Listening is the most important activity that we engage in as
musicians. Our motivation to play music is fueled by listening. When we play an
instrument, we must carefully and constantly listen to the sounds we are
creating in order to choose fingerings, dynamics, tempo and more. If we are
playing in a group, the success of the collaboration is dependent upon each
musician listening deeply to every aspect of the musical whole. When we compose or improvise, we must first listen
to the notes and rhythms in our heads before we bring them to our instruments.
instruction, whether that instruction is formal, as in a lesson or a class, or
is one of many subtle hints that we encounter in our daily lives. As we
practice tuning into those enlightening hints, we also practice listening to
our own intuition, thereby reinforcing the very foundation of creativity.
help my students expand their listening skills. Through study, anyone can hone their
ability to discern pitches and sort out rhythms. In order to achieve true
artistry, however, it is necessary to go beyond the classroom and to reach
deeply into personal experience. Consciously engaging in certain practices will
facilitate the process of listening as a means to enhance personal expression
amounts of information that is transmitted at a rapid rate. As an adaptive
species, we tend to unconsciously protect our nervous systems from this barrage
by tuning out the noise and by receiving only the information that comes
through quickly. In receiving only the sounds that are most demanding, we lose
much of the beauty, wisdom and knowledge that reside in a subtle realm beneath the
noise. The solution is to scale back the noise and consciously invite our
senses to wake up! Simply choosing to stay home for a quiet dinner instead of
going out or to turn off the television in favor of spending an evening on the
back porch can open new mental and emotional pathways.
conducive to clarity and creativity than those of the mechanical world. Make
time during the work week for lunch in a park or a walk after work and carve
out periods during the weekends to visit the ocean, a river, stream or lake. (Leave
your ear buds and cell phone at home!)
be amazed at what spontaneously emerges.
environment. By consciously tuning in, you will begin to notice sounds that
spark your imagination and to have new thoughts, ideas or encounters that
specifically relate to your goals. You
will also hone your ability to choose a supportive environment and to create a
space in which you thrive.
Merely by intending to increase your listening skills you will find yourself
increasingly drawn to opportunities to do so.