How often do you listen?
It seems like a funny question to ask doesn’t it? We all love music, we listen lots!
But do you really?
Do you really listen?
I had a wonderful tutor when I was studying music at the conservatoire. One of the reasons I decided to do a postgraduate was because I wanted to spend more time with her, learning, soaking things in….listening!
Her name was Mary McCarthy. She actually wasn’t my harp tutor! She was my piano tutor, though I learnt more from her about music, teaching, generally everything actually!!
I remember she told me when I was a very young 18 year old;
Heather, you need to listen more. You should be listening 80% of the time, and playing 20%.
At the time, honestly, I thought she was mad. Doesn’t she realise how much practice I need to be doing to get to the level I want to be at?!? Also all my other tutors focused on skills, practice, levels. Not Mary.
It’s only in the past 5 or 6 years - 10 years on from her giving the advice, that I really started to understand what she meant.
Listening, it is what makes music. It’s kind of like that old saying, if a tree falls in a forest, but no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Mary didn’t mean a literal splitting of my time, in an hours practice I should be listening for 48 minutes and only touching my strings for 12. She was giving me much much deep advice.
To listen, to really truly listen. To those around me, to my students, to each single pluck of a string, so the over-arching phrase of the music. To really take it in.
Even now, I think I am still learning what she really meant all those years ago.
Remember too that listening feeds your soul! It can lift you up when you are down, or sympathise with you in sorrow and loss. It can be your dancing partner and your walking friend. It understands no matter what your mood. It can get you pumped up for that intense workout, or relaxed and soothed ready for sleep and restoration.
So, next time you pop on your headphones, remember: you are feeding yourself, really soak it in.
And, next time you sit down at your harp, before you touch those strings.
listen 80%, play 20%.