Are You Listening?

Red Henry

Since I pick with people when I get the chance, and I've also taught a good many music lessons in my life, I've developed an attitude about listening and learning. It's this: If you can't or don't listen, you can't play. At least, you can't play right. You have to know what a tune sounds like before you can play it. And tab won't show you what a tune sounds like-- you can only learn that from listening. Sound obvious? It's not obvious at all to a lot of folks.

Murphy expresses this in a way when she says, "Listen, listen, listen, and play, play, play!" What does it mean? It means that you can't learn to play a tune right unless you've heard it, and preferably, heard it a lot. This is why tab won't help you to play a tune right, because tab can't show you what a tune actually sounds like. West-Coast banjo wizard Pat Cloud said in a recent Banjo Newsletter interview that he wishes his students would listen to a tune a hundred times before they looked at the tab. Well-known player Pete Wernick stated, also in BNL, that since students have to get away from tab eventually, it's better if they don't use it in the first place.

What does this have to do with you, the Murphy Method student? Only that you need to listen. Listen to the music you want to learn. Listen to the music on CD over and over, whether it's on Earl's records, or Murphy's, or Casey's, or whoever else's recordings, but get that sound in your head before you expect to learn the tune! Once you know what the tune sounds like, you're ready to start playing it! And you'll learn a whole lot faster, too.

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