Music is an auditory art form. It is too easy to get caught up in the technical aspects of playing and so visually engrossed in the score that we neglect to focus primarily on the sound being produced. Pianists will fall into this trap from time to time especially when tackling difficult works. As music is an auditory art form so much can be learned by simply listening to music. This includes listening to the music we play as well as listening widely to recorded works of others. When listening to recordings we are able to evaluate and imitate what we are hearing and apply it to our own musical practice.
“By prescribing listening to students we show that it is as equally valuable as the rest of their practice regime.”
While I frequently shift students focus back to sound in their own music making I wanted to place more emphasis on listening to recorded works outside the studio. Too often students report listening to performances of their works on YouTube. While when used appropriately YouTube can be a fantastic resource, by relying on these searchers students often end up listening to less-than-desirable interpretations of their works. For pianists-in-training distinguishing between the good, the bad and the ugly isn’t something that always comes easily.
I have begun creating individual playlists for some of my students filled with recordings related to their repertoire. The advent of music streaming makes this easier than ever. I compile playlists for individual students using Apple Music or Spotify (whichever the student has access to) and send them the link, providing them instant access to the recordings and any recordings added at a later date. Each lesson I advise students what to listen to throughout the week and we have a short de-brief the following week.
Here is an example of a playlist I started two weeks ago for a new student:
Students can access the playlist on their smartphone/tablet or computer. Spotify doesn’t require any financial commitments so long as you don’t mind the occasional ad. However, both Spotify and Apple Music do offer paid plans. By prescribing listening to students we show that it is as equally valuable as the rest of their practice regime. While I don’t want students to restrict their listening to these playlists, they are perfect for providing guided listening for students.