well as musicality in general.  In effect, thanks to its direct action on brain function that link perception, attention and awareness with action, the fundamental principle of the Tomatis® Method is that any modification of the functions concerning the reception and analysis of  sound, will have consequences on our ability to vocally reproduce that sound, be it speaking or singing.  In other words, there are certain areas within the spectrum of hearing that are underdeveloped because of poor listening acquired over our lifetime from injuries, accidents, illness, as well as what is acquired unconsciously from family and in particular, via our Mother in-utero.

Moreover, good quality vocalization does not merely require a well-tuned listening of an external sound, but also and above all, a well-tuned self-listening/perception via bone conduction in our body. It demands a well-developed capacity to use one’s own voice as a sound source to be utilized and instinctively controlled for intensity and quality. This self-listening happens only when the perceived sound vibration is correctly regulated by bone conduction, which is the path of transmission for sound through all of the body’s bones, and in particular, the cranium.  We perceive our own vocal sound via bone vibration before it is transmitted to us via air conduction (bone conduction is 10 times faster then air conduction of sound).  Tomatis’ method trains our brain-inner ear connection to begin to tune into bone vibration, thus improving our ability to feel the music in our own body as well as to sing without force.

I was introduced to Dr. Alfred Tomatis’ work in the mid 1980s.  It made a lot of sense to me given what I know about singing. And my voice teacher Margaret  Riddleberger consulted for the Tomatis organization for a number of years before her death. They had her come to Paris and teach, since they found that her way of teaching singing would get people into the same state as his training with his technology called Electronic Ear, now called the TalksUp® Device. My goal has always been to streamline the learning process so that singers would not take years to develop their authentic voice

Tomatis theorized that the whole body and nervous system is involved in the production of speech and language. He stated that reading, even silent reading, is an activity of the ear. He recommended reading out loud, not only for children and by children, but also by adults, for 30 minutes a day. He claimed this not only stimulates the brain but is the best way to learn. We now have a device available called Forbrain® that trains your nervous to attune to bone vibration.

The Tomatis Effect

Tomatis eventually adapted his techniques to target diverse disorders including auditory processing problems, dyslexia, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, autism, and sensory processing and motor-skill difficulties. It is also claimed to have helped adults fight depression, learn foreign languages faster, develop better communication skills, and improve both creativity and on-the-job performance. About some musicians, singers and actors it is also claimed they have said they had found it helpful for fine-tuning their tonal and harmonic skills.  Singers Sting and Maria Callas and actor Gérard Depardieu all maintain that they experienced highly beneficial results from working with Tomatis and his method.

The Tomatis Method uses recordings by Mozart, Gregorian Chant among others. Tomatis wrote fourteen books and over two thousand articles. His Ear and Language, The Conscious Ear and The Ear and the Voice have been translated into English.


Home training in the Tomatis® Method: rent a system for Intensive work


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