Thursday, January 21, 2010

All Ears

French was not my thing in high school simply because I did not feel like studying for it. I liked the sound of it, but was not willing to do the work required to be conversant. As a result I nearly flunked, yet our teacher said that I had the best ears in the class! How could that be?

I could take down every syllable of a French dictation assignment accurately, but it made no sense. Phonetically it was perfect, but perfectly wrong when one tried to read and make sense of it. Even though my hearing may have been awesome, my fluency and study habits were awful.

Excelling in Music 101 is no different than excelling in French 101. Aptitude is nice, but it must be matched with diligence. Intense listening is just as important as efficient and sufficient practice. The tempting trap for us trumpeters is too much lips and not enough ears, or as Mel Broiles used to say "a little less blow and a lot more brains!"

Hearing is critical, but for too many of us our hearing is in critical condition. We just don't pay serious attention to others or to our own playing. Consequently our ear never gets fully developed, and so goes our quality. Is that a talent issue or a character flaw?

Most of our mistakes may be be traced to careless listening. More than an assignment, it must be a passion and an obsession - constantly feeding on the best playing and demanding it of ourselves. If all we give to our ears is mediocrity, that is what they will learn to tolerate. Ignore your hearing and it will go away.

Audiences won't know that you excelled in music history, or that you aced every theory test, or necessarily that you just finished 5 hours of practice. What they will recognize and expect is to hear quality playing. Should not we be as picky?

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