5 Benifits of Imitation and Audio Learning

by   |  April 23, 2012
5 Benefits of Audio Learning

There is true merit to copying what you hear. Listening to recordings helps children develop their own unique method and style.

How listening to recordings helps students develop musicality.

While learning new pieces, most teachers encourage their students to listen to recordings.   Social media facilitates this, bringing videos and sound clips to millions of people who never would have accessed them otherwise.   Watching and imitating professionals carries so many benefits and very few drawbacks.


1)           Imitation is a natural way of learning.   Children learn to speak by imitating sounds, then words, then phrases.   Musicians first learn to be expressive by imitating as well.   In lessons, teachers model what they want students to do, and the students imitate.   If teachers frequently use themselves as a models, why wouldn’t they also encourage students to imitate professionals?


2)           Exposure to many great recordings provides comparative insight.   The more recordings students listen to, the better.   That way, they aren’t held hostage to one artist’s interpretation or even his or her mistakes.   Hearing professionals mess up also has benefits.   First of all, students are reminded that even professionals are human beings, and mistakes are forgivable in the professional world.   Secondly, students realize that there is never one right way to do perform a piece.   Musical performance is more of a journey for the artist than a declamatory presentation of truth.


3)           Hearing multiple interpretations intimately acquaints you with a piece.   As students listen to more interpretations, they deepen their understanding of a piece beyond the pitches and rhythms.   They begin to see the big picture.   The phrases link together into a narrative whole.   Not only do students start to string them together in order to anticipate what comes next, but they also learn how the phrases build on each other.   The links form a cohesive story.


4)           You develop your own style and preferences.   With so many different versions to compare against one another, students will quickly develop preferences for different aspects of each interpretation.   In so doing, each student she can pride herself in becoming a music snob.   Also, each student will be developing her unique musical style and method.


5)           At the very least, you can make sure you’re playing it correctly.   Aside from deepening technique and appreciation for a piece, it’s nice for students to double-check with professional recordings simply to ensure that they’re playing the piece correctly.   (Nothing is more embarrassing that performing a piece and later being told that you played it incorrectly.)   Imitating great recordings will save everyone from such awkward situations.


When it comes to imitating “the greats”, there are only two potential hazards.   The first is that a student might become dependent on hearing recordings in order to learn songs.   To counter this, teachers must ensure that their students develop good sight reading skills.   Many teachers have students learn the music before listening to recordings.


The second risk is that a student might imitate the mistakes of certain performers.   As aforementioned, this problem can easily be eliminated by listening to more than one version of the piece.


It’s always a good idea for students to get the basics down first—notes, rhythm, dynamics, etc.—before listening to recordings.   When they are ready, students can fine-tune their other musical skills by imitating what professionals have already done well.

More on: Classical Music, For Music Students, Knowledge, Music Teacher, Personal Development, Skills, Technique
About the Author:

Having achieved so many of her own dreams, Mimi West has devoted her career to paying it forward to the rising generation of musicians. You can follow her on Twitter @mydreamteacher.
Publshed: April 23, 2012  | 
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