Back to School – Listening

Back-To-School-ListeningWe want to help you practice better. Our newsfeed will keep you up to date with regular advice. Free personal help is available in our practice clinic and new news and offers can be found in our newsletter.

The best thing you can do when starting out on learning an instrument is to understand the importance of listening. More than anything else your ability to listen will affect if you succeed or fail.


OK, so not very subtle but it is that important. The more you can develop your listening the more you can tell which areas of your playing need improving. Think of it like this: You go to a lesson once a week with your teacher. You pay them a fee for this. This fee is essentially rent for their ears. You use their ears for 30 minutes so that they can listen and suggest improvements. Imagine if you could listen as well as your teacher . . .

Here are some areas that you should concentrate on when listening:

Own Sound

Make sure to really listen to the sound you are making. Is it the sound you want? If not why not? Is it consistent?


You should of course listen when your teacher plays. More importantly you should pay very close attention to what they say. When you get out of the lesson you need to be able to remember the things they said and try to improve your playing yourself.

Other Players

During the early stages of playing you might not know how your instrument should or could sound. Try to listen to other people playing. Go to concerts and listen to recordings. Try to figure out why they sound like they do. Is it the sound they make? Rhythm? The way the notes start?

Other Music

If you want to become a well rounded musician you should know a bit about lots of different music. Make sure to listen to lots of different things. The radio can be good for this but only if you change stations regularly!

Musical Elements

A piece of music is not just made up of notes. There are things like the speed of notes, how loud or soft the music is, how long or short the notes are, how far apart notes are and many, many others. Try to listen to all of these, not at once as that is very difficult! Take them individually and listen carefully to see what makes each element the way it is.


Listening in fine detail is perhaps the most useful thing you can do. Most practising musicians do not do this. They therefore miss opportunities to make improvements.

Listen as closely as you can and ask yourself lots of questions. What that correct? Too much? Too little? To loud? Long enough? The more questioning you are of your listening the better it will become.

Make sure you also focus your listening. If you want to play more musically you might focus on a phrase. If you are working on pitches you might focus on individual notes. When working on technique you will want to go to even greater detail, listening to the start of the note, it’s tone and then how it ends.

These suggestions are only a start on the subject of listening. Give some time over to getting better at listening and you will be very glad that you did.

Leave a Reply