About Neuro-Vocal Method
The groundbreaking voice training approach for singers of popular styles
Based on new knowledge of brain function,
Neuro-Vocal Method teaches singers
to steer changes in their brains
and be guided by the changes as they occur.
This approach can achieve remarkably fast results,
and puts the student in the driver's seat with tools
for a healthy voice that lasts a lifetime.
Neuro-Vocal Method was developed by Meredith Colby to help singers of popular styles address amplified performance situations in which their ability to hear themselves is limited.
Based on brain science, this adaptive method guides the singer to an interoceptive experience of phonation. By using intention and attention, the singer learns to utilize the predictive nature of the brain to alter the existing motor response to the intention to sing.
Colby developed exercises to help singers allow unfamiliar kinesthetic sensations, which in turn open up new healthy and powerful sound possibilities. The goal is an efficient and natural sound of the voice.
NVM is based on this:
Here's a Brain That's Singing
What you see here is a lot of activity. Many regions of the brain are activated during singing. The activated regions are generally concerned with:
A Brain That's Listening
Here I'm listening to a song I know. You'll see that many of the same areas of the brain are activated but to a lesser degree.
A Brain Vocalizing a Single Pitch
Here we're seeing activity related to matching and holding a pitch.
Measuring physical sensations
A Brain in NVM Mode
This is one of the foundational exercises of Neuro-Vocal, the Nasty Triangle. You can see there are very different levels of activation.
Activity primarily in the auditory cortex (meaning I can hear the sound I'm making).
Small amount of activity indicating learning reward-relevant events
If a Tree Falls in the Woods...
I've always had a busy voice studio, so over the years I had a lot of students on whom to test my ideas. Students who were professional singers all the way to students who couldn't consistently match pitch. The newly forming method worked for all of them. But it wasn't just working to improve their singing. It was transforming their singing. I could not ignore what I was seeing.
During this long (really, long...over ten years) part of the story, I watched my students access ridiculously high pitches in chest mix, and with no strain. I had students who sang unreasonably long gigs, students who sang in bands with no monitor, and students who sang seven shows a week for months. None had any vocal problems. All of them glowed about their new abilities. Some came back from follow-up visits from their laryngologists telling me that the damage that brought them to me had disappeared.
And then there were the students who were afraid to sing, who weren't "naturals," and who aspired just to bring singing into their lives in a meaningful way. Those were the students who really convinced me that this brain-training thing was the way to go. Some described their improvements as "miraculous," and it was hard to disagree.
I Was Always Taught to Share
The embarrassing truth about my voice teaching is that I started as a pop music evangelist. I wanted to teach microphone singers healthy pop technique because I had not been, and I had suffered. I wanted to save pop singers from inappropriate techniques that could do damage to them as it had to me.
Long story short...after 8 years of classical voice training and a B.m. in studio music & jazz, I sang in a road band for a year. the way I'd been taught to sing wasn't created for singing three hours a night, six nights a week, for months at a time, and in situations where you could barely hear yourself. I trashed my voice and spend the next year dedicated to healing my voice.
What can I say? My dad was a preacher and my mom was a teacher. Helping was in my blood, and I wanted to share this method with other voice teachers. I especially wanted to share with people who wanted to help their students who wanted to sing popular styles, but who didn't know how.
I decided to write a book. Then decided not to. Repeat ad nauseam. I'd write for a week and then quit for two.
My confidence came from my own experience. But my insecurity came from my inability to scientifically prove my method. Additionally, I didn't know my theory was correct. I just believed it was correct. For someone else that might have been enough. But it took the wind out of my sails time and time again. I needed something more concrete.
In order to prove that my theory was correct, I'd need a reasonable number (40? 100?) of people who knew my method and could execute it perfectly. I'd also need to put each of those people, along with a number of "control" people, into a fMRI for an hour or so. Then the results would have to be analyzed to test my question and confirm (or disprove) my theory.
So...yeah. That wasn't going to happen.
I did think, though, that if I could get
myself into an fMRI, at least I could take
a gander at how this new method might be working.
Happiest Day of My Life
OK. Maybe not the happiest. But right up there. It was the day I first saw those brain pictures at the top of the page. I was thrilled! (Actually, I'm still kind of thrilled...)
The back story is that I found a neurology researcher who is also an excellent musician and pianist. I explained my idea and he thought it had enough merit to stick me in a fMRI for 90 minutes to look at my brain. We planned and executed the fMRI session, and then I waited.
Turns out most of the science of that technology is in the software, and the art is in interpreting the data. Luckily, Dr. Doug Burman is no slouch!
Then came that happy day. I sat down with Dr. Burman and saw what you see in the scans shown above. It was magical. It showed me that what I thought was happening was, in fact, happening. At least in my brain. It wasn't science, but it was evidence, and it was exciting. This incredible experience and its outcome gave me the incentive to actually write my book. Thank you, Dr. Burman.
The results are the brain pics you saw at the top of the page.
The results for me, and for the voice pros I train, are life-changing.