I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of listening in relation to piano lessons. Specifically, what role does listening to a recording have in daily practice, and why is listening important?
Listening to recordings is important because it gives the student an objective to work towards. The student needs to know what the music is supposed to sound like, and then, through coaching by the teacher and parent, they learn to evaluate their playing and say “I am not playing this like the recording, therefore, I need to alter my playing.”
A recording helps the student learn the tone quality, notes, rhythm, phrasing, and form. One of the many aspects of learning music, especially for beginning students, is learning to recognize patterns, and recognize when the pattern changes. By listening to recordings, students learn to hear the difference between a question phrase and an answer phrase long before those terms are introduced.
Another important benefit of listening is that it helps the student internalize the musicality of the music. I can sit with a student and say “This is the end of a phrase, so it needs to be soft,” or “there’s a crescendo in the music, and I need to hear it!”, but those instructions don’t have much meaning if the student is not familiar with how tapering at the end of a phrase sounds, or how much to crescendo.
Music is much more than the symbols on the page. And while it is very important to learn to decipher the symbols on the page, it is easy to forget that there are other aspects of music that go beyond learning to read the symbols on the page. Music is a living entity, full of emotions and meanings that are difficult to express with words.
As Hans Christian Anderson said,
"When Words fail, music speaks."
I am a piano teacher who loves teaching music and discussing personality styles. I also enjoy playing music with others, whether that is chamber music, piano duets, or singing in a choir. My favorite composers are Bach and Haydn.