Wim Dijkgraaf

contemporary composer & jazz harmonica player

Listen, listen, listen, listen …

Posted by on Apr 6, 2011

Listening to music is the single most important thing you need to do if you want to learn how to play. Everything you need to know is contained within the music itself. Of course, many of us need some help understanding what we hear (ear training will be one of the next topics to start on this blog …), so we can play it on our instruments. For that, we can turn to ear training, transcribing, theory, and other forms of education. But, it all starts with the music.

Aspiring musicians need to listen to as much recordings as possible. Listening will help the student (or anyone, for that matter) internalize the rhythms, melodies, and harmonies and develop good taste. Eventually, your familiarity should reach the point where you can effortlessly sing along with a tune, mimicking the way the performer plays each note (match the articulation, dynamics, accents, etc). If you aren’t at least this familiar with the sound of what you want to be able to play, you’ll have a heck of a time trying to play it!


1. Recordings to listen to

2. Ears and the ability to listen closely

3. That’s it! You don’t need any formal training or prior experience to listen and learn music.


There are dozens (if not hundreds) of lists of recommended jazz albums on the Web. Here’s one good list (with audio clips!), and here’s another. These lists will help introduce you to important recordings and artists. I’d also encourage you to do a little background research on each recording, to learn more about the album and its performers. You can get decent information on most albums at allmusic.com.

Have fun listening, listening, listening, listening … ,

Warm regards,

Wim Dijkgraaf



1 Comment

  1. Hi Wim,

    You are right, it is necessary to listen.

    I usually make playlists on Deezer.com for each new song on which I want to learn to improvise.
    And, while I am doing other things, I have a passive listening of these playlists.
    And these listenings, for each song, generates in my head a lot of new ideas.

    For instance, for working on “Autumn leaves”, I created this playlist : http://www.deezer.com/fr/music/result/all/mack%20the%20knife#music/playlist/autumn-leaves-58840976

    And I do a passive listening on all these various interpretation of various jazz musicians (sax, trumpet, piano, guitar, etc…).

    Of course, as you say, another good work is to transcribe some solos from these musicians.

    Kind regards,


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial

Stay Connected!

Subscribe To MyNewsletter

Join my mailing list to receive the latest news and updates including free MP3s, discounts on albums and more.

You have Successfully Subscribed!