Skip the practicing today. Listen to someone instead.

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A common trap that musicians (including me) fall into is thinking your skill will come as a result of diligent practice.  That is true to an extent, but your growth will be stunted if you never learn to listen to other musicians.

I am not talking about passive listening, though that is better than nothing.  I am rather talking about dedicated listening where that is the only thing you are doing. 

And I am not talking about listening to musicians at your level.  I want you to listen to musicians who are way better than you–musicians who ooze creativity and genius.

It actually will take you some work just to find the musicians you want to listen to.  They may not be in your genre.  And by the way, if your focus is Christian music, you can still learn a ton from secular music.

One of the better investments I make is the $75/year I pay for Rhapsody.  I know there may be cheaper or even free options but Rhapsody basically has all the music you can possibly imagine.  They also have a Pandora-like technology so that once you find an artist you like, they will play a list of songs from similar artists.

I recently put a quote on my Facebook page from Aaron Copland.  He said “Most people use music as a couch; they want to be pillowed on it, relaxed and consoled for the stress of daily living.  But serious music was never meant to be soporific.” 

What he meant was this: most people just want music playing in the background to set a mood, but good music deserves more than that. It deserves active listening.

Most people will never get to the point where they actively listen to music.  That is OK if they are not musicians.  But if you are a musician, you need to learn to actively listen.  You will grow much faster once you do.