How to Listen to Music

pioneer sx-750I never thought I’d have to explain to people “how” to properly enjoy music.  But, alas, it appears dark days have befallen the masses.  It pains me to see people “enjoying” music by listening to it through smartphone speakers.  Let’s get this out of the way upfront… a phone was meant to be a phone.  It is not a high fidelity sound system capable of producing crystal clear audio at high decibels.  The sounds coming from a tiny speaker housed within a telephone do not do music any justice.

Think about this… musicians pay an enormous fee to book expensive studio time in multi-million dollar recording studios and record their music with the best instruments and music gear available.  Engineers and producers then spend months at the console tweaking the sound to get it “just right.”  Why, then, would you take what they record and play it through a cheap speaker encased in your smartphone?

To properly hear music the way a musician intends (and the way music deserves to be heard), listen with the best quality you can afford.  If you enjoy vinyl (as I do) then keep your records clean and purchase a good turntable with a quality stylus to play them.  Compact Discs are still a great format, as well.  If you’re using a digital format, opt for high definition audio; lossless formats are alway best.

I own several vintage stereo receivers from Pioneer.  Not only do they look amazing (you just have to love those amber lights) but the sound quality is superb.  If you’re wanting to hear music in 7.1 or 5.1 Surround Sound, then buy a quality receiver to serve that purpose.  But whatever receiver you choose, make sure the music is pushed out through a great set of speakers.  If you are using headphones, the same rule applies.  Opt for a great set and pay attention to the frequency range.  Don’t settle for 99 cent headphones from a dollar store.  You won’t experience the full range of sound.  When it comes to stereo equipment, you do get what you pay for.

When you are listening to an album, make listening the experience and not just the background to whatever else you are doing.  It’s perfectly fine to have music in the background when you’re cooking, cleaning, lounging at the pool, driving, or whatever.  But when you are really listening for the sake of getting into the music, let that be your sole focus.  Here’s an analogy for you: when your spouse is speaking to you, you wouldn’t keep playing some game on your phone and avoid eye contact (at least I hope you wouldn’t).  You’d stop what you’re doing, give your spouse eye contact, and listen with the intent to comprehend.  Treat music the same way.  You’ll find the experience much more pleasurable.  Let yourself melt into the music.

Finally, one more soapbox issue… as a professional musician, I cringe at all the concert and gig videos of both our band as well as other bands circulating on social media and the internet.  A video captured at a rock concert with your smartphone will never sound like you remember the event.  The device is simply not capable of capturing the sounds you are hearing, especially at the volumes that are reached in concert halls and music venues.  Go ahead and take a picture or two, but fully immerse yourself in a concert experience rather than watching the show through a four inch screen just so you can record a video that you’ll post on social media but never actually watch.

OK, I’m off my soapbox.  Now go browse this site and discover some great music.  And then listen.  That’s when the magic happens…