This ‘Learn Music Faster’ series of posts highlights things my best students do that contributes towards their success. There are no secret formulae or magic tricks. Learning to play well still requires hard work, dedication and above all, practice. However, my students who do these things seem to improve quicker than the others.
Listen to Yourself
This one always makes me laugh, because we’re making music, yet the number of students who don’t pay attention to how they actually sound is remarkable.
I understand why it happens. When we learn an instrument we start to focus on the physical aspects, the mechanics of it; which finger to put where, how to hold it, posture, breathing, technique and so on. With all that going through our heads we don’t have a lot of attention left to listen to the noise we’re making.
So when you’re learning something new, once you’ve got the basics down and your fingers are going in roughly the right place, play it again without obsessing about all the techinical aspects. Just listen to the sound you’re making and the feel of the music you’re producing. If you’re happy with it, great. If not, figure out what you could try to change to improve it. Practice that for a little bit, then repeat the listening process again.
You can make this even more effective by recording yourself. You don’t need state of the art equipment. Any smartphone or tablet will have some kind of recording app built in. Most Laptops have a microphone and simple recording software. You could even dig out an old tape recorder or dictaphone (if you’re old enough to remember what they are!) You don’t need hi-fidelity for this, you’re not assessing the finer nuances of your tone, you just want something that will let you listen back to your rhythm, expression, articulation, clarity and feel. It’s amazing how much more you can hear when you’re not playing your instrument at the same time.
If you don’t take the time to listen to your playing you will never achieve the precision and finesse to make your playing really stand out. And what’s worse, you’ll never know that your sound isn’t as good as it could be. You’ll keep doing what you’ve always done, your fingers will be in the right place, the notes may be in time, but you’ll never achieve the subtlety and personality that will make your playing stand out. In the long run that can only hold you back.
Previously on Learn Music Faster – Stop looking at your fingers!