Vocal Self-image

From a psychological perspective, hearing one’s own voice may have a large impact on one’s vocal self-image. Vocal self-image may be described as an internalized mental perspective of a person’s singing voice. It is based upon collective assumptions and subjective personal conclusions developed gradually from cumulative personal singing experience and internalized judgments of others. It is hypothesized that vocal self-image could result from: 1) how an individual evaluates his/her own singing, 2) how others evaluate the individual’s singing, and 3) how the individual perceives others would have valuated his/her singing. In other words, vocal self-image is a collective impression of an individual’s perceived strengths and weaknesses in singing, which he/she selectively compiled from different sources and experience.

Vocal self-image may be seen as a form of self-schema derived from cognitive-affective structures representing one’s experience (Schacter, Gilbert, & Wegner, 2011). Self-schema would influence the way a person thinks and remembers, and therefore, it is prone to bias that leads to events that are perceived to be self-perpetuating. Likewise, vocal self-image impacts an individual’s expectation about his or her own singing performance because self-referential encoding, the tendency for people to encode information differently, is dependent on the way an individual anticipates events (Katz, 1987; Rogers, Kuiper, & Kirker, 1977). Therefore, it is hypothesized that vocal self-image could potentially shape singing attitudes and affect an individual’s satisfaction and fulfilment of singing.

Vocal Efficacy as Measurement of Vocal Self-image

Self-efficacy is the measure of the belief in one’s own ability to complete tasks and reach goals. According to Bandura (1997), self-efficacy beliefs determine how people feel, think, motivate themselves and behave. A study of music self-efficacy most often concerns teachers, who reflected on their professional practices and beliefs about teaching music (de Vries, 2013; Hargreaves & Marshall, 2003; Hargreaves, Purves, Welch, & Marshall, 2007). Other studies explored student’s self-efficacy on their learning and motivation for musical performance (Daniel, 2001; McPherson & McCormick, 2006; Ritchie & Williamon, 2011).

When applied to song performance, vocal self-efficacy may be defined as people’s beliefs about their capabilities to perform songs. Hence, it is hypothesized that the musically untrained would have a subjective self-image of their singing performance, which may not accurately match the actual singing performance achievement as assessed by peers and by experts. However, some research reported that expert’s ratings of errors were comparable to those identified objectively by non-experts and by the computerized acoustic analysis. Recent replications of the study also suggested that laymen, (i.e., judges without any formal training in music) also found a similar pattern of results (Larrouy-Maestri, Magis, Grabenhorst, & Morsomme, 2015). The purpose of the following study was to investigate the song performance of Chinese adults evaluated by self, peers, and experts. It also aimed to fill the gap in research literature through a systematic investigation into the effects of vocal self-efficacy on song performance and self-assessment.

Effects of Music Experience

Musical experience may be cultivated informally through natural exposure in a musically rich auditory environment. It may also be cultivated through formal training, which could include training in either instrumental or vocal music or both. It is hypothesized that different types of musical experience or training could have distinctive effects on singing performance. An investigation was conducted on song performance and melodic pitch-matching skills of three groups of adults who had different types and levels of music background (Mang, 2007). For the melodic pitch-matching task, the instrumentalists performed significantly better than both the musically untrained control group and the non-music-major choristers’ group. In contrast, the non-musicmajors who had choral experience performed significantly better in song performance tasks than both the instrumentalists and the musically untrained group. Thus, musical experience appeared to have different effects on singing achievement. It is imperative to follow up on this line of research for more insights.

Given that singing has always been regarded as the most commonly participatory form of musical activities by the musically untrained population, it is imperative to conduct an empirical investigation to compare between objective versus self-evaluation of song performance to identify if there are discrepancies among the musically trained and the novice.

Need for the Study

A review of literature showed a lack of empirical investigation on singing self-assessment. The following aspects warrant a more in-depth investigation:

  • a) Literature on self-evaluation of singing is scarce. An investigation that aims to systematically compare the ratings of singer’s self-evaluation with the objective assessment of experts has not been published, to the best of the author’s knowledge. Such a comparison would shed light on whether there are discrepancies between the two types assessment.
  • b) Although literature on music training suggests positive extrinsic learning outcomes, such as improvement in self-esteem, self-efficacy and aspirations, and general motivation to learn and perform better in academic areas (Hallam, 2010), there is a lack of research on the relationships between music training and self-efficacy in singing. The explicit relationship between music training background and self-efficacy is yet to be determined.
  • c) The most closely related study on self-evaluation of singing reported the perception of vocal identity by adolescent singers and focused on self-reflections of their voice during voice change (Monks, 2003). It is recommended that singing assessment could focus on evaluating pitch and rhythm accuracy, vocal timbre, and musical interpretation. It is argued that such an all-round evaluation would provide crucial evaluation on the achievement of a more balanced performance rather than putting an over emphasis on pitch accuracy.
  • d) To enhance the validity of results of the singing assessment, it is suggested that responses of singing could be analyzed against a vocal self-efficacy rating scale completed by the subjects to aid data interpretation. Any explicit relationships between singing achievement and vocal self-efficacy could be investigated by determining if are correlations between those two aspects.
  • e) As can be seen, more systematic investigations are warranted into the relationships between vocal self-efficacy ratings and singing competency and the differences between self- and peer-evaluation, in contrast to experts’ evaluation ratings. Also, there is a need to solicit both quantitative and qualitative vocal responses from a large sample of both musically trained and non-trained adults. The results of such an investigation would provide opportunities for further analyses of a range of demographic variables.
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