How helpful are recordings when learning a new piece?

Hands up if you look up performances on places like YouTube when learning a new music piece?

Back in the olden days when I was having music lessons, there was no such thing as YouTube. Internet was through the phone line (showing my age now!) and deathly slow. Lecturers at university actually suggested taking a book to read when browsing the internet to relieve the boredom of waiting for pages to load!

How times have changed!

When learning a new piece of music, the only option for listening to other performances was to buy a CD and wait for it to arrive in the post. These days, however, students have all kinds of online resources instantly available to help with all aspects of learning a piece.

But is this always an advantage?

With rhythms, for example, students can listen to how it should sound without having to necessarily do much thinking. They can potentially replicate what they hear. Similarly, students could do the same with expression and dynamics.

It poses an interesting question. Does this allow for creating an individual and interesting performance? Perhaps it is better to avoid all recordings while learning a piece and ‘write your own story’ to avoid producing a carbon copy of other performances?

Listening to other recordings is, without doubt, a valuable exercise but what do you consider to be the advantages and disadvantages for your students?

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