Being a musician is a tough schedule.
There’s practice. Your classes. Taking the time to compose or work on your improvisation. Collaborating with other musicians in groups or orchestras. And let’s not forget playing, playing, playing.
In the midst of all of this it can be all to easy to forget the most essential thing for any musician:
But… your own music deserves 100% of your attention… doesn’t it?
Real artists hone their craft with passion and dedication to their own art… right?
A better credo to keep in mind would be:
Good artists copy, great artists steal.
If you don’t take the time to listen (really listen) to other people’s music, you’ll never make it far as a musician. You’ll be like that office bore who talks and talks but never seems to hear a word you say. Or the politician who seems oblivious to the arguments others make, just talking along their set agenda, oblivious to the world around them.
Why musicians must listen
There are a huge number of reasons to make the time to listen to music beyond your own. Here are just a few:
Just as a politician needs to know the day’s headlines, a scientist needs to know the latest research, and a designer needs to know the latest trends, you must stay up to date on the world of music to know what will resonate with your friends and fans.
That doesn’t just mean mainstream pop music (though that may be a good place to start). If you’re oblivious to all the other music your fans are listening to, how can you hope to connect with them?
Funny as it may sound, music appreciation is often something that’s lacking in musicians! It’s all too easy to become self-absorbed and narrow in your music tastes. Take pride in being aware of music beyond your own preferred genres.
Whether or not you copy, steal, or simply enjoy and feel uplifted, listening to music can inspire your own playing and song writing.
Don’t get stuck writing formulaic 4-chord songs! Hearing other interpretations of a song you’re working on or fresh new songs in your genre can spark off new ideas and help you develop your own style.
Your Musical Career
This one may go without saying for music school graduates, but perhaps not for the lone guitarist at the open mic night: support your fellow musicians!
Attend their gigs, vote up and share their tracks online, give them feedback on their latest demo. Make sure that you’re contributing to your local music community and you’ll certainly see the rewards. Don’t be so focused on your own art that you ignore the musicians around you pursuing the same goals.
Not only will it develop your music appreciation and overall musicianship, but you’ll build valuable relationships with others in the music world which just might come in handy when it’s your turn to take the stage.
It’s been shown that musicians listen to music with an entirely different region of the brain than non-musicians. This is because your brain will be busy analysing and dissecting the music as you hear it.
There’s a time and a place for active ear training exercises – but even just paying attention to music you hear (called active listening) will improve your ear for music.
You can’t help it! That’s just how you’re wired, and it means every time you listen to music you have the opportunity to develop those all-essential aural skills.
Finally, don’t forget to enjoy music! Perhaps the only downside of making music your life is that there are days when it just feels like too much hard work.
Taking the time to put on an album, sit back and just listen can be the antidote – and make you remember what you’re doing it all for in the first place.
These are just a few reasons you should make time every day to listen to music.
What are yours?