Four Steps to Better Learning - Step 1: Listening    
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How is it that some students are able to progress more rapidly than others?  Inborn talent is not the answer according to Dr. Suzuki who didn’t believe that inborn talent even exists.  Rather, the answer lies in how these students practice. 

In a series of four articles I will write about these important practice skills that enable rapid progress: Listening, Consistency, Intention and Putting it all together. Today’s topic is Listening.

Dr. Suzuki wrote that students progress in direct relationship to the amount of time they listen to the repertoire’s recordings.  If P = progress, L = listening and T = time, then P = L X T.  (Progress is not determined solely, or even primarily, by which song someone is playing.  One can progress in many areas.  Here are a few: improved focus; poise; fine-motor skills; sensitivity to surroundings; memory; and learning how to break large tasks in to smaller, more manageable ones.)  What is your P score?  How might you increase it?

You might be surprised to read that your teacher’s job is NOT to teach the notes to their students.  That should be pretty much taken care of by adequate listening.  It is actually frustrating to a teacher to spend week after week on these mundane skeletal instrumental requirements rather than using the lesson time to foster the growth of the skills and ideas that enable musicality to flourish.  

So what is adequate listening?  A LOT more than you may think.  In They’re Rarely Too Young and Never Too Old to Twinkle Kay Sloan proposed the following listening scheme.  Current Piece:  20-50 times.  Review Pieces:  10-20 times each.  Preview Piece: 20-50 times….PER DAY.  Why did she propose such a ridiculous number of repetitions?  Because it works!  How many hours do people speak English during the day?  Hearing the repertoire this much gives the student security with the musical language, so it can be reproduced on the instrument with the ease of speaking their native tongue.  

Listening to music of all genres is also critical, especially when performed by the greats. This kind of passive listening develops the student’s inner ear and heart for musical language.  Naturally a student must also actively listen to his own playing and become sensitized to the sounds he is making.  Tonalization exercises are a great start, but by no means the end.  Adequate listening whether passive or active is an essential motivator.  Listening makes playing an instrument easier and more rewarding.


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