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Jamie John

Do you 'actively' listen to music?

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When I was a teenager I used to spend a lot of time listening to music in the dark with my headphones on, not really doing anything else, just focusing on the music and playing albums that I liked over and over, or making genre/mood playlists on my iPod. Nowadays, I don't really do this at all, and although I have music playing a lot throughout the day, whether I'm just pottering about the house, in the car or doing exercise, it's always when I'm doing something else - I don't just sit and listen to it like I used to - and I rarely listen to a single album; most of the time I have a playlist or my entire collection on shuffle.

 

There are probably lots of reasons why I don't listen actively anymore, like I used to - less free time, more distractions, having kids, etc. - but it's something that I want to start doing again as, obviously, it allows you to appreciate the music you're listening to a lot more. My old man has always done this - he's got a 'music room' at the bottom of the garden where he just goes and listens to his vinyl with his feet up, with nothing else to distract him (apart from his beer) and I'd say that he does this four or five times each week, and has done for as long as I can remember. It seems like a nice way to spend an evening, although I think part of me would always be thinking "I could be playing a game/watching a film/TV show/reading a book right now", but I guess that's something you just have to suppress.

 

Something else I don't bother with nowadays is reading lyrics as I'm listening. Part of this has come from not having access to the CD inserts as everything's gone digital, but obviously the lyrics to pretty much any song can be found in seconds on Google. Again, reading along allows you to appreciate the music a lot more, and certainly when I read music reviews it's evident that the reviewer has done this and spent time really thinking about what's actually being said in the album they're reviewing.

 

Anyway, a bit of a rambling post, but I'm just interested in everyone else's listening process. What do you do?

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If I get chance to I will, but like you I have limited free time and a family to consider these days. My vinyl collection gets the least play time, but also the most attention, as it is upstairs in the bedroom with no other distractions. I do sometimes come home from work to an empty house and just sit and listen with a cup of tea, which is nice. But yeah, mostly I listen whilst working, driving, walking, shopping, reading etc. One thing that I used to do a lot as a kid, but never do any more, is listen to music whilst playing videogames on mute.

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When I was a teenager I’d go everywhere with a Walkman and pocket full of cassettes so I knew all the lyrics, all the song titles, and all the band members. 
 

Once I started driving and moved onto CDs I only knew track numbers for songs I liked until CD text arrived. 
 

For a long time I used to drive a lot for work so that was my music time but once that stopped it was back to mostly background entertainment. My CD player hasn’t been connected to anything at home for at least a decade.

 

More recently I’ve moved over to Spotify and have a bunch of multi room speakers at home so now I’m discovering new artists again and finding the time to properly listen again. Feels good. 

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14 minutes ago, acidbearboy said:

If I get chance to I will, but like you I have limited free time and a family to consider these days. My vinyl collection gets the least play time, but also the most attention, as it is upstairs in the bedroom with no other distractions. I do sometimes come home from work to an empty house and just sit and listen with a cup of tea, which is nice. But yeah, mostly I listen whilst working, driving, walking, shopping, reading etc. One thing that I used to do a lot as a kid, but never do any more, is listen to music whilst playing videogames on mute.

 

I used to do this a lot as well, but (stupidly) not just with Fifa or other games with throwaway music, but stuff with proper soundtracks, like lots of the JRPGs I used to play. Whenever I listen to Franz Ferdinand's debut I'm immediately reminded of Skies of Arcadia on the Gamecube as I listened to that on repeat while playing it, and the music's supposed to be one of the best parts of the game :doh:

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Oh yes. I had a period where I didn't but now I'm buying loads of records and making a point of active listening. 

 

I'm fucking loving music again. 

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31 minutes ago, Horribleman said:

Oh yes. I had a period where I didn't but now I'm buying loads of records and making a point of active listening. 

 

I'm fucking loving music again. 

 

How do you do it? Just sit and listen through headphones? Read along with the lyrics? Turn your phone off? I need to know your process, man.

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I sit and listen to a couple of records a day. Usually one that I know well or have listened to before, and another that's new. 

 

Sometimes I'm a bit busy and miss a few days, but generally it's a pattern I've stuck to for about twenty years.

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I was heavily into my music, in my younger days. Always had a Walkman with me. 

 

Later, I used to work next door to an Our Price and would basically throw my wallet across the counter every pay day. 

 

Now, I have Spotify and haven't bought a physical album in years. Can't even be fucked going to gigs anymore. 

 

I do still enjoy putting my headphones on and disappearing into a sonic portal for a few hours, but I don't actively follow groups or any of that shit. 

 

 

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9 hours ago, Jamie John said:

 

How do you do it? Just sit and listen through headphones? Read along with the lyrics? Turn your phone off? I need to know your process, man.

I'll either put headphones on while my wife is playing animal crossing or watching something or go in the dining room and put a record on. 

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The times when I'll pay most attention to a piece of music is when it's something I'm learning to play on guitar. Or even if I'm just playing it in Rock Band/Guitar Hero: playing those games is a very active way of listening, because it puts visuals to things such as subtle differences in arrangement between verse 2 and verse 3. (I also seem to be incapable of distinguishing most bass guitar parts without the aid of the volume boosts and colourful gems on every note that you get in those games.)

 

But it's rare that listening to music is the only activity I'm doing - I don't often just put my headphones on and shut my eyes. Gotta do something with my hands! (Stop laughing at the back. :eyebrows:)

 

I try to make the first time I listen to an album an occasion where I can pay a good amount of attention to it. That means that I try not to make my first listen one where I'm browsing the web - reading text is too much of a distraction. So I'll often play a familiar video game that I can play on autopilot that doesn't require sound or text reading - racing games and shooters work well. (I play them when I'm listening to podcasts too.)

 

While I'm getting familiar with an album, I ideally try to listen to it in full from start to finish, because I'm a rockist at heart. :P But after I get familiar with it I start getting more willing to just listen to favourite songs, and to have them on in the background.

 

Sometimes I'll set up a playlist queue of songs I'll be listening to on that day, but I don't make long playlists that I put on shuffle - let alone put my whole MP3 collection on random. Even when I used to commute to work with music in the car, I tended to listen to albums in full rather than on random shuffle.

 

Lyrics are rarely important to me on first listen. The odd line will pop out to me, but it often takes several listens to a song - and seeing the lyrics written down - before I'll put together a coherent picture of what it's about. I've tried listening to albums while reading the lyrics on a website like Genius and I can't do it; with the web browser open I get distracted too easily, in a way that wasn't a problem when I used to listen to CDs while reading the inlay booklet. An unfortunate effect of me not really paying attention to lyrics on first listen is that I don't appreciate rap as much as I know I should; if the track isn't immediately catchy on its own, I'm unlikely to listen to it again to get a better idea of its lyrics' meaning.

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It's so rewarding when you give a record a few listens and think 'shit this is great!'

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It’s rarer now, but I used to do this. When I got a new album - and knew I could have some time to myself - I’d turn the lights down, put some headphones on and just focus on the tunes. Half-listening can feel like a waste of time so often, but I’m finding other ways to enjoy listening, like making a point of finding time to catch up on Release Radar or whatever...

 

E: also, it’s probably a bit different if you have an outlet to talk about music. If you’re reviewing an EP for a blog or something, you’ll engage with the tunes a lot more...

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I just talk to my wife until her ears glaze over about whatever my favourite is at the moment. 

 

I find having deliberately bought decent stereo speakers for my dining room has helped massively. Then I can use that if the living room is in use. And my wife and I sit in there and eat dinner most nights and we'll put a record on and chat. It's lovely!

 

Currently jamming:

Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen

State into Death and be Still - Ulcerate

Dirty Computer and Electric Lady - Janelle Monae

 

Just arrived:

Paradise Lost - Obsidian

Daughters - You Won't Get What You Want

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Like all teenagers, I used to. I thought Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder or Michael Stipe had wisdom to impart. 
 

I don’t think I really stopped until I was older than Kurt Cobain ever was and realised that no 27 year old really knows much about life yet, even if they have some nice insights. 
 

Also, instead of the common perception, I became way more self-obsessed, not less, and had less time for outside influence. 
 

It’s only recently that I’ve started listening more carefully again because I’m recording my own stuff again. 
 

It’s rare that something will seem worthy of dedicated listening time but I recently realised, as a huge Talkibg Heads fan, that I never gave Catherine Wheel by David Byrne the time it deserves / needs and plan to put that right. 

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Every single evening... and every day it differs from another. What shocks me is that I like classic, pop and even rap :)

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Vinyl on my hi-fi in the front room is the only way I properly focus on music now, and even then it's rarely a completely active listen with no other distractions. I'll manage that maybe once or twice a month at most. I should definitely make the effort more often though. Last thing I did it with was Highway 61 Revisited, which was revelatory - there's really no other way to listen to Bob Dylan.

 

Throughout my teenage years I rarely listened to music any other way. My Discman was a constant companion. It helped that I used to wear those ridiculously baggy jeans so I could fit it in my pocket as well. That limitation of having to pick one album to play when I was going out for the day was actually a positive for giving each album the focus it deserved. Probably for that reason I never quite had the same affinity with the iPod when I moved onto that, and then streaming services have obviously taken that up another notch to the point where choice paralysis is a real problem and listening to an album all the way through is more the exception than the norm.

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Yeah I just did this the other night, turned off the light and just sat in front of the window listening to music and watching cars go past and it was great. 
 

definitely helps being present listening to it 

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I love it. It's an emotional release for me. It's therapy and thought provoking and amazing. 

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I rarely solely listen these days, but feel when walking especially I’m listening properly. Looking forward to when we move soon and I’ll have a 25min walk commute each way. I almost always listen to full albums in order, but thanks to an Apple Music subscription each one gets way less time than when I was a teenager and buying a CD was a significant investment.

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Thanks to works somewhat strict no mobiles in work place areas rule.  That means no wifi so that means carrying an mp3 player with a 200 gig sdxc card stuffed with my cd collection ripped to flac/alac and a load of audiobooks (largely big finish) and mix the two up throughout the working day depending on my mood.  Somedays I like it a tad heavier (well heavier than I normally listen to), others I fancy a comedy or a longer story.  I find it somewhat amusing I've spent a fair whack on headphones just to block noises out to listen to voices!  When I get home and want to crash out for an hour or so I'll flick through spotify randomly until I find a cover I like the look of and stick that on.

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All the time. I'd go fucking mad if I didn't. Listening to music incidentally just isn't the same, there's so many great LPs that would have gone under the radar if I hadn't given them full attention. Jazz and Classical in particular don't work for me as background music, you miss so much nuance. At the same time, music I'm familiar with I'm fine with having in the background while I clean, walk, travel, whatever. But something I'm new to absolutely gets my full attention, whether I'm playing it in the garden or listening through headphones at night. I find it very rewarding. It's how I've always done it and would be odd if I didn't.

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It took me years to realise that there are people who incidentally listen to music. At the same time, I do think that some music works better in that mode.

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I do, but not always intentionally - often just sit on the couch, start an album playing, and find I’m not doing anything but listening. I’ve been getting into DSD and HD audio stuff recently though, and there have been a number of weekends recently where on a Friday after the kids have gone to bed I’ve poured myself a beer and just sat and listened to The Dark Side of the Moon. I actually find I have a greater attention span for music than movies these days.

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I find myself listening to radio more than anything. Radio and gaming when I’ve not got the tv and Mac on making music myself.

I have been taking my headphones to work recently and listening to a few albums I really like.

My HomePod isn’t playing music All that often , mostly due to me wanting some background tunes but the HomePod wants it to fill the room so keeps the Bass turned up even on low settings.

The music app guys have a long way to go. I don’t like playlist culture ,I like album structure. If I wasn’t forced to listen to King For a Day Fool For a Life Time because I only had the tape I probably would have bounced off Faith No More And that album extremely quickly.

It’s not because we’re getting old either. Almost all the young guys and girls at work have no real interest in music, they just like some songs and they don’t explore any further than that.
 

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I do like to listen to music in the dark with headphones on, sometimes lying down, sometimes just stood in the dark. Plus in the evenings I'll sometimes turn the computer off and just put a CD on, listen without doing anything else. It's akin to meditation, I have to force myself to concentrate on the music sometimes but it's very rewarding. 

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