As a musician–a creator of sounds–it can be difficult to understand the concept that music is mostly about listening, not creating.
It’s about listening for just the right amount of silence between notes. Listening for the sounds that give you cues how to act next, and how to hone your performance.
The skill of listening is what separates the great musicians from the mediocre ones.
Becoming known as a listener will help you score gigs as a session musician and will greatly enhance your own musical mastery.
Here are four scenarios where listening can greatly affect your performance.
Listening To Other Musicians
The greatest factor to playing well with other musicians is each musician’s inherent ability to listen to each other.
Listening is an amazing tool. It will let you know when a drummer wants to end a song, or when a guitar player is stepping down to finish a solo. Listening gives you the foresight to step in and play when another musician needs help.
Listening To Your Audience
By listening to your audience you can set moods and work to create a better performance.
Is the audience quiet or are they talking? Do people look bored and tired, or are they dancing and clapping?
Listening to your audience, understanding their mood and choosing what you play next, based on this criteria, is how great performers keep a show moving.
Listening On Record
Session musicians have the difficult job of coming into a session cold and being expected to play something meaningful on a track, to enhance it. A session musician who listens, will have much greater success then one who simply plays over the song.
A producer is looking for an atypical artist who can quickly understand the song, understand the lyrics, and play the missing part that injects even more life into the tune.
Only by listening to what others have played, and grasping their intentions, can you get a sense for what needs to be played.
Listening To Yourself
This is the one that gets me the most. The musicians who don’t even listen to themselves.
Hear and understand the notes you are playing, and the relationship they have to what’s going on around you. One of the biggest mistakes of newly formed bands, is that they all play individual instruments but never once sound like a unit.
Some people never grow out of this phase.
Getting lost in the moment is all fine and good for your stage performance, but if you’re not actually listening to the sounds you’re making, it’s not doing anyone any good.
Be sure to master listening to yourself, so that you can fully master the other steps of listening.
When do you listen?
Image by: Fe Ilya
Mike Venti is a musician and creator of the Wayward Musician blog, which provides ideas and advice for atypical artists. This post was originally published on Wayward Musician on May 18, 2010. You can connect with Mike on Twitter and Facebook.