Does sight dominate sound in music competition judging?

Does sight dominate sound in music competition judging?

Some of us take part in music competitions (the Fleadh, for example); some of us perform on stage; others play in dance bands or orchestras. All these have in common the feature of performing in public. According to a recent scientific investigation - see the BBC link below - sight dominates sound when judging a music competition, and that goes for any public performance. I wouldn’t say it is an absolute conclusion applicable to all occasions but it is certainly something any competitor (or performer) would do well to bear in mind. In my experience if I see a musician coming on stage with a positive demeanour and exuding confidence then there is every chance I’m going to be hearing and seeing something special.
Here is the link:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23717228

Re: Does sight dominate sound in music competition judging?

I’m sure that a persons visual appearance can be as influential in competition as it is in everyday life. It can equally be just as deceiving. There have been so many times I’ve seen people who exude far greater confidence than they have ability.

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Hearing is extremely complex, and not just a matter of registering frequencies in the movement of air.
Years ago, pipers in GHB competitions were separated from the judges by curtains. I’m not sure why the practise stopped — or indeed if it has completely — ; but of course the judges in the higher level competitions knew exactly who the players were as soon as they fired up.
As to things sounding different depending on what they look like, this has been tested before with violins and flutes; and one of the findings that emerged was that, although the testers were hidden from the blindfolded subjects, it was very difficult to create a level playing field because the instruments felt different, and so were unwittingly played differently.
One thing I have noticed — not having a television and not being interested in pop culture or mainstream media, I do occasionally come across some ‘famous’ person performing in front of vast audiences, along with all the glitz and flashing lights and smoke, and I shake my head at the craptitude of the performer. How can so many people fall for all the hype and smoke and mirrors? The BBC report would seem to provide an answer.

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In orchestra auditions (high level ones anyhow), auditions are
done behind screens, so hair flipping and smiling can’t enter into it.

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Re Gam - surely the judges should be blindfolded and not the players? :)

Many times during competitions I’ve watched the judges look at the floor and not the performer, hence they’re listening, not looking. Something like the X Factor may rely on glitz as much as talent, but if we’re talking competition rather than performance then the sound is the main factor. This may be why many serious performers prefer the likes of Soundcloud to Youtube, where only the music is recorded without any distracting video and it seems to me at least to be more ‘pure’.

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The Fleadh should be more like "The Voice", with will.i.am as a judge.

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Something a bit out of left field here but will the day come when someone develops a piece of software to judge competitions instead of using humans.

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Wow u gotta wear a wig to win?

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Best thing would be to get rid of competitions! The general public may learn what is ‘good’ from what they are told is good rather than using their own senses. They sometimes forget the skill of listening properly before making judgements. How Susan Boyle has been treated rather sums it all up for me. I could not fathom why people were so astounded that she had a lovely voice and the musicality to back it up, but began to realise that many people accept the package long before they ‘hear’ the goods.

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"Best thing would be to get rid of competitions!"
Totally agree.

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Yeah I try no to take this too seriously. The most important thing is to play well, and be practiced, in order to actual show genuine confidence. I have actually noticed a correlation with people that are well put together and are also good players. Disheveled people with bad posture often have more bum notes, though some of them are still perfectly fine players to play with at a session. Once in a while there is the wild drunken virtuoso who seems to be overflowing with musicality and also the odor of cigarettes and alcohol. These types are usually young.

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"Once in a while there is the wild drunken virtuoso who seems to be overflowing with musicality and also the odor of cigarettes and alcohol. These types are usually young."…..

……Should be encouraged! And I should perhaps clarify my earlier stated disapproval of competition;- I have nothing against competition in any endeavour (even sport) if (and only if) it is friendly and fun. I detest the mentality of winners and losers. Every individual is entitled to enjoy the participation.

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"In orchestra auditions (high level ones anyhow), auditions are
done behind screens"

That brought to mind the story told me by somebody who plays in the LA Philharmonic. There are only so many positions available worldwide for orchestra players and positions with prominent orchestras are eagerly sought after. Get one of these positions and your career is "made" one might say.

So, as the story was told, a violin position with LA Phil came open and every effort was made to make the audition impartial. The judges were separated by a curtain from the players, and the players were know only by numbers (lest the sound of their name influence the judges). Musicians had flown in from all over the world, at their own expense of course, for this audition.

Some extremely fine playing was heard that day! But the job, in the end, didn’t go to any of the best players, but to one of the worst heard that day… a woman who just happened to be the girlfriend of a member of the LA Phil!

So "the fix was in." It was known beforehand to all the insiders who would get the job, and all those great players who had travelled great distances to audition had utterly wasted their time and money.

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I play violin in the LA orchestra … had no problem getting in.

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This thread has provided a real ego boost.

I now realize that the reason people don’t like my playing isn’t because I’m rubbish, it’s because I’m fat and ugly. I can live with that (thinking that I was fat, ugly AND rubbish was a bit demoralising).

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I should just mention - for the avoidance of unseemly doubt - that my reference to "LA orchestra" in my previous post was of course to the Long Ashton Orchestra in North Somerset, England.

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@Trevor Jennings

I once played on the stage in Broadway (Worcestershire, UK)

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@Trevor - at least it wasn’t the RTO :) (Really Terrible Orchestra).

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Fat and ugly? Don’t make me laugh Mark.

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Old Dave Allen joke:- A guy in an obviously drunken state staggers onto a bus and flops into a seat across from this very surly looking woman who instantly gives him the disproving stare. After he belches loudly the woman declares, ‘You’re drunk!’, to which the drunk replies, ‘Well you’re fat and ugly’. The woman is furious and repeats in an outraged tone, YOU’RE DRUNK! The drunk guy replies, ‘Yeah but I’ll be sober in the morning.

Sorry for the interruption. Carry on!

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That joke has also often been attributed to Winston Churchill.

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Really? Well he’s one to talk!

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One of WC’s critics remarked, "He was not drunk in charge of a vehicle. He was drunk in charge of an empire."

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Yeah Trevor, I reckon that that just about answers the question.

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