Listening - the Easy Way to Learn Music
June 22, 2021 by DaveesP
Ever wondered why some people have the innate ability to play or sing anything they’ve just heard, while others struggle to decipher? Are they the chosen ones or blessed with some magical powers? Of course not! In fact the ability to ‘play by ear’ or ‘sing by ear’ can be developed by anyone in a very short span of time, probably quicker than learning from a ‘sheet of notes’ or trying to read music. Even a 3-year-old can start humming or singing the song he listens to again and again – it’s nothing but ‘exposure effect’. Listening literally means ‘hearing a sound with attention’. How can a language be best learnt? Is it by teaching alphabets formally? Well, it’s just a part of the process. The process of learning is effective only when the learner has constant exposure to the environment where the language is spoken and the conversations can be heard. Eventually, this listening initiates learner’s participation in a conversation. Similarly, ‘Listening to music’ starts when a child listens to the mother humming tunes! ‘Listening to music’ starts when music is played at home. ‘Listening to music’ initiates the process of learning the language of music. Music learning needs to be nourished by constant encouragement and listening material.
“Musical ability is not an inborn talent but an ability which can be developed. Any child who is properly trained can develop musical ability, just as all children develop the ability to speak their mother tongue. The potential of every child is unlimited.” The Suzuki method of teaching music advocates that children should actually learn to play music by listening first and then learn to read musical notes. Humans are born with the potential both to learn language and to make music. It’s all about the right exposure and kindling the love for music in them to develop a better sense of musicality.
Develop your listening ears
Listen. Sing. Listen. Do a lot of listening! Listen to others, listen to yourself and listen to the whole group. Grab a recorder and listen to yourself. There’s a big difference between active listening and just hearing! Active listening means paying attention to every detail – the notes and the pitch. The key is to start with a simple melody and slowly when you catch hold move to the complex ones. "Musical repetition gets us mentally imagining or singing through the bit we expect to come next" explaining why people listen to their favorite songs on repeat. Believe it or not, listening to music is more than 50% of learning music!
Aural not visual!
Music is an aural medium then why use only visual methods for learning it? To achieve perfection, it is necessary to combine the right balance of aural and vocal skills together. As most performances are not solo, understanding the musical harmony is essential. It’s not just about listening to your own voice, it’s important that you understand all the other (musical or vocal) parts and thus improve the overall sound. Thus listening is an extremely important aspect of singing to get things ‘just right’. Simply put - listening is a passive act, singing is an active action.
Practice. Practice. And practice more!
There’s no alternative route or shortcut. Nothing can replace practice! Record what you sing, hum in your head, listen to your recording, get your teacher to record and listen to that and then practice with these resources - practising helps you gain confidence. Making transitions between two notes becomes smooth by having a listening ear – when you are sure how it should sound you’ll be able to take those leaps confidently.
Listen to Learn Music
To become a better singer or even to get started as a singer, ear training is a must! By developing the sense of relative pitch, singers can:
- Analyze their voice if they are singing in the right tune and correct their pitch.
- Cultivate appreciation of musical melody which will help them perform better in a group (with other musicians or singers).
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