The importance of keeping your ears fresh.

The importance of keeping your ears fresh.
” You are what you hear” – I am sure we are all very familiar with this saying by now.
It implies that your listening habits will determine the way you sound on the kit. I was reminded of the importance of this recently as the regular life of a musician caught up with me in a big way. Between preparing for a new Cd…playing gigs, practicing and the rest…It seems every spare moment had to be used to learn material i was hired to play. Besides keeping up regular projects and a practice schedule, listening time became crucial as my ears reached the extreme burnout point. Silence really does become golden as the ears ache for a rest. Especially when material you are hired to play might not only be complicated but cannot be memorized in a short time, and demands every ounce of musicality you can muster. In New York this can happen often. Very often. Material so demanding that it’s impossible to sight read no matter how good you read requires massive listening discipline. Saturating yourself with music for a project like that is essential. It’s also essential to know HOW to listen and to develop a schedule for listening, not only playing. I hope to convey exactly how essential this is because once you are in the heat of the battle as they say…every input that is casual, like music at a supermarket, riding in someone else’s car, standing in an elevator, trying to have a coffee at a coffee shop….all these incidental background music distractions soon become a major pain and annoyance. Ever been in a car with an extremely busy working musician? Most of the time radio is forbidden! Hahaha. No music in the car and especially no crummy music. (This can be an especially difficult situation if you have a girlfriend or friends who are not musicians and they blast the radio or cannot sit in silence in general)
You might find yourself purchasing the best earphones you can find and using them as a musical shield against the world! This is normal, don’t despair! The majority of music that the average person is exposed to will most likely be garbage. So please do protect yourself against it without shame. Why? Because this background noise that might seem harmless to non musicians has the effect of infiltrating the brain if you are not careful. Especially if you are on a massive musical input quest to learn new material in a limited amount of time, every precaution must be taken to protect your brain form unnecessary blabber. The more you are in control of what goes into your ears the better. Arm yourself with a great set of headphones or earphones and carry whatever portable device you use to listen to music constantly. Become obsessed with having it on you. Why? 3 small points out of many…

1) Be prepared when the moment arrives, if you happen to be on the subway, train or any environment where you can put in listening time.
2) Drums especially require a huge amount of field research. Always listen to new things especially if you are into the ethnic types of drumming. This is a life long learning endeavor and here listening time really does become of extreme importance.
3) Don’t let outside influences and casual listening, controlled by the pathetic music industry control your musical input. There is a price to pay for this when the time arrives to count on your musicality to pull you through rough moments on a musically demanding gig.

It seems maybe these are small points but trust me they are not! Listening is as important as actual playing. Your ear is a primary channel through which you connect with music. How you perceive and understand music….is shaped by …Music! The deeper the music you listen to, the wider your ability to listen becomes. The deeper your ability to hear details. In the end, this is what could lead you to the ultimate goal of being a player… developing your own voice on the instrument. The most important thing in your life as a musician. In my humble opinion.

So what is your first step? Get that set of earphones or headphones, the best ones you can get your hands on. And start listening from the deep perspective, start challenging yourself to listen with control. And don’t be controlled by your immediate environment.

All the best
Phil M

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