Ear training is, in the long run, the most important thing you’ll ever learn or have to use throughout your musical life. I have reached a point where basically everything I hear, I hear as music. I mean, if a song is playing in my home, and a plane flies overhead, or somebody even drops a dish, I can hear and identify, immediately, just what that tone is! This is a great test to use on yourself throughout your daily life, and for me it was put to an amazing and thoroughly enjoyable use last night!
I was invited by some friends to a dinner party where a wonderful classical Quintet from The Curtis Music Institute was going to play. It was an amazing treat, as these were a great combination of true veteran players, as well as newcomers who were so tight, every chord sounded as if it were played by one giant stringed instrument! So, as I sat there, listening to what was largely a program of music by Brahms, I found myself playing a mental game of trying to, on the fly, identify each and every musical change I could, as those notes and chords went flying by!
This is a great challenge, as Classical music usually goes through a huge gamut of changes, emotions, time signature changes, as well as key changes. There’s no doubt that this makes Classical more of a challenge to play than some other forms of music, and also means that it can sometimes really lend itself to the “cerebral”, in addition to the emotional side of listening.
So, after all was said and done, I got to speak with the various members of the quintet after the show, and we had some great talks about music in general…sharing career stories, etc. I even gave one of the viola players my cd, and talked about how I can never play the same thing twice, and how I am only satisfied by playing something new all the time. To this, this wonderful and incredibly accomplished player said, “God, I wish I could improvise!!”
It never fails to astonish me…how such a great player can still be worlds apart from my way of making music. Put some sheet music with notes to read in front of me, and you have severed my creative process right at the neck! Next time you hear some great classical music, try what I tried to do, and create a nice challenge for yourself by trying to identify the changes in the music. You really may surprise yourself!