Listening & Awareness for Musicians

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich

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How often do we listen to a friend’s story, and realize halfway through that we weren’t really listening at all? How many times have we practiced playing a song, only to realize we’ve been mindlessly going through the motions?  Listening and awareness go hand in hand, and are both vital to our musical lives.

A large part of a musician’s work is to listen selectively and holistically. To be a selective listener means focusing awareness on a specific element of sound. Whether that’s the steady rhythm, an evolving harmony, or a quick change in dynamics, a musician has to pay close attention in order to keep track of it. To listen holistically means hearing the “big picture” of a song – how all the elements interweave and create the totality.

66713_522071644514456_1555723029_nAs teachers, we’re required to be intuitive listeners. We need to observe all the little details of a student’s performance – the subtle movements and positions, where the eyes are moving, or any moments of hesitation. We have to listen for changes in tone, and especially any emotions that come through the music. For a teacher to know which areas of the student’s musicianship need attention, listening must come first.

Musicians are always students – always learning and improving. Being aware of the self requires listening and staying completely in the present moment. There are never-ending opportunities for growth in our musical understanding and our performances. Ear training is a huge part of musicianship development, especially in collegiate music programs. But there is more to this kind of listening than recognizing the interval between two notes.

static1.squarespaceSelf-awareness asks that we look openly at each aspect of how we sing or play an instrument. It requires that we’re prepared to notice inconsistencies in technique, and accepting the idea that we can be wrong. Remaining open to criticism and change can be really difficult, and it’s often a hindrance to improvement. The other side of this is being skilled enough to notice when our technique is correct, which shouldn’t be underestimated!

Playing music is a doorway to learning about the self and building essential listening skills. These are especially important lessons for musicians, but can also be utilized in other areas of life. Being a good listener takes practice and consistent mindfulness, but the benefits definitely make it worthwhile!

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7 Days of Open Mic

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich

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If you’ve ever been to Farmers’ Market in downtown San Luis Obispo, or even meandered down Higuera Street on a Friday night, you probably noticed live music coming from all directions. You’ve seen street performers, noticed acoustic music coming from a coffee shop, or heard the familiar sounds of a reggae band pouring through the open doors of SLO Brew. With music surrounding our everyday lives, it is hard not to take all of these opportunities for granted.

San Luis Obispo is home to many music lovers: people that love to hear live music, and people who want to MAKE live music. There are countless striving musicians and upcoming artists who are constantly searching for places to perform. Luckily, SLO County has many restaurants, cafes, and breweries that host live music. Sometimes, there are a few bands lined up to play, but there are also times when anyone is allowed to get up and serenade the crowd.

Open mic nights, open jams, and even karaoke, provide opportunities for members of our community to showcase their talents and creativity. These loosely-structured shows are a good way to test out new songs and techniques, and can be valuable experiences for new artists. Whether it is someone’s first or hundredth performance, the thrill never seems to fade.

Open mic: Sundays, 2pm – The Porch (Santa Margarita)

Jam: Sundays – Shell Café (Pismo Beach)

Open mic: Tuesdays, 9pm –  Creekside Brewing Co (Downtown SLO)

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Open mic: Wednesdays, 8-10pm -Kreuzberg, CA café (downtown SLO)

Blues Jam: Wednesdays, 6:30-9:30 – Shell Café (Pismo Beach)

Blues Jam: Wednesdays, 8pm – Merrimaker (Los Osos)

Open jam: Thursdays, 7:30pm – Otter Rock Cafe (Morro Bay)

“Ted Waterhouse Real Blues Jam”: Thursdays, 5-8pm – Barrel House (Paso Robles)

Karaoke: Fridays, 10:30pm – The Merrimaker (Los Osos)

Open mic: Saturdays – Cafe Vio (Paso Robles)

These are just some of the performance opportunities that we have here in San Luis Obispo County. I challenge you: experience at least one of these events this fall. Whether you want to perform, or just sit back and enjoy the music, this community welcomes and encourages you to be a part of it!