No, not audition. Audiation.
It’s a concept that’s long been in need of a common word… and lately I’ve been hearing this word for it more and more.
Audiation means hearing music internally, in your “mind’s ear”—when the physical sound of it isn’t present.
Got an earworm? That’s a case of runaway audiation.
Hearing the music you’re about to play before you play it—or audiating it (that’s the verb)—is an essential skill for any musician who wants to play with emotion and expression. And it’s absolutely central to improvisation and composition.
Audiation is the work of the metaphorical “ear” in the expression “playing by ear.” And it’s a skill that, as musicians, we can—and must—develop.
I must have said to students thousands of times things like, “Ok, now silently imagine what it’s going to sound like to play that E,” instead of just saying, “now audiate the E.” And I know I’m not alone. “Audiation” may not get many votes in the elegant word contest, but it sure will save music teachers & students a lot of time.
The concept has been around for ages, but the word was coined, and the notion developed at length, some 40 years ago by the music educator and researcher Edwin E. Gordon. Maybe it’s just me, but its adoption seems to be reaching a tipping point recently. It’s not yet in any of the English dictionaries I checked, but I’m hoping it will be in ten years. In the meantime, I think it’s time for us to start using it—with a kind offer to explain what it means, perhaps, but without feeling obliged to qualify it at length with “there’s this term that this guy invented…”