One Simple Thing That Many Musicians Don’t Know To Do


One very important aspect of musical development is one that many people don’t think of.  Most of the time when we think about getting better, we think about chords, scales, theory, songs, licks etc. These things are absolutely necessary in order to continue growing musically. However, there is one thing that many people neglect to spend time doing. Many people neglect to spend time listening! Listening to really good musicians is very important to your development!

Let me explain to you why. Music is known as the universal language. If you view music as a language then you will understand what I am saying much better. Allow me to explain it to you like this. My native language is English. I can speak English effortlessly and fluently. The question is, how did I learn to speak English? I learned to speak English simply from listening.  When I was a baby I listened to people speaking English all around me. I was immersed in the English language. I heard it all of the time from my parents and family.  Therefore, I eventually started to understand it and started to speak words myself like “mama” “no”  “mine”.  I learned  those words simply from listening and making the connection in my mind as to what they meant. Can you start to see where I am going with this?

If you think about it, chances are that no one walked up to your crib when you where a baby and tried to teach you to speak English by explaining what nouns, verbs, pronouns and adjectives were. baby Of course not! You did not learn those things until years later.  However, you did already know how to talk and communicate. How did you learn to speak English and communicate your thoughts effectively? You learned to do it from listening.

If you would view music as a language you will start to see and understand the importance of listening to high level music and very skilled musicians. If you continue to listen to a certain style of music at a particular level in terms of the skill of the musicians, you will develop what I call a “Mental Concept”.  In other words you will start to subconsciously have a certain standard in your mind and start believing “this is how music should sound”. You will start to believe deep down inside that “this is how the piano/organ should be played”. This is called your “Mental Concept”. It is a mental picture or standard of what should be.

Your “Mental Concept” is developed overtime from your environment and the music that you hear on a regular basis.  Whatever your Mental Concept is, will be the level that you aspire to musically. It is very amazing that whatever our Mental Concept is usually our stopping point in terms of growth and development. In other words, you usually will not surpass your own Mental Concept for playing. The good news is that you can increase and heighten your Mental Concept. You can do this by listening to recordings of great musicians, listening to good teachers, hanging with musicians that are more skilled and experienced than you are, etc.

Overtime your Mental Concept would increase and therefore you would just naturally strive for that higher level of mastery musically. You will not be satisfied until you reach that mental picture in your mind. This is important because it keeps you pressing forward and reaching higher to be a better musician. You need that internal motivation that keeps you hungry for being a better musician.  All of this happens as a result of listening. You have to take time out and just listen to people that are really good at what they do. Even if you don’t understand what and how they are doing what they are doing, still listen to them. Just listening alone will cause you to heighten your “Mental Concept”. Listening will help keep you motivated and help create a desire to keep improving. Listening mixed with learning new things and practicing will cause you to grow. So don’t forget to take some time and listen because it is a very important piece of the puzzle.

K. Hollins