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Tips & Tricks: Your Ears – Important Tools For All Musicians

small__133146861What do you hear when you are playing your violin?  Interestingly, I have been reminded recently of the fact that not all of my students listen carefully to what they are doing.  Whether you are working on a solo piece or playing in a group, it is important to use your ears.

Often in lessons when I notice that a student is being imprecise or is not playing well in tune, I will ask him/her to play it again, but to listen this time.  Many times my student will play much better, even without me explaining what was wrong.  What is happening is that my student was just going through the motions of playing the violin, but not really paying attention.  On the other hand, some of my students are trying really hard to do everything right, but are focusing on the mechanics of playing, and have forgotten to use their ears as well.

The other time I notice that my students are not listening is when they are playing with other musicians.  I run several ensembles full of talented students.  Often they play really well on their own, but not so well in a group.  Why is that?  Well, often my students are playing with blinders on, so they are playing all the right notes at the right time, but the music is still is not lining up.  I tell my students when they are not listening to each other that it is like they are all playing in the same room and the music just happens to fit together.  The music sounds so much better when they actually listen and play together instead of just at the same time.  This makes the difference between a good ensemble and a great ensemble!

So, no matter whether you are playing on your own or in a group, be sure to keep your ears open!

photo credit: striatic via photopin cc

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