What’s the Difference in Hearing and Listening?

Are you listening to what you are doing when you practice/play? Or are you just hearing?


I ask students this question often, and they get a blank look on their face. Deep down, they really know the answer to the question, and are coming to the realization that they have not been listening to what they are doing.

Listening is simply PAYING ATTENTION to what you are hearing. 

Master your techniques, fretboard, and keyboard memorization with laser focus so you can divert all of your mental energy to listening to what you are playing.

As a young player with little guidance, indulging in fast legato runs and large scale shapes was a satisfying challenge. Cramming large amounts of information and new physical movements required mental energy and left little time to digest the pitches or emotional quality of notes. With enough time and will power, the challenges were eventually “achieved.” However, not without consequence (Tons of wasted time, development of sloppy technique, some non musical playing)

When the speed is high, it is difficult to notice details. 

You need mental space left for assessing consistency of timing and tone when digesting new information.


  • Did you notice that half of the notes in the middle of your 16th note shred run were incredibly buzzy? the wrong note? or completely missing?
  • Did you even notice the metronome was chugging away at a completely different pace than your playing?
  • Did you notice half of the “unplayed” strings were ringing while trying to play the new lick over and over?

If you are only hearing your playing, then you are unlikely to take the time to comb through the execution of each note. 

If you are listening, you will notice it sounds bad and be compelled to fix it.

If you are listening, you will notice that you are nervously playing each note earlier than the metronome.

If you are listening, you will notice that you are making the singer’s phrasing sound off because you are strumming out of pocket.

If you are listening, you won’t have to stare at your hand when you play.


BREATHE, then practice slow.

Your brain will then have energy to control your hands and allow you to fluently speak the language of music.


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Thanks for reading!