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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Secret Of How To Listen To Each Other

Here's an excerpt from my band improvement book "How To Make Your Band Sound Great." It's surprising just how few musicians listen to the players that they're playing with, yet that's the secret to a tight sounding band. Usually as a musician gets older and wiser, he hips up to the following, but not always. Here's the secret of how to listen to each other.
"One of the fundamental errors that band members frequently make is not listening closely to the rest of the band. It’s easy to just focus on yourself, but in order to play well together, it’s listening to everyone else that really counts.  This is the single most important action you can take when playing with other musicians.

So what do you listen for? You listen to how the other musicians are playing or singing a phrase or part. How loudly are they playing? What are their dynamics like?  How do they start and end each phrase (more on this later)? Where are they accenting?  How are they playing the accents?  Are they playing ahead or behind the beat?  Does their tempo speed up when they play louder or slow down as they get softer? All these items require your attention as much as possible. The more you listen to each other and how each of you play or sing, the tighter you become.  It’s that simple.

Things To Listen For When Playing With Others
  • How loudly are they playing?
  • What are their dynamics?
  • How do they start and end a phrase?
  • Where are they accenting?
  • How are they playing the accents?
  • Are they playing ahead or behind the beat?
  • Do they speed up when they play softer or louder?
That being said, it does require some work. During rehearsal, if you notice that you’re not playing a phrase or part the way everyone else is (or if just one of you doesn’t seem in sync with everyone else), stop immediately and ask, “How are you playing that?” Then determine which way sounds best and just rehearse that phrase or part until you’re all playing it together.

During a gig you sometimes get a different perspective on how things sound since the environment is different and you’re probably set up differently than during rehearsal. As a result, you’ll probably notice things that got by during rehearsal. Make a mental note of the parts that aren’t being played well together and address those items first at the next rehearsal."
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