The typical person puts music on while they drive, work out, do homework and any other daily activity. This is fun and you can still get something from music doing this, however you are not going to get the full benefit and enjoyment out of music this way. If you are more conscious about what you are listening to you will notice new stuff about music, and you will enjoy it more. Every musician would benefit from active listening to music.
What is active listening? Active listening is the act of giving undivided attention to music. You are listening for specific details. This is a style of listening to most people do not naturally do. Active listening can be approached like you are in a class room. You can take notes, ask questions, and look for specific details. If you have questions about the music you can write them down and try to find an answer. Active listening is a mental exercise like doing push ups.
How do you approach listening to music? Listening to music like this may require you to re-listen to a song a couple of times, but as you become more familiar with this style of listening it will be easier and faster. First you need to listen to each instrument separately. Try picking a tune and listen once through for the drummer. Hear what he is playing and try to explain his playing in your words. You can write this description down on paper. Next re-listen to the song for the bass player and describe his playing. Do this with every instrument. Practice doing this for 5 – 10 songs. You will start to better hear the specific instruments. Then you can continue to listen to more tunes, this time you can listen to multiple instruments at a time. You can listen for bass and drums together.
If you want to go even deeper in your descriptions of the performer’s playing you can analyze what he is doing with different parts of his instrument. For example, you can analyze a drummers, snare, high hat, bass drum, or ride. Another example would be the pianist. You can analyze what he is doing with his different hands. Another way you can describe the music more in-depth would be to analyze the range (high or low pitch) and thickness (big or small chords) of what the pianist is playing. The more music you listen to, the easier listening will become and the more you will enjoy it. Listening like this is a great way to learn to appreciate a new style of music and is a great educational tool as well.
Listening to music can be passive or active and if we give our undivided attention to music we are actively listening. Concentrating on each instrument can give us a new insight into music, teach us, and help our appreciation for music. The more music you listen to the more you will get out of it. Music is fun and enjoyable, so sit back and listen to the musicians jam out.