Listening matters. I’m not talking about putting some music on and then virtually ignoring it while you do a hundred other things. Properly listening means giving great attention to the subject matter, not just a casual glance.
You might have heard the phrase: your output is determined by your input. And this is where listening comes in to full force.
As a musician you should be listening to great music, which goes without saying. Shutting your mind off to things around you and unnecessary thoughts and distractions. Then you can really listen to the music and react to its sound. You’ll become aware of the chord changes, the tonal differences, even hear the subtle variance in dynamics. You could even go over it again, and try to isolate one part or element. If you’re listening to a pop tune (for example) try and listen for the drums. Can you count the fill into the chorus? Could you use that rhythm in a solo?
What is the shape of the drum groove over the whole track? Are they using the drums to build the dynamics of the song? Or is it a slow and steady pattern throughout?
Think about how you could incorporate this into your guitar playing. If you are listening to a song and the drums, for example are steady and just there without creating anything special yet hold the song together. Could you use this in your acoustic guitar playing? I think you could, you could listen to the groove and try to emulate it, so that you are in the background and are the glue which holds the song together, creating a solid base.
One of my favourite challenges is to listen for the piano part in jazz and try to figure out what chords they are playing on what beats and how that is adding to the piece. I also do this is soul and r ‘n’ b music too, as quite often the guitar part uses fragments of chords, where the chord changes can be hard to hear and can move through multiple musical keys.
So you can learn a lot just by listening – a great way to achieve better playing in the long run too!