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The Art of Listening to Music

Updated on May 19, 2014

It's All About Hearing

The world is full of incredible and interesting things. Music is one of them, for example. There are so many kinds of music yet so many music tastes; some prefer classical, some pop and some rock, some are omnivorous.

It is also interesting how very differently people listen to music. Everyone can listen to music, of course, but not everyone can truly hear the music they are listening to. They probably notice the big things like melody and lyrics, but music isn't just melody and lyrics.

Hearing the music and noticing even the smallest particles of music can be said to be the art of listening to music. If you learn to listen to music, you'll improve your hearing skills and musicality and you'll enjoy music more. And it's fun, too.

The cute picture is by Shiv Shankar.

The Huge Benefits

Learning to hear the music can have great benefits.

Enjoy music more - When you are listening to music and hear something you haven't noticed before, the piece you are listening to sounds fresher. It sounds more interesting and better. Think about musical pieces being icebergs. The part of the iceberg that's visible above the waterline is the big things, like melody and lyrics. Other things are underneath, below the waterline. If you can hear just the top of the iceberg, can you hear the whole musical piece? Can you truly enjoy the music?

Play your instrument better - If you play a musical instrument, like piano or flute, you will improve playing the instrument, too. If you can't really hear the music you are playing, how can you tell if you are playing well? How can you tell what sounds good and what doesn't? Learn to hear the music and you know where you have to improve, and in the other hand you'll be able to play your instrument better.

Improve your hearing - If you can hear music, you will be able to hear other things too. I'm not saying that your hearing will improve, (but it's not impossible either, is is?) but that you can hear more. When you are in a place where is lots of people, you can hear something you wouldn't normally notice if you pay attention. Just like when listening to music.

Attain Perfect Pitch - Last, but not the least, I'm quite sure that training your hearing skills helps achieving perfect pitch. Well, I don't have perfect pitch, but I am nearer perfect pitch than I was before I started to hear music.

How to Practice Listening Skills

Now that I have (hopefully) grabbed your interest let's see how you can practice your listening skills. It's not difficult, but remember that it might be somewhat challenging in the beginning. The more you practice the more you will improve and thus the more you will be able to hear.

The First Steps

  • You can practice with any musical piece. I recommend picking up a song or a piece you really like. It doesn't matter what music genres you prefer.

  • When you listen to music don't do anything else. Surfing the web, reading, writing, speaking and other activities make it more difficult to focus on the music. Closing your eyes may help. Try to eliminate disturbing sounds around you.

  • Wearing headphones may help, too. High-quality headphones ensure that the music sounds as it should.

  • This step is for those who can read sheet music and who have sheet music of the musical pieces they are listening to. - As you listen to music read the sheet music. It makes it easier to listen for different parts of the piece (e.g. the left hand part for piano). This might also improve your sight reading.

The Next Steps

When you listen to music, try the following (the list is not in a particular order):

  • Try to spot every instrument. The bass, the guitar and the drums or the violin, the piano and the flute etc.

  • Pick one instrument and focus only on that instrument. Notice when the drummer starts to play differently (e.g. changes rhythm).

  • Pay attention to the dynamics of the whole musical piece as well as the dynamics of separate instruments. Notice when the pianist adds volume (plays harder) or decreases it.

  • Melody is important. Which instrument is playing the melody, or is the melody played by multiple instruments? Are there multiple melodies?

  • If the melody is played on the piano (or similar instrument), what else is played on the piano? Try to spot the bass (the left hand part for the pianist).

  • If the musical piece features a vocalist or vocalists (singers), try to hear what they are doing. Are they signing the lyrics or making other sounds, like humming?

  • Etc. etc. Do something different, go wild and experiment. Do something that really needs concentration.

In a Nutshell

  • Pick an instrument and pay attention to only it. Later you can try to pay attention and listen to multiple instruments at the same time.

  • Try to hear things you haven't noticed before.

  • Try to hear as much as possible.

  • Enjoy listening to music!

Great Music by Yanni

Yanni is my favorite artist. His music includes (almost) always lots of instruments; lots of things to listen to and hear. I think his best album is "Yanni Live At The Acropolis". Please listen to MP3-samples in the Amazon MP3-module on the left.

Listening to Yanni's music is not only good for music listening practices but also a great and fun way to boost up the mood.

How do you listen to music? Want to share some tips & tricks? Have questions?

At least say hi! :-)

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    • virtualboy profile image

      virtualboy 5 years ago

      I've been thanking about getting those bose headphones

    • profile image

      Edutopia 5 years ago

      This is pretty good advice. Most people seem to focus only on the lyrics of a song and the rest of the music gets ignored. I've always wanted people to focus on beyond the obvious with music.

    • mrniceguy11 profile image

      mrniceguy11 6 years ago

      Great job. I love how you made a very complex concept very simple to do and enjoy. *blessed*

    • whoisbid lm profile image

      whoisbid lm 6 years ago

      well done man!

    • viscri8 profile image

      viscri8 6 years ago

      I am going now to try to apply your listening to music advice. Keep well!

    • ColorPetGifts profile image

      ColorPetGifts 6 years ago

      Beautiful job on this lens about listening to music. I love anything to do with Om in music too - the universal sound of God. High caliber music can really lift one's spirits.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 6 years ago from Colorado

      I love listening to music with high quality headphones. It just seems that you pick up so many more of the music's nuances. It's interesting that you play piano, love Yanni's music, and think Live at the Acropolis is his best album. The same three things apply to me. :-) Thanks for sharing these tips for really hearing and experiencing music at a deeper level. I cannot imagine life without music.

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

      I just close my eyes and listen. Sometimes.

    • dogface lm profile image
      Author

      dogface lm 6 years ago

      @jdwheeler: Good point!

    • jdwheeler profile image

      jdwheeler 6 years ago

      My headphones are my best friend. They bring a whole new dimension to the sounds.

    • dogface lm profile image
      Author

      dogface lm 6 years ago

      @PaulaMorgan: Thank you so much! =)

    • PaulaMorgan profile image

      Paula Morgan 6 years ago from Sydney Australia

      very thoughtful and worthwhile page - blessed by a new angel