I bet, that you don't know how to listen to music.

Usually the music is played while we clean the house or wash clothes. It is in the background, but we do not actually listen to it. To really enjoy 'good' music of any genre we must really listen to it. Sit down, have a cup of coffee or a drink of choice, and listen. You will be amazed at how enjoyable this can be.

Listen to music that might be new to you, or that you wished you could understand. Try a light opera, or perhaps a show tune, played by an orchestra or just on piano. Do not think of anything else. This is a time to listen, enjoy and relax. You are going to try to develop a mental map of the music.

Understand that in musical composition, there are three main technical ideas:

  • Repetition
  • Variation
  • New Melodies

Listen, and try to notice whether what you are hearing is the same as what you have previously heard in the same piece. Identify the elements:

  • Repetition
  • Related but Different (Variation)
  • Seeming unrelated to everything you previously heard (New)

Learn that the introduction, or beginning of a piece is always new. There is very often also something new very near the end. Locate passages that you find especially rewarding. Are these passages repetitions, variations, or new? If they are variations, can you realize what it was that was varied?

Listen once more to the same passage. This time, pay attention to what brings the music to these passages. Listen to as many details as you can.

  • Colors
  • Balances
  • Textures of the different sounds of which music is composed.

Try to isolate specific details:

  • Rhythms, whether in the foreground or background, that seem to interact
  • Short melodic figures, either in the principal melody
  • Accompaniment.

Listen again, narrowing your focus: listen only to the bass, if there is one. Notice things in the bass that seem alive, pregnant with meaning. Notice all the details you previously noticed by switching your attention from one to the other. Notice the kinds of changes that happen at your favourite moment. Does the melody soar into an unfamiliar accent? Does a new rhythm add pungency? Does a buzz suddenly splinter into a fractured collision?

Develop your mental map of the characters, actors and energies that combine to create music. If these steps are correctly followed, the result will be a panoramic expansion of your musical experience, which may be likened to listening in color.

Talk given by deaf percussionist, Evelyn Glennie at the TED Conference. Using drums and a xylophone she talks about how to listen to music with your whole body.


  • Do Not confuse a Music Video with Music. The best music usually doesn't require any verbal or visual associations to make it better. Try closing your eyes and imagine colors or try to picture the music with your current life setting for an appropriate situation. Use your emotional interpretation to intuit what the composer tried to express, try connecting with the composers reality.
  • Listen to Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons without looking at the track titles and try guessing each season. You'll be astonished to find out how music alone can form pictures in your head without the use of any words.
  • Listen emotionally. That is, let your feelings and mood change as the sounds you hear change.
  • All music without exception is based on repetition, variation, and new melodies. Even if you can't enjoy the music, you can always try to see how those principles are applied. Doing this might help the music 'click'.
  • Try to listen to Robert Kapilow's "What Makes it Great?" CD's. They can be very helpful.

That's all. I hope that was interesting to you. Leave a comment.


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