Developing Your Musical Imagination: Listening

mindset May 21, 2020

In last week's post, I went over how having a great imagination of how your music should go is probably the most important to your success as a clarinetist.

Now, how do you develop that imagination?

If you really want to get serious about clarifying that image in your head of how the music should go, how do you practice and develop that skill?

The two things that this comes down to is Listening and Analyzing.

Whenever you start to learn new music, listening is a great place to start!

In fact, even if you aren't learning a new piece, listening is a great idea. (Check out this video, if you want more information on the importance of always listening

So, now that you are convinced to start implementing listening into your regular routine, what should you be listening for?

With general listening, it is great to listen to tone quality, control of the instrument, general phrasing, etc. Just get a sense for what the performer is doing and enjoy the music!

For general listening you can look at all kinds of music, not just clarinet! We can learn so much from the way vocalists phrase, or the way string players shape their tone, or the power, flexibility, and variety of a whole orchestra.

The best clarinetists don't think of the clarinet in a vacuum. They are always getting inspiration from the other musicians they play with. A great example of this is Richard Stoltzman's infamous use of vibrato, which is inspired by playing with string players.

Who knows what kind of exciting new sounds and ways of playing you can come up with by hearing different sounds and music, even clarinet specific with things like jazz and klezmer.

There is also more specific listening where you are listening to a specific piece that you are working on.

For this it is a great idea to find many different recordings so you can start to see the nuances and opportunity to incorporate your own musical decisions and point of view.

If you haven't ever listened to a piece of music while looking at your part, or better yet a score, you should do that!

It is so important to remember that music is the sound you hear not the ink on the page. Listening to the way others have represented the ink on the page into actual sound and music can be so helpful. You also may be surprised at how often the great professionals don't play exactly what is in the ink!

Listen for specific dynamics, articulations, tempos, etc. The closer you listen the more variation you will find from performance to performance.

Then once you have heard all of the options you can do some analysis about what you think is the best decision, and that's what we will get into next week!

So what is your favorite recording of a piece you love? What are the nuances that you hear in the performance that makes it so magical?

I can't wait to hear what you love listening to in the comments!


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I can't wait to see where your clarinet journey takes you!