You may ask:
- How can I become better at the fiddle?
- Could I get good enough to play in band?
- Could I learn to pick up tunes and songs more quickly?
- How can I do this??!!
First, find a way to play every day and everything else will work out. In addition to practicing your instrument, practice listening, because 86% of music is listening. In a previous article, Listening Is Practice Too, I gave you an exercise in which you listen to the environment and hear it as music, a symphony of place.
To play with other people you need to develop an ability to listen to different things at the same time, including yourself! Not only will this help you to play along (keeping in time, following changes), but it will help you to make the best possible creative decision. What is the song calling for now? Perhaps a quiet verse is being sung. The best thing may be to just not play. Or perhaps the bass player is doing a nice part, maybe doubling that an octave higher would be the perfect thing to complement this song.
Believe it or not, there are lots of technically advanced players who can play circles around me who miss this point and clutter up the song, reducing it’s emotional impact.
While playing, ask yourself, is this making the song better or worse?
Here is an another actionable exercise for improving your listening skills.
Listen to a group playing, either a recording or a live performance. Then do a Band Scan: Pick out each individual instrument and listen to it for about five seconds. Then, de-focus and try to just listen to the big picture. Go back and forth between these two modes. Practice this when you are playing with other people and include your own voice as part of your scan.
The amazing thing about this practice: not only will improve your musicianship, it will improve your appreciation for music, because you’ll be listening to it on a deeper level.
I can only begin to talk about how powerful and useful listening can be in music and life. Why? Because now it’s time for me to stop thinking and writing and time to start listening again…
Previous article: Listening Is Practice Too