Focus of attention affects singer's tone production
Atkins, Rebecca Lynn
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It is now well understood that skilled motor behavior is affected by performers' focus of attention. This effect has been demonstrated in numerous and varied motor tasks, from golf-putting to piano playing. I conducted two experiments with college-aged singers to test the extent to which trained singers' vocal tone is affected by their focus of attention while singing. In Experiment 1 (N = 11) participants sang a 3-note sequence and an excerpt of a well-learned melody under six different focus conditions. In Experiment 2 (N = 20) participants sang 3-note sequences in both high and low vocal registers, a well-learned melody, and an unpracticed, familiar melody under seven different focus conditions. Focus of attention affected participants' vocal tone in all of the singing tasks. The results of the two experiments are consistent with the results of related investigations of attentional focus in motor skill performance. Singers' tone was rated most highly and described most positively by expert listeners when singers' focused their attention on external rather than internal targets. Focusing on distal targets (i.e., targets that were far removed from the vocal mechanism) in particular was associated with high ratings and positive descriptions of vocal tone.