The Most Important Skill Successful Musicians Have

guitar & pianoWhen you turn your iPod on or sit down to watch a live performance, are you really listening? Developing key listening skills is one of the most important things you can do as a musician. Read on for more from West Covina music teacher James H



When we listen to music, there are 3 major components to be aware of that can help you really understand the music you are playing or listening to better. These aspects are: Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm.

Melody– Melody is an aspect of music that revolves around a song having a main idea or theme. Just like when reading a book and recognizing a premise to the story, the same goes for music. This main idea is usually a memorable, singable tune.

Harmony– Harmony in music relates to an atmospheric or emotional sense in music.  Generally, harmony is supportive, colorful and imaginative. This aspect in music is found a lot in media. It is music that supports movies, video games, story telling and the like. Harmony in music helps generate and depict moods as well as supports a melodic line.

Rhythm– Rhythm is the backbone of music. It helps create a constant energy that puts music in motion. Rhythmic aspects are consistent, repetitive, and involve a strong pulse. Rhythm gives music a dance-like quality that can make us groove our bodies or get our toes tapping or our heads nodding, and it affects us on a more physical level.

Knowing these 3 components of music can help you develop greater music appreciation that gives purpose and meaning to music; it also helps connect you to how and why you play. When you are playing music, try to get an idea of what kind of story the music is making using the 3 components, and you’ll create a better intent of what you want to portray when you are performing. When listening to music, you can focus on what component is being emphasized to express the music: which instruments have the melody, is this music dance-like, are there repetitive ideas or rhythms, and how does it make you feel, for example.

Playing and listening go hand-in-hand, so the more you listen to a variety of music on this level, the more you can get in tune with yourself and how you want to express yourself. Music is a story waiting to be told by you, and if you want to be heard, develop your listening skills so others will listen to you!

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West Covina James H.James H. teaches piano, singing, clarinet, classical guitar, flute, music performance, opera voice, saxophone, trumpet, bassoon, and trombone lessons in West Covina, CA. James joined the TakeLessons team in August 2012, with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and a Master’s degree in Performance. Learn more about James, or visit TakeLessons to search for a teacher near you!


Photo by angelocesare.

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