Listening As a Part of Practicing

Even as a professional percussionist, I am constantly impressed, excited, and educated by recordings and live performances of all types of music, especially pieces for percussion solo or ensemble. So much so, that I am surprised how little emphasis is placed on listening by so many percussionists and percussion students. Here are some tips for implementing listening into your practice routine.

ATTEND PERFORMANCES: Make every effort to attend percussion performances (especially free ones). Events like student recitals and percussion ensemble concerts at local universities are great places to start. Live performances not only allow you to see details of how the performers execute their parts, but should also serve as a motivator for you because of the excitement and energy involved.

PURCHASE RECORDINGS: Purchase recordings of pieces on which you are currently working. Given the low cost of digital music, buying 20-30 pieces or 3-4 full albums per semester will keep costs well within reason. Even buying this limited amount will allow your personal collection to build significantly in a fairly short amount of time. Keep in mind that many specialized percussion recordings may not be available through streaming services, or even on iTunes or Google Music. Consider websites or percussion mail order companies in these cases to expand your options.

MAKE TIME FOR LISTENING: Set aside 30-60 minutes a week for focused listening. Whether this involves music you own, streaming services, video recordings (i.e. YouTube), or recordings at a library or college media center, take the time to sit down and listen attentively for ideas and techniques you can implement in your own practice and performance. You also may want to make note cards with information about the recordings as you listen, in case you ever need to refer back to something. Remember to expose yourself to several different styles of music . . . each has something to offer.

USE WHAT YOU LEARN: Whether it be copying a groove from a popular tune or a particular phrasing idea from a marimba solo, make efforts to apply the ideas you gain from listening. Sometimes there may not be a direct application, but the exposure should ideally add aspects of musicality and excitement to your own performance and practice.