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Sunday, April 28, 2013

The most important part of learning music is ...

By Ted Slowik

Here's an obvious one,  but it's easier said than done. The most important part of learning music is listening.

Listening occurs on many levels. In a live performance or rehearsal with a group, you have to be able to hear yourself and where you fit into the mix. You also have to be able to listen to your fellow musicians and be able to isolate their individual parts.

When learning a cover tune, it's easy nowadays to find lyrics and charts on the Internet and follow along with songs. That's fine for speeding up the learning process, but those crutches only help so much. You don't want to become too reliant on charts to help you through a song. Eventually you're going to want to be off book. I still think the best way to really learn a song is by repeatedly listening to it.

When I was little this was how I studied violin, using the Suzuki method. Your lesson book included not only the sheet music but a recording your were expected to listen to as well. For complicated pieces, with multiple movements and little variation or repetition, listening attentively all the way through is often the only way to learn and retain all the subtle transitions.

I believe only when a musician fully knows a song off book can he begin to interpret it for performance. I'm not a fan of using music stands during performances. Charts are fine for rehearsals, but eventually one needs to be able to play a piece from memory.

That's today's musical topic. On the health front, I've had to quit smoking cigarettes after 30 years. I had poor circulation, and blood wasn't getting to my fingers and toes. A wound on my left index finger wasn't healing. Well, it's only been three days, but I already notice a difference.  Blood, and life, is returning to my extremities, some of which I'm rather fond of. Not out the woods yet, but if the choice is between smoking and feeling great pain or not smoking and being able to play guitar, I'm choosing the latter.