How to Listen

I listen to music a lot: in the car, while doing dishes, at the gym, in the office. My alarm clock is set to favorite radio stations. I’d imagine many of you probably listen to music in the same way. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

What I’d like to encourage here on the blog, however, is more active listening. Instead of keeping music on in the background, take the time to just sit and listen to the music. Don’t check Facebook. Put your phone on silent. Take time to focus on what your ears are hearing. Give the material the respect it deserves by giving it all your attention. You wouldn’t sit down to a four-star meal with the TV on, would you?

Here’s a little experiment. As you go to bed tonight, grab your music player and a set of headphones. After you’re in bed, shut the lights out and put one of your favorite songs on at a reasonable volume. Listen to the whole thing through. Then maybe play it again and focus on what the drummer or percussionist is doing. Follow their part all the way through the song, then repeat and pay attention to the bass player, and so on and so forth. I can almost guarantee you’ll discover a new detail that you hadn’t heard before because you weren’t one-hundred percent focused on the music.

I’m not expecting you to listen to music like this all the time–it’s tiring, for one thing (don’t close your eyes during my experiment!), and for another thing, most people just don’t or can’t listen that way permanently. I’m one of them. So please, go ahead and blast AC/DC from your car speakers on your next roadtrip, but just know that there’s a lot more to be gained from active listening if you can put the time in.

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