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Blog 61 Opurtunities, The one that got away.)

March 18, 2018


Sensitivity is a must to being a good musician. In fact, it could be said that sensitivity is a must for a successful life. Debateable I suppose. ?

What is sensitivity? It could be classified as the sense, hearing, touch, taste, sight, and sound but in art, we are looking for more. Sensitivity is emotional and being aware of emotions. Emotions of ourselves and emotions of others.

We want to express these emotions in our music. If we are expressing an emotion that others can relate to you often have the makings of very good music. For example, The heroic sounds of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony are often being used to express conflict. And the great sadness you feel when you listen to Ed Sheeran’s A team.

As a musician, we have the difficult task of expressing emotions while we are maintaining the discipline of the performance. This requires the player to listen for the effect they want and trust that their technique is up too it. With the right amount of practice i.e. heaps, this can be achieved. When achieved the buzz at playing at this level is kind of euphoric. I do however mean heaps when it comes to the practice.

You can't lift yourself up to this level when you come in half arse. You can’t be sensitively listening to a sound when you are still thinking about the notes or the chord structures. All these things must be under the belt to start with. Then you can really start listening. Be sensitive to your audience and listen. Ask perhaps are they really enjoying it when I am playing the fun bit loud or are they just hearing banging. Or perhaps ask, does this harmony sound only cool to me? Face it, it happens. Sometimes we just love shit that no one else does. Some love Bela Bartok and some really don't. At least when you listen with sensitivity to the music, you will achieve the results you want. Then it’s time to record.

Sensitive listening is even more important in ensemble work. The drummer and bass player must be on the same page as far as the groove is concerned and everyone really must lock into each other’s time for the rhythm to really gel. Listening with sensitivity to what each musician has to say enables musicians to allow space for each other and create something greater than the sum of its parts. When this is achieved the enjoyment is immense there is nothing quite like playing in with a good bunch of musicians. It's like that perfect golf drive, it’s just magic.

The String Quartet is a perfect example of the sensitive listening. A good performance in a quartet is like a conversation between four people. Some good examples of solid bands are Fall out Boy, Little Feat, Boz Scaggs band, Daryl’s House band and of course The Funk Brothers.

So how do we get good at being sensitive? Of course, the hard way. Practice it. After all being a more sensitive husband, sister, teacher, band leader or simply a more sensitive person. Is difficult but produces rewards in many areas. A sensitivity perhaps to our environment can create a far deeper appreciation of life's natural pleasures and all the while providing creative inspiration for our art.

Being sensitive to the cultures and people that are around us in as many varied ways as possible. Including movies, plays, and performances in as many different genres as possible. Helps us to expand our art our pallet of ideas to get creative with. Remember that the creation of good food is an art form too! And here in Wellington, there is a huge amount of fun to be had in the food markets and restaurants.

Without all the practice and the ability to play your instrument, being sensitive in itself is probably not going to save you and possibly just make you a pain to work with. But with the practice and attention to technique, being sensitive will really give you something to say when you reach for that next level.