Big Ears

big ears

Learning to play the instrument does not necessarily mean you are learning to play music. When we spend hours on technique and execution how many hours are we actually playing music? Advice from great players indicates the need to develop the art of listening in your playing as well as listening to others. Taking in the whole, not just what you are doing. I have come to appreciate listening to all kinds of music — classical, rock, world, jazz, etc. The variety of well-played musical styles is an invaluable aid in understanding what we relate to and value.

For many years, musicians were listening to only what interested them as players. If you played Rock that was the kind of music you listened to. If your friends were interested in classical music, that was ok. They did their thing and you did yours. Personally, I find very little current Pop music compelling, but I do attempt to listen to it and hope to hear something fresh and enlightening. Often, I am disappointed but once in awhile I get hooked and walk away inspired. My teachers would encourage me to listen to particular players to gain a better perspective of how the instrument can/should be played. However, they rarely broadened my scope of various genres of music. Today’s players are into all styles and that’s good news! When I first heard the Mahavishnu Orchestra incorporate Indian rhythms with Rock/Jazz I was blown away! Talk about Fusion!!

Now in Pop songs, African, West Indian, Latin influences are everywhere. Assimilation is ongoing in contemporary styles. The ability to do so requires the art of listening as well as performing. If you are in a band and you can’t hear the other players, could it be you are too LOUD? The greatest drummers I’ve heard can lower their volume to a whisper and still be felt. They use dynamics to create tension and excitement. Steve Gadd continues to be in demand not only for his ability to groove but to fit into the band and musical situation. He is a great listener. As the saying goes, he has “big ears”. Buddy Rich’s incredible technique did not distract from the music the band was playing. He listened. Musicians hear with their whole selves and don’t you think, in general, given our current state, we could ALL benefit from listening a little more intently?

Brian Blade Listening

2 Replies to “Big Ears”

  1. Beautiful Barry – and as always, you hit the nail on the head. For me, the better I listen to my fellow musicians, the clearer it becomes as to what I should be playing on the drums.

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