Are you really listening?

Here’s an excellent way to develop your over-all musical sensibilities… and it involves doing something that you already know how to do- listening to music.

But I’m talking about really listening.

I’ve often found that beginning players haven’t yet developed the ability to discern specific instruments on a recording. If you want to play with other musicians, you’ll need to be able to, at any time, shift your focus from your own playing to anyone else in the band as you all perform a song together.
This is a learned skill.

So do this:

• Choose any recording of a song… but you must really like this song!
And, choose a song that has drums, bass, keyboards, one or two guitarists, vocals, maybe a horn section. The point is that the band has at least 4-6 players in it.

• Now, listen to the song one time all the way through & just relax into it like you normally would… casual listening.

• Then, listen to it all the way through again & just listens to one  of the instruments… start with the drums, maybe.

• Then, do the same but this time only listen to the bass.

• Then, the keyboards.

* Then, the guitarist.

• Then, the other guitarist.

• Continue in this manner until you’ve listened to each instrument individually.

You get the idea. The trick is to stay focused on each individual instrument for the entire song. Listen very deeply to every little thing that player does.

For extra credit, you could listen to each part of the drum set individually…. just kick drum, just hi-hat, just snare, etc. Or, if there is a piano player, listen to just the left hand, then just the right.

The kind of “ears” you end up with by doing something like this are essential to being a consummate musician… or band leader, recording engineer, composer, producer, et al.

This depth of awareness is precisely what all the greatest musicians have. When they perform with others, they really listen to one another. This is how a group of musicians can become “‘tight”- sounding like a unit, like a band.

By taking a song & doing this exercise a few times a week, you will quickly develop a super keen sense of hearing. You’ll be able to focus like a laser beam on any part of the recording you want. Or zoom out to hear the whole thing in it’s entirety.

Did I mention you have to really like the song?

listening-to-records jack nicholson cropped

1 Comment

  • Richard tao

    Reply Reply December 18, 2014

    Masterfully explained. Sounds so obvious, yet I’ve never heard it articulated before. Sometimes the obvious is hiding in plain sight.

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