Piano playing is a much loved art form.
It is as much about bringing enjoyment to those listening to your music as well as to yourself, so it’s really important to develop keen listening skills where you can hear the different nuances of sound.
Just as an artist paints with different shades of colours, layers and textures, as pianists we can experiment with sound to create the effect that we want, to reflect the character of the piece and to stir the imagination of listeners.Sunny Cho
Have an intention in mind of how you want your music to sound before you play a single note, so that the music you produce is actually how you want it to sound.
So often it can be easy to get absorbed in all the different things to pay attention to in the sheet music, such as the notes, dynamics, fingering, phrasing, rhythm, pedalling and so on, that you can lose touch with how you really sound!
My Suggestions For Improving Listening Skills
- Listen often.
It is a great idea to listen to a variety of performers (eg on YouTube).
This will help you appreciate different interpretations and styles and may give you ideas on how you would like your playing to sound.
Also if you have the opportunity to do so, spend time listening to other students/pianists play.
Stepping away from the piano player role and into observer role of someone else’s performance can bring different perspectives and help develop your listening analytical skills.
- Record your own playing
There is nothing more objective than the recorded playback of your own performance!
You can convince yourself that it all sounds good while playing, then when you play it back, you can identify in detail areas for improvement.
It may even sound different to how you imagined it sounded at the time.
- Memorise the music
When you know the music inside-out and it has become internalised, this will free you up to fully focus on the flow and musicality of your piece.
Where before, you had to focus on the technical aspects of the music which impacted your ability to fully hear the music, now you can work on higher level elements such as expressiveness and bringing in your unique touches.
- Ask your teacher for feedback
A skilled teacher should have great listening skills and be able to provide pointers for you to improve the quality of your playing.
Even if you cannot hear yourself as clearly as your teacher, their feedback can help you to zoom in on problem areas and finetune your listening sensitivity and technique.
- Experiment with sound and have fun!
Sunny Cho (Piano Teacher)