The philosophers ask: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? It's a truly profound question if you take the time to contemplate it. tree in black and white

The same idea applies to music: What good is a radio blasting its sounds into an empty room? Music is a universal language, inherently designed to evoke emotions, tell stories, and communicate ideas. Its true essence comes to life when it resonates with an audience.

On the bandstand at a jam session, you also need to listen to the other players, but that's a topic for another time. Let's focus on a personal listening experience.

Without a listener, Music is pointless, it loses its purpose and impact. When Music is performed live in front of an audience it can even become a dialogue between the first listener, which is always the player, and every other one.

Every listener interprets and reacts to a performance based on his or her individual backgrounds, culture, and personal experience. And the performer is quite well influenced by that reactions. Steve Lawsonfor example is an awesome Bass player who improvises his solo-performances based on his perception of and emotions about his audience. Read his thoughts here.

Enjoying Music

I could not imagine a life without music; it has always been an integral part of mine. My first stereo was one of the most important gifts I ever received. It enabled me to explore the music that I wanted to hear. Investing time in discovering music has always provided immense value to me.

Whether it's playing in the background to brighten my breakfast mood or helping me concentrate while working, music remains a constant presence. Sometimes, it becomes my sole focus, as I put on my headphones to purely enjoy it.

Other times, it serves a purpose, like when I'm transcribing interesting and fun bass lines. Learning to play Jazz is like leraning a new language. And through listening you gather the vocabulary to build that language. Listening is not yet enough to incorporate the vocabulary into your playing. But it's a crucial step towards getting better.

Enjoying Music and learning Jazz at the same time? Two birds with one stone!

Exploring Jazz

I am not only a newbie in playing Jazz but also in listening to Jazz - especially Bebop. When you dip your toes into the realm of Jazz, Bebop is often the first subgenre to captivate you. Bebop songs are played virtuously at a high tempo, with sometimes complicated rhythms and sophisticated harmony. As is so often the case, Jazz players wanted to break boundaries and elevate Jazz to the next level. I plan to write a blog post about Bebop soon.

Initially, Bebop sounded like a zoo on fire to me. What do you do with such mayhem? You can either dive into it deeply and study its intricacies, or you can leave it for now and explore other subgenres - that's what I am doing, at the time of writing this post.

There are so many genres in Jazz that appeal to me, such as early Swing, Cool Jazz, and, of course, the Jazz Blues. The key is to listen to something you genuinely enjoy. As I continued to explore Jazz, I found myself learning to appreciate and enjoy my listening experiences.

How do you do that? You might ask.

Passive Repetition

Listening multiple times to new music has always been essential for me. Rarely does a song or an album immediately capture my ears. I need to give it several listens, and so I keep those albums rotating, even if they're just playing passively in the background in the kitchen.

To ease into it, I prefer starting with short vocal songs, like those from The Great American Songbook by Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald. I savor those beautiful melodies, and their catalogs alone could take weeks or even months to fully enjoy. I suggest beginning with compilations like "Sinatra Best Of The Best" or "Ella Fitzgerald, Legendary Recordings."

The more challenging the Jazz, such as Bebop, the more repetitions are needed, and I have to be more focused. But with each attempt, it becomes easier, and in the end, it leaves me satisfied.

I recently rediscovered that the Sony Walkman is still available (yes, I am old enough to remember the original). I use mine almost every day for passive listening since I'm not fond of wireless headphones, and many modern smartphones lack a headphone jack. As I write this, my Jazz Blues playlist rotates round and round.

Find your own way to immerse yourself in Jazz; there is a method that will suit you best!

Active Internalisation

As soon as my curiosity is aroused, I begin to listen more deeply. My listening transitions from passive repetition to active internalization. Exploring a song in this way, I usually have a complete lead-sheet and a pen at hand. As a bass player, I am particularly interested in the harmony that lies beneath those beautiful melodies. Since I'm not yet able to hear chord progressions by ear, the Realbook is a great help during my deep-listening sessions.

Another great way is to go to jam sessions or jazz concerts of any kind. That's listening with all five senses, I cannot recommend it enough.

Music has to reach both my heart and my gut. With Jazz, there's always a part of my brain involved too. Interestingly, this seems to be a good thing - almost as if Jazz wants to be understood intellectually. It's still a process of learning and practice for me, which is why it seldom works on the first try. Singing, humming or whisteling along to the song helps me greatly in this phase.

Knowing how a Jazz piece is structured in general helps immensely. Trying to stay mindful is also a great idea, as it means that you:

1. Listen here and now

Where and when else? Stay focused!

2. Listen with intent

There could be different intentions: enjoying the music on a deeper level, understanding it on a theoretical level, wanting to play the song on my bass, etc.

3. Do not judge

The non-judgmental part is the hardest one, but also the most important! Putting my own evaluations behind leaves room to hear what the artist wanted to convey and opens a spot in my mind. It allows me to transform a "pre-judice" into a "post-judice," so I can analyze specifically what I like or dislike about the music and why.


The process of active internalization can vary in duration, typically ranging from a few days for simpler songs to a few weeks for complex bebop tunes. However, as I become more familiar with it, the process becomes easier and more enjoyable.

So, I encourage you to turn on that Walkman, immerse yourself in the world of Jazz, and have fun!



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