Listening Practice

Creative Listening Practice

Creative listening is a learned skill, and should be practiced in the same way musicians practice an instrument. In this article we will listen to one piece and learn some of the questions we might ask to deepen our creative listening skills.

Listen to the piece the first time without knowing anything about it.  You can listen any way you want:

  • with your eyes closed while you listen
  • taking notes while you listen
  • writing poetry or prose while you listen
  • coloring with crayons or colored pencils while you listen
  • walking around while you listen
  • conducting the piece while you listen
  • pretending that you are playing one of the instruments while you listen
  • imagining a story in your mind while you listen
  • any other kind of listening that appeals to you!

When the piece is finished, write down or draw or speak out loud your observations or impressions about the piece.  There are no wrong answers.

The next time you listen to this same piece, pick one or more of the tools for listening: listen for shape, listen for texture, listen with the breath, or any other focus you have chosen.  Listen again, using any of the listening methods.   This time you can add another choice to your listening methods, if you wish:

  • Listen with full score
  • Listen with piano reduction score (for orchestral scores)

Again, write or draw or speak your impressions.  Do you hear the piece differently?   Did you hear anything in the piece that you did not hear the first time?  Did you enjoy the piece more, or less?  Would you want to hear it again?  Share it with anyone?

As a musician, what musical aspects of this piece appeal to you?  Is there anything in the piece that can enhance or deepen your own musicality?  If you’re a performer, did listening to this piece give you a deeper appreciation or understanding of any of your performance pieces or techniques?   If you’re a composer, did you learn any compositional tools?  If you’re a newcomer to music, does this piece inspire you to listen to other pieces by this same composer, or pieces from a similar period?

Now listen to this same piece performed by a different soloist, conductor and orchestra, and follow along on the score with a piano reduction.  How do your impressions of the piece change?  Do you enjoy it more or less?  Could you recognize this piece if you heard it again?

As we said in the beginning of this article, creative listening is a learned skill, just like playing an instrument or composing.  The more you practice creative listening, the more wonders you will discover in the music!


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