2019 GOAL : QUIT SUGAR (Ummm...I meant "Listen to Your Sound")

As a 20-something-year-old, it has become fashionable to include yoga, drink celery juice, have a capsule wardrobe on my new years resolution. Now, do not think that I have actually checked all of them off; I am somewhat trying to create a capsule wardrobe and do the Yoga with Adrienne 30 Day Challenge, but I will probably never drink celery juice.

More realistically, my list looks something like:

  1. Read 12 books a year (I am half a book away, but to be fair, War and Peace should count as 8 books)

  2. Move to a new city (Cupertino, CA is my new home)

  3. Pay attention when I practice

WHOA! Did a musician just say that? Joe Shmoe might ask “ You mean like paying attention to the notes, the rhythm and the dynamics? I have a degree in music performance, of course I know how to practice” . No, Joe, I mean ACTUALLY listen. Do not think about what you are going to eat for lunch after practice, but listen to the vibration of the sound and how it connects with the next notes. Listen to how long the strings vibrate. Listen to the tension between intervals and only resolve when you hear it in the music. Be sensitive to the keys by playing with different parts of your fingers and listen how the movement affects the the sound. My teacher always said “move your wrist”, but it took me so long to finally hear the difference in sound when my wrist is relaxed. Many musicians with or without degrees, myself included, often rush and just want to check off their practice session of the day, so they fail to pay attention to the music through beginner’s eyes.

Ok, Joe agrees. “But how do I listen” he asks. Here are some strategies that I follow:

  1. RECORD YOURSELF. You know that voice memo app that you have in your phone? Go and record yourself and then listen to it only once. Be honest with what you hear. If you listen to it a second or third time, your ears start adjusting and you will miss important details that you only catch on the first listening.

  2. ISOLATE MUSICAL IDEAS. This is an easy one, all you have to do is select your phrase of choice (say lasts 4 measures) and play the right hand like you were singing  Casta Diva. And dont’t just play- listen to the shape of the phrase: where is the line going? What’s the arrival point? Where is the tension and vice versa?

  3. IF LONG NOTES ARE INTERRUPTING YOUR LINE AND STOPPING THE MOMENTUM, FILL THEM IN WITH QUARTERS OR EVEN EIGHTHS. Say you have 3 measures of beautiful music, but the 4th measure has long notes and it feels like the line is getting interrupted before you get to the arrival point on measure 5. Well, if you adopt #3, all you have to do is look at those half notes (say there are two half notes that are C’s). Just play 4 quarter C and listen to how the sound changes.

What about you? Do you actually listen? When was the last time you stopped overreacting about wrong notes and rhythm and just paid attention to the the melodic line, the harmony and the music itself?