Do you listen to recordings, as a part of your violin practice? This might seem like a rather uncontroversial question, but there are actually some dimensions to it, and that's what I'd like to explore and discuss in this week's vote.
I started thinking about this last week, as I was creating a list of recordings for Suzuki students.
Obviously, listening to recordings is part of the Suzuki method - a requirement, really. Back in Shinichi Suzuki's day, it was kind of a new and novel idea. With no smart phones and difficult access to recording equipment, people tended to reserve recordings for special performances - professionals and high level artists. It wasn't necessarily easy to find recordings of beginning pieces, made especially for pedagogical purposes. So the new existence of such a thing was a game-changer.
If you think about it, our classical violin tradition reaches back across the centuries; it predates recording technology. So this idea of listening to recordings was certainly not customary for say, a pedagogue such as Leopold Mozart, living in the 18th century.
In those days, you might listen to your teacher or someone else playing live. If you lived in a musical family, you would likely do more listening than if you did not. Without the existence of recordings, there was no opportunity to learn a pre-recorded "ideal" of a particular piece by taking in a daily stream of recorded music.
So violin pedagogy has had to get used to this idea. The current widespread access to recordings certainly has expanded the reach for "exposure" to music, and this can greatly help students and musicians learn and re-learn pieces, learn new styles, etc.
But is it always a good thing? I've certainly heard of conservatory students being advised NOT to listen to their current piece - as they might start imitating a certain way of playing it if they listen too much. In order create your own interpretation, you need to think for yourself. Some teachers would advise listening to a lot of different recordings of your piece, not just one. Great advice. Or, don't listen to any while you are coming up with your own ideas.
The is of avoiding recordings seems a bit out-dated to me, and yet, I do think that high-level artists sometimes take this tack.
But sometimes we don't listen to recordings, not because of a philosophical problem with it, but because of time constraints, habit, access to the right recording, etc.
I did not grow up listening to Suzuki recordings, but I can remember my teacher handing me a cassette of Viotti 22 when I was working on it. It also had the Handel-Halvorsen thrown in. This recording was incredibly precious to me at the time - it would have been quite difficult to find it in any record store where I lived, and recordings weren't cheap. When I went to give it back, he said, "Oh no, just keep it!" The generosity of that very nearly blew my mind. That's how hard it was to get specific recordings at the time!
I can't say that I always listen to recordings of what I'm playing, but I do it pretty regularly. In recent years, I have my Spotify account, and I have ongoing playlists called "Symphony this week" and "Quartet this week." I just dump whatever piece I need to practice into the playlist and put it on in the car - when the gig is over, I delete it from the playlist. It's mind-boggling, how easy it is now.
So, do you listen to the pieces you are practicing, always, sometimes, or never? Do you actually avoid listening to the piece your are practicing? Please participate in the vote, and then share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
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