"You didn't listen to your piece," I observed recently, upon hearing a student play a new piece for the first time.
She nodded her head sheepishly.
I'm actually not a mind-reader -- though it's fun when my students think I am! But I can tell a lot from the way a student plays a piece. This student had clearly practiced, but she missed some obvious notes and rhythms, which made it clear to me that she hadn't listened to the piece.
Listening to the pieces one plays is one of Suzuki's big recommendations, but I'm going to recommend it not just for Suzuki students, but for all students and for that matter, for professionals.
Music is an aural tradition. It's fantastic that we can share it with each other through musical notation, but this can get out of hand. Some people feel that it's even "cheating" to listen to music while learning it!
Not so. Listening is imperative to good musicianship. Are you working on a solo piece? Find several different recordings of that piece and listen. Listen for pleasure, listen with the score in your hand, take note of what is different, take note of what you like and what you don't like. But listen!
Perhaps you play in a professional orchestra -- what's on the agenda for this fall? Listen to a few of those pieces, especially ones that might be new or infrequent. You just might enjoy the experience more.
Are you, or your student, or your child, in a youth orchestra? What is the youth orchestra playing? Listen to a professional orchestra's recording of the piece you are playing, and the entire experience will be more enjoyable. You will simply play with a larger understanding of the works you are performing, and what you learn will have more sticking power.
So, the truth: have you been listening, lately?
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