We are in the listening business

Let’s face it people, we are in the listening business. In order to be great singers, we have to listen all the time. And I’m sure you understand there is a big difference between listening and hearing. Hearing is just the main physical activity where sound is processed into your brain. Listening is actively scanning that sound for content.

To what should you be listening? How about…

-The director

-The tonal center

-The singers around you

-The vowel shape (formant)

-Entrances and cutoffs

-Music you love

-Music you don’t love

-Music you don’t know

-Other groups like yours

-Multiple versions of the same song: multiple ensembles performing the same song in the same style or the same song covered in different genres

-Static noises around you like the refrigerator, the air conditioner, the beep beep of a truck backing up, or even the fire alarm. Can you harmonize with them?

-Groups better than yours for inspiration

-Groups worse than yours for perspective

I used to sing in a barbershop quartet, and we were coached by a woman named Jean Barford. Before she would coach us, she would listen to CDs of champion quartets. She told us she was calibrating her ears.

That’s what listening is. We take in information through our ears, analyze it, and use the processed data to improve what we do. We’re not just calibrating our ears, we’re calibrating our musicianship. We’re calibrating ourselves.


One comment to We are in the listening business

  • Bethany  says:

    Thanks for these articles they really help me think about my performances!!! 🙂

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