In my 8+ years of teaching guitar and bass lessons, I find myself continuously searching for new methods and ideas in order to enable my students to become the best musicians possible. I have recently come to find that one of the most important and fundamental aspects of learning music is one that is very commonly ignored- by students AND teachers. This is making the habit of actively listening to music on a daily basis.
I usually ask students at the start of each lesson, “So, what have you been listening to lately?” Quite often, the students respond with “I don’t know”. I see this as problematic, regardless if they are completing weekly playing assignments. I strongly believe that one cannot become a good musician unless they listen to a lot of different types of music - and I mean really listen; not just have it playing in the background. So, I have recently started to give my students weekly listening assignments in which I will tell them to check out 3 different songs by 3 different guitar players. I ask my students to tell me what they like or dislike about the songs/artists. How it makes them feel when they listen. The best part of this is when a student comes back and says: “That was awesome – I want to play like that!“ More often than not, students will come to the next lesson more motivated and inspired when they find something they like – especially when it correlates directly to their instrument. This is extremely beneficial to the student and the teacher. Sometimes it takes weeks and weeks of different listening assignments to ‘strike a chord’ and peak the student’s interest. Once it happens, it opens lessons up to a new dimension of learning and inspiration.
Some students will find musical inspiration easier than others. Others will have a problem relating the act of listening and drawing inspiration from music to the instrument that they are learning. I believe it is part of a music teacher’s responsibility to ensure their students are actively listening to important innovators of their respective instruments. 9 times out of 10, if the student wants to learn an instrument there will be something that inspires a student to practice more and strive to become a better musician – we just need to help them find it!