Teacher Tips: Active musical listening

December 15, 2020

How often are we actively listening to the music around us? Personally, I have a playlist that is used specifically for background noise and is easy to ignore. That is the opposite of active listening! Active listening occurs when you fully immerse yourself in the music being made. This can (should) happen at rehearsals, while you’re practicing, or listening to your favorite songs in the car!

Do you ever find yourself in a mental rut in a rehearsal? Have you played or heard a piece so often that it’s become a bit boring? I challenge you to change your approach!  Let yourself be immersed in it. Let your ears really listen to what’s happening around you. In a rehearsal start small, listen to yourself first, then listen to those right next to you. After that expand and listen to someone across the room. Finally, further expand and listen to their entire section. You will leave the experience hearing something new from yourself, or from someone else!

Active listening can be applied to personal practice as well! In the process of working on a piece, listen to a high-quality recording of it. Take note of the musical elements that really spoke to you. Apply these elements to your own playing! Next, record yourself playing the piece and listen to it. Do you sound the way you think you do? What changes do you want to make? How will you make them? Really dig into the process and you’ll uncover the beauty of the piece you’re working on.

If you are simply listening to music that you enjoy, try closing your eyes and let yourself be completely surrounded by what you hear. When I allow myself to be immersed in the music, I hear things that I didn’t notice before. Using this method helps create a new exciting and inspiring experience!

– Rosario Nelson | Woodwind Artist-Faculty

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