Skip to main content

Why Bother Learning by Ear?

I've mentioned many times before on this blog that music is a physical task.  The muscles must be trained to perform.  However, this must be balanced with musicality or artistry.  Learning exact mechanical detail with no emphasis in the art will lead to robot playing.  Focusing only on the art and not training the mechanical detail will hold back ability level.  Playing an instrument is a careful balance of both.

The Suzuki Method has become infamous for its use of ear training in the early stages.  The common misconception is that teachers are training their students to be imitative robots.  Play the piece exactly like the CD.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Any art development does require some imitation.  One of the best exercises a writer can do is examine a passage from their favorite author and try to recreate the style.  The goal is not to become another Steinbeck.  Even if you did manage to copy the style exactly all you would ever be is an imitation of another.  What the exercise does is make you work through how the author achieved a certain effect.

The same goes for music.  How was that piece played on the CD?  As the student matures so too will their observations of the details.  At first all a student will notice are the notes.  Then dynamics and, eventually, phrasing begins to pop out.

Learning by ear forces (for lack of a better word) this type of auditory training to take place.  We live in a very visual society.  If the ear isn't cultured from day one musicality becomes impossible to develop.  Without listening the only thing a student has left are the notes he sees before him on a page.  The notes are merely symbols for sounds.  The quality of sound produced is what makes a musician.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Private Teaching Business Model

Over my years of teaching I've come across a wide variety of interpretations about the private teaching business model.  I feel that this is a natural result of the type of society we live in.  Many services these days are either "subscriptions" or "appointments."  For example, a gym membership is a subscription.  You pay a monthly fee to use the facility at any time during their hours of operation.  A doctor's visit or a haircut is an "appointment."  You call ahead to set up a time, you show up and then pay after the services have concluded.

With most services falling into one of these two categories, most people try to rationalize music lessons as one or the other.  However, music lessons are neither subscriptions or appointments.  They are actually a combination of both if the business entity is going to be successful.

The reasons why this hybrid business model occurs are:

1)  The service itself is centered around personal attention (appointmen…

Music as a Language: Victor Wooten at TEDxGabriolaIsland

Victor Wooten is an innovator, composer, arranger, producer, vocalist, and multiinstrumentalist. He has been called the greatest bass player in the world. He is a skilled naturalist and teacher, a published author, a magician, husband and father of four, and a five-time Grammy award winner.

Performance Anxiety Part 1

My husband and I both love disc golf.  It's something that we both started together as beginners together so it became "our" thing to do as a couple.  We eventually got to the point after playing for a few years that I wanted to attempt playing in a disc golf tournament.  He was a bit more hesitant than me but I insisted, arguing that it would be a fun way to really test our skills.

I've written a few posts before about how playing disc golf taught me the value of muscle memory.  But during our first few tournaments we both quickly discovered a whole new category of unexplored skills: performing under pressure.  To be blunt, we both stunk.

As a musician, I was no stranger to performing.  I've lost count of how many solo/orchestra/chamber performances I've done.  Before that first tournament I had assumed that performance anxiety wouldn't affect me because of said experience.  I was just going out there to have fun, right?

Well, I was.  But the thing I had…