Listen to Music More Frequently

West Coast Swing Online Musicality & Timing

How often have you watched an advanced dancer hit something in a song that you never knew was there before? Dancers with great musicality have the ability to bring out elements in a song that we’ve overlooked, and it seems magical. But it’s not—it’s actually a skill anyone can learn.

The Drill: The secret to hearing all those little nuances in a song is really straightforward. Listen to the song more. A lot more. Most of us listen to a song a couple of times, at most, before we move on to the next song. For this exercise, we’re going to listen well beyond that.

Pick a WCS song that you enjoy and give yourself at least 20 minutes. Put that song on repeat and simply pay attention to the song. This is not the time for multi-tasking: you don’t want to have your attention split between the song and the dishes. 20 minutes should be enough time for you to loop the song at least three or four times. This should give you a really solid feeling for what the overall feel of the song is.

Now we’re ready to get serious. For the next week, find as many opportunities to listen to that song as possible. Put on your iPod and play it while you’re taking out the trash. Play it while checking your email. Play it in the car. Your goal is to listen to that song at least 25 times during your week. Since most songs are between three and four minutes, you’re committing somewhere between an hour and 90 minutes to listening to one song. It’s a lot, but it will pay off!

Listen to the song in a variety of situations. Listen while there’s background noise, and when it’s quiet. Listen when the volume is a little higher, and when you can barely make out the song. In every environment, you can hear music slightly differently, so keep changing it up.

As you listen, you will discover little nuances in the song. It may be a syncopation in the bass line, a vocal inflection that changes before the second chorus, or an instrument coming in during a build. Keep listening! Being able to identify those nuances is essential to all-star level musicality. And, the bonus is that you’ll find it easier to pick up on those elements in other songs as you get more comfortable hearing them in one song.

Bonus Variations: If you really want to blow your mind, keep listening to that one song. Sprinkle some sessions of single-minded listening in with listening while you’re doing other things. Keep adding to the play count. Some songs are relatively simple and give up most of their secrets after 20 or so plays, but some really rich songs will still be revealing fascinating elements even after 100 plays. See how deeply you can get into an amazing song, and watch your musicality improve across the board.

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