Listening, listening . . . always listening. I find it helpful to break down my listening into three categories:
Level 1) Soak it in. It’s on, and I’m hearing it.
Level 2) Intense listening. For some reason, the music speaks to me, and I’m on a quest to find out why. Is there some rhythmic element that’s fascinating? Harmonic? Melodic or instrumentation? What’s grabbing me?
Sometimes, I’ll bring my ipod to the practice room and just start playing along. There’s not a ton of good jazz musicians in Grand Rapids (and if there are, they aren’t hanging out with me), so I’ll “sit in” with Miles Davis for a half-hour or so and just play along.
Level 3) Transcription. I have been so moved by some part of listening level “2” that I’m going to figure it out and incorporate it into my own playing. Usually, I’ll write the idea down in a music notebook in one key and work on learning it in all twelve. (With a metronome, but that’s a different post.)
Sound nerdy? [pushes glasses up on face] It is. But it’s how I grow as a musician.
WHAT ABOUT YOU? What are you hearing?