written by Mark Grundhoefer, Metro Music Makers instructor
I know that seems like a silly question. Of course, we hear music every day. Whether it’s in a commercial, a random song on the radio while riding in the car, background music in the mall, or sitting in a restaurant, we hear music. But are we listening?
When I was a kid, my dad had a large record collection next to his turntable. I would sit for hours going through the records, putting on one side and staring at the cover art while listening to great bands like Yes, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Jeff Beck and so many others. I still know those songs inside and out—partly because I only had a few dozen albums to choose from, but mostly because I was actively listening. So much has changed. . .
Today we have services like Spotify, Apple Music, GooglePlay, Deezer and all the others. Every song we want to hear is online for free. But even with all that music, I bet those of you reading this can’t tell me the last song you listened to without distraction. That’s mostly because when we consume music, we do so while playing on our phones or tablets or while doing some other mundane task. We simply don’t absorb all the nuances and technicality put into a song.
So, here’s a challenge for you:
1) Find a new (to you!) album or song on whatever platform you prefer. Ask a friend for a recommendation, look through new releases, check billboard charts from the year you were born, anything to find some music you’ve never heard.
2) Using a good sound system or headphones (your phone speakers don’t count!), sit down and listen to the album from start to finish. Not while you’re driving or going for a run. Not as background music. Just listen.
3) Identify what you’re hearing. Do they use guitars, piano, drums, bass, strings, horns, vocals? Are there a lot of instruments playing, or just a few? What are the lyrics about? What story is it telling, and what emotion does it make you feel?
4) Start a discussion with your friends, family or music teacher. Find out if they’ve heard the album. Maybe it’s a popular band you’ve never heard before. Maybe you’ll show them a band they’ve never heard—now you’ll have this in common.
I realize that seems like a lot to add to the simple enjoyment of music. As an artist, when you spend hundreds of hours writing, recording and producing a song, it gives you great joy to know it’s being truly listened to, and not relegated to the background of a Starbucks. Do yourself—and your favorite musician—a favor and LISTEN to some music today!