Listening is the best way to teach music, or at the very least it is very effective. We can often forget that playing students lots of music can really help them with their understanding. In this 10 Minute CPD blog I consider both the power and process of listening to music in lessons.
So why is it that I think listening is such a powerful approach in the classroom?
For me I think part of my role is to expose students to as much music as possible. I want to make sure that they are curious about my subject and I want to ensure they hear as much as possible. Often in lessons we play something quickly but don’t necessarily allow enough time for it to sink in.
When introducing a new topic it is great to immerse the students in examples of the music. This gives them a clear idea of what they are learning about and it is also highly engaging. And listening to a wide range of music is now easier than ever with streaming services widely available.
I have blogged in the past about Deliberate Listening, the process of choosing specific music and listening out for specific things. This is something I would encourage as an approach. When we play music to our classes we should be guiding them on what to listen out for, and we can model this for them. I will often talk over a piece of music to show the students my thought process, pointing out the key features and musical moments. Then I allow them to think for themselves, taking questions and responses at the end. You can easily pack a whole lesson full of listening, and the more they hear the more curious they become.
Making the listening deliberate is important, because we are training them how to be students of music. Opinions and thoughts are great, but we want detail and this should be coupled with key terminology. Once students have listened to music discussion can ensue on exactly what they heard. This can then lead to questions about why the music sounded the way it sounded.
You could even encourage your students to keep a listening diary. I have used a great one provided by the wonderful Sean Young on his TES page. You can also follow some great music teachers on twitter who regularly post listening examples for students. Ripley Music Department are good at this and also post reading on their twitter.
I think every music lesson should include some music, with some lessons packed more full than others. It might be a starter task at the beginning of a lesson, or you may even have music playing as they enter. We want students to be thinking as soon as they arrive and we can really engage them in the lesson with music. We can also send them out into their next lesson with a piece of music that sums up everything from the lesson.
Listening is a core skill for music students and we mustn’t assume that they do listen to music. Some listen more than others of course, and we need to encourage all students to enjoy music. But we also need to embed the skill of being about to listen out deliberately for key features. It might seem obvious to you reading this post, but for some maybe it is nudge to play more music. Some students love the chance to really listen and think in a lesson, and it is a really enjoyable task. Sometimes the music will be less to their taste and so we need to bring it to life. Setting the scene can help, or showing a video with the band, orchestra or artist performing.
Listening is the Best
And finally I would urge all teachers to listen to as much music as possible as part of their own CPD. I love listening to music and going to see it live. I see it is as a massive part of my development as a music teacher and it gives me so much subject knowledge. If I am teaching a topic like Film Music then I immerse myself in that music. So do consider your own approach to listening and maybe try something new! If you have holes in your own knowledge then get listening and you will quickly fill those gaps.
And do let me know what you love to listen to as enjoy discovering new music!