Listening is Half the Battle
Listening is half the battle
Everyone that is serious about playing an instrument has a music goal they are trying to reach. Oftentimes, it is to play in a particular style or like a player they love. One of the first things I ask my students is, “What are you listening to?” The music you listen to directly affects what comes out of you. Here are some good analogies:
Music is a language. You can write, read, and speak. You can create letters, words, phrases, sentences, and novels. Every language has unique qualities. The best way to learn a specific language is to immerse yourself in it. Move to the country where people speak the language. Force yourself to interact with others and put yourself in a situation where you have to use it. This might be more uncomfortable than taking a class, but it will definitely stick with you better. The same goes for music. Listen to the style you want to learn. Start consciously adding those words to your vocabulary. If you are really serious about a particular style, visit or move to a city where that style is alive and thriving. For example, if you love jazz, you should listen to jazz and consider visiting or moving to New York City or New Orleans. New York has an amazing jazz scene. If you love country, you may consider Nashville. No matter what your aspirations are, you need to be surrounded by it and challenged by those who are living it.
Just like what you eat directly affects your body, what you listen to directly affects your musicianship. It’s probably not a good idea to base your diet on commercials and what they try to convince the public is “good.” We may find ourselves stuffing our faces with cheeseburgers and fries everyday. Don’t let popular music or radio be all that you eat. Seek out things that help you grow musically and stretch your ability. I personally appreciate all styles. Every style I have studied has improved my playing in a unique way. I am so thankful that I was introduced to jazz or I wouldn’t be as accomplished an improviser or know as much about theory. Also, had I not learned classical, I wouldn’t be as nimble with my finger picking and reading.
I love the potential of art within music! You can create moods with sounds, pictures with words, movement with beats, and more. When you listen to music, you are constantly exposing yourself to new ideas that can help spark your own creativity. You can take an idea used before you and put your own spin on it. Sometimes, you can take an idea and spark a brand new idea that’s never been used before. Just as with language and nutrition, you need to carefully consider the kind of art you are trying to create. If you are struggling with lyrics in your writing, seek out some renown lyricists or poets and listen to what they have to say. You’ll be blown away by how quickly it will come out of your body.
The moral of the story is what you put in the pot directly affects what your end product is. Make sure that you take the time to dive into the style you are trying to reach, stretch yourself musically, and equip yourself fully so that your inner artist can come out. Best of luck! Remember, when listening, choose wisely.