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Musicians Need to Listen

Quite simply; musicians need to listen.

In my opinion, listening is the most important skill to learn as a developing musician but it is possibly given the least amount of attention in a lesson.

It is easy to get lost in the technical ‘how and why’ of your instrument, and over the years I have seen lessons consisting almost entirely of technical chit chat about ”how things need to work in order for this or that to happen”. As the old saying goes,  “Paralysis through Analysis”.

There is of course, a very important place for the analysis of technique and it is an area that every student should spend considerable time studying, but not at the expense of listening to music itself. After all becoming a musician should be the ultimate goal, not becoming an operator of a musical instrument.

Listening to recordings teaches so much about every aspect of your chosen instrument(s) and music in general. In a way, listening to recordings allows you to have your favorite players right there in your living room, car or wherever you like to kick back and relax to the sounds of your inspirations.

By listening to music we learn all about tone, rhythm, time, phrasing, dynamics, articulation, style, technique…. Everything! No matter how good a communicator your teacher is, there simply aren’t enough words to ever describe what can be learned from listening to the real thing.

Listening to music and great players becomes a process of gradual assimilation of sound, style and phrasing. You will develop a subconscious repertoire from what you have heard that over time will become evident in your own playing. How you interpret and perform music, will be uniquely influenced by who, or what, you have been listening to!

This brings me to an interesting point.

Recorded music is so freely available to us and can be accessed with ease (legally, of course). There are bands and orchestras performing all around and Melbourne has one of the most vibrant live music scenes in the country. No recording can truly reproduce the subtleties in sounds that are produced in an actual live acoustic environment. If you can, get out there and hear your favorite players for real.

There is no substitute for the thrill of a live music event.

I encourage you to build up a collection of recordings of your favorite music. Listen to as many different players as you can. Don’t limit yourself to one style of music. These days, instrumentalists need to be more versatile than ever before so it is important to have an appreciation for all kinds of music.

Stay tuned – more thoughts and tips on listening coming soon!

– Shane Gillard

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