It’s important for every musician to learn to actively listen, not just hear. If you tune out, and let everything go in one ear and out the other, you may miss opportunities to grow in your craft. Focusing on something you may not have listened to before, such as the harmony of a pop song or to how certain chord progressions create tension and release, has multiple benefits.
Consider actively listening to your teachers and mentors, as well! They probably have valuable instruction for learning your instrument or even important career advice.
Speaking of mentors, let’s meet more of our team!
Meet Stewart, Community Conductor
Stewart has had a long, varied career as a musician. From The Monkees to jazz to Hawaiian music, Stewart is attracted to music with odd timings, and interesting melodies and musicality. Having started out on the trumpet and eventually settling on guitar, Stewart enjoys playing Christian rock and metal, and regularly performs with Rascal Flatts and Billy Joel tribute bands.
A genuinely cool guy, he nurtures the wonderful community spirit at Musical U as he believes that music should not be taken for granted but used to help others.
Scales, Meet Chord Progressions
Training your ears to hear tension and release grants a deeper appreciation for music and aids in improvisation, composing and other musical skills. In Part 1 of our article on identifying tension and release, we listened to how a melody sounded against an unmoving chord. In Part 2, we move past single chords and listen to how each scale degree sounds when we move from one chord to another in a chord progression.
Applying the sophistication of jazz harmonies to other genres of music can help you resolve tension. Premier Guitar gives you ten ways to resolve tension with exercises.
What is suspension in music and why is it important? Michael Mingoia explains how suspension chords interacting with the melody create tension and release in this video.
Learning Guitar with Dylan Welsh
Last week, Musical U introduced you to guitarist Dylan Welsh, who at the ripe old age of 21 is already a veteran of the Seattle Music scene. In addition to a successful music career, Dylan also teaches guitar. We had the opportunity to ask him about his teaching methods and he how he applies music theory and listening skills. Regardless of your instrument, there is something to be learned from Dylan’s wisdom, which is well beyond his years.
We found that Dylan values ear training as much as we do!
For more information on ear training and improvisation on guitar, The LickNRiff YouTube channel has these “super” exercises:
Are you interested in learning more about pentatonic scales in guitar playing? Guitar Lessons has a video tutorial for pentatonic scale shapes for guitar. Another skill Dylan teaches his students is fretboard fluency. Although for the bass, Tony Grey of Bass the World has advice for fretboard fluency in this video.
Hearing Harmonies with Active Listening
There are clear and obvious benefits to learning to hear the melodic line of a song as it’s the most identifiable part. In fact, we tend to naturally hear the melody and lyrics first when listening to a pop tune. However, it’s equally if not more important to learn to hear the harmony, as being able to identify it will benefit you if you are interested in singing, learning to improvise in jazz or just want to work on your ear training. Of course, identifying the harmony takes more than hearing—it takes active listening.
Jon Björk at Craft of Composing shares his method for developing your harmonic hearing in this video. This is particularly useful if you have problems with hearing the inner voices of 4-part-harmony.
The Music Ministry Coach explains the difference between hearing and listening to harmony, which is especially important in singing in a gospel choir, as they sing almost entirely by ear. For more on singing harmony have a look at this lesson from Theta Music Trainer.
The Love Boat
Part 1 of Musical U’s two-part blogpost on cruise ship life was full of practical advice, whether you’re considering a cruise ship job or already preparing to embark. In Part 2, they dig a little bit deeper into the realities of ship life, including the things that no one tells you about when you sign a cruise ship contract— the pitfalls, parties and “prison release”. Increase your survival skills, and consider the social and emotional realities of cruise ship work before you board.
As mentioned in the Survival Guide, one of the hardest parts about ship life is actually getting off the ship—and leaving ship life behind. Wandering Earl talks about adjusting to life after working on cruise ships and if you want to know what really happens on ships, Mental Floss spares the sugar coating in this post.
If you learn to tune into the music that surrounds you on a daily basis, you will find music more complex and enjoyable—while training your ear! Perhaps the Doobie Brothers sum it up best: “Listen to the music, all the time”.
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