If a student were to ask me what the #1 thing they could be doing better to improve, or a parent were to ask me what the #1 thing they could be doing with, or for, or encouraging their child to do to improve, my answer would almost always simply be: Listen more.
Listening daily to your Suzuki CD if you are a student or family in Suzuki Books 1-10, recordings Kirby and I make for you if you are a Pre-Twinkle student or family, or listening to definitive recordings of your concerto, sonata, or solo piece if you are a student beyond the Suzuki Books or working on supplemental pieces outside of the Suzuki literature is without a doubt the easiest, and probably also the most effective, way to make progress. Here’s a few things listening helps you do:
- Learn or remember the melody of your current, review, and preview pieces.
- Learn or remember the tempo of your current, review, and preview pieces.
- Learn or remember the structure of your current, review, and preview pieces (once through, repeated, A B A, AA BB, AA BB CC DD A B, etc. etc.)
- Learn or remember the rhythms in your current, review, and preview pieces.
- Learn or remember the articulations (staccato, legato, accented, lifted, brushed, spiccato, sautiélle, collé, etc. etc.) in your current, review, and preview pieces.
- Learn or remember the dynamics (forte, piano, mezzo-forte, mezzo-piano, fortissimo, pianissimo, crescendos, decrescendos, etc. etc.) in your current, review, and preview pieces.
The list could go on and on. The gist of it is this: Listening to your recordings at home turns your lesson from a session about what to do and then how to do it, into a session about how to do what you already unconsciously know should be done, because you’ve heard it. Think about how much more productive your lessons could be if that huge portion of the work was already being done passively throughout the week!
And that’s the great thing about listening: You get all of these benefits without even having to stop whatever else you’re doing and being fully engaged. You can listen while you have a conversation in the car. You can listen while you’re doing your homework. You can listen while you’re mowing the lawn. You can listen while you’re falling asleep at night.
The reason I bring this up this week is simple: I hear a lot of lessons in which the melody, the tempo, the structure, the rhythms, the articulations, the dynamics, etc. etc. of students’ pieces are clearly hitting them for the first time when I play or explain them. To me, that says that not much listening is happening, if any listening is happening at all. And often when I follow up by asking, the answer is the same: not much listening, if any listening is happening at all.
Let’s change that starting today! We’re all home more than ever! The Suzuki recordings are on iTunes and are dirt cheap for the value you get from listening to them. You can find the best recordings of concertos, sonatas, and solo pieces on Spotify for free! There is no reason that we shouldn’t all be listening to the music we’re studying as much as possible. Let’s start doing more listening today!