August 14, 2013


As musicians, we strive to develop our skills, to improve our technique, our repertoire, our span of knowledge. We want to get better – typically we are working on our ability to perform. Whether we are renowned for our performance on the world stage, or simply playing to amuse our cat, we work to be worth listening to.

But how often do we listen? Be honest.
Do we take the time to really hear ourselves? Do we actually really listen to others when they play? I don’t mean the listening where you relax and let the sound wash over you (even though that is one of the benefits of playing our beautiful instrument, but that’s not what we mean here).

Involved listening is another skill that we must develop. This is an essential skill. Whether you are solely ear trained, solely paper trained, or somewhere in between. It is from this type of all attentive listening that you learn important elements like phrasing, ornamentation, style, and expression. And like every other skill, you can build your involved listening. Here are four things you can do to get better at involved listening.
  • Focus. You can spend all day listening, but if you don’t pay attention, you won’t actually hear anything. Take the time to focus on what you’re listening to.
  • Think. What are you listening to? Are you hearing the melody? The harmony? A particular phrase? Think about captures your attention and decide if that’s what you want to focus on.
  • Pause. Remember that music is a communication so the pauses are almost as important as the sounds. Listen for those pauses. What do they mean? What do you want them to mean?
  • Reflect. Now that you’ve listened to the tune that you’re interested in. You have to think about how you’re going to make it yours. Reflect on what you’ve listened to and how your to bring it out and you.
Being involved with your music by truly listening will allow you to become a better musician as well as appreciating other people’s music all the more.

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