The Art of Listening to Music
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! :-)