CPD GCSE A-Level Key Stage 3

Challenge your Listening

Listening is really important for your students. Whether it be listening to set works or simply listening to music, it is something that must be encouraged. But do you ever challenge your listening? Do you think about what you are going to listen to as a teacher? How well you listen will affect how well you teach!

Listening to Learn

Listening to learn is something we all need to do, because there is always something we can learn. It might be that as a music teacher you don’t know much about opera, 1970s rock or cinematic music. You need to make sure that you listen and learn, so that you can best support your students. This is now easier than ever what with YouTube and streaming services.

But this is something that you need to plan for and make time for. Maybe at half term you can sit down and work out what areas of your musical knowledge could do with a listening boost. Then plan a playlist and start listening.

Listening to Teach

In order to teach a topic effectively we need to make sure that we have listened to all relevant music. This could be the other movements from a set work. It might be the rest of the musical or album. As a music teacher it is your job to make sure that you go into a lesson with a good bank of listening. This will not only help you prepare, but will mean you have everything ready to teach the lesson.

Listening to teach is also about broadening your horizons and knowledge, making sure that you understand bands, composers, genres, artists and styles. I guess there is cross over with listening to learn.

Listening to Rehearse

If you are rehearsing a song, section or movement, then it is a good idea to listen to it. The more you listen, the more you will know. It might be that you are rehearsing something a little less known or at least a piece that you haven’t worked with before. Listening to professional recordings can be really helpful.

This is also good advice for students who are preparing for a solo performance. Often students don’t think to seek our professional recordings and it is now easier than ever.

Deliberate Listening

I use this phrase Deliberate Listening every week in my teaching and conversations with music teachers. We need to be deliberately choosing what we listen to, and we need to get our students to do the same. It is no good simply listening randomly to music and hoping to learn. We must carefully choose what we listen to and why. I have just started teaching the Vaughan Williams set work “On Wenlock Edge”. I have therefore been deliberately listening to some song cycles again to brush up my knowledge.

As teachers we should model deliberate listening to our students. They can then be tasked with drawing up a listening plan where they deliberately choose what they are going to listen to. Maybe do a Desert Island Discs style lesson where you share the music that really matters to you.

But I will say, it is also fine just to listen randomly, and have music on in the background! I am not advocating that listening should become an arduous task that is no longer fun!

Challenge your Listening

Listening to music is one of my favourite things to do. I wish I had more time to do it, but I try to make time where I can. For me its about finding something new and challenging my ears from time to time. I hope this blog has got you thinking and now you can share this with your students. What are they learning about that they could support with listening? Are they preparing for performance and have they listened to it?

My goal is to get my students listening to more music! And that is what I want for my own life! Next stop the rest of the Vaughan Williams Symphony cycle I am currently listening to!


  1. Wise words, as always – thanks, James! I’m also teaching RVW at the moment. Do you know RVW Silent Noon, Warlock The First Mercy or Butterworth’s version of On Bredon Hill? Fabulous songs and great to compare the word setting with OWE.

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