Teaching

Benefits of Listening

This week my focus has been on CD listening. As the week went on I began to wonder whether my students were listening enough or not. To be fair to them, it just happened that CD listening was the particular bee in my bonnet this week! I think for the most part we don’t fully understand WHY we should be listening more. We know it’s the right thing to do, and we know that it’s good for us in some way but it struck me that maybe we need to discuss Why.

Here are some of the reasons we should be encouraging our students and children to listen to music, and not just the music they are learning, but all or any music!

  1. Students can internalise the music they are trying to learn: When a student is learning a piece and only listening to themselves playing it, then the only version they can draw on is their own and possibly fragments of the teacher’s. Internalising the piece is like embedding or downloading the piece so it’s much easier to recall and memorise.
  2. Hearing more than just notes: As a student grows and develops we want their playing style to develop too. How are they to improve their playing of a piece if they only have themselves to compare to? When they listen to music they are gaining far more from it than just a melodic line. They are subconsciously taking in articulation, dynamics, bowing styles and patterns, form and much much more.
  3. Tuning: Tuning, or intonation, is so difficult to work on. I do my best to give my students a good grounding in tuning. Many of them will instinctively know when something sounds off and others could be playing almost a different note and not know they are out of tune. Partly I believe it is down to focus and attention and actually caring where your fingers land and caring about making a good sound, and partly it’s down to hearing when a note is or is not in tune. If a student is not listening to their cd and not playing in tune, they are essentially telling their brains that their out-of-tuneness is perfectly fine and it becomes in tune to them. This is the most difficult challenge a music teacher faces.
  4. Aspiration: Listening to music that is within the reach of a student’s capabilities is a great way of inspiring them to keep playing. They begin to hear music and view musicians in a different way, they can now aspire to be like them, or even better than them and that is great! I’ve spoken before about looking at the big picture and not getting too bogged down in constantly wanting to get on to the next piece. Yes, listening to the next piece on will help a student learn it but listening to the next book or two will help the student want to learn it.
  5. Music is good for you!: There are I’m sure hundreds of studies done to prove the benefits of music on the brain. For me it’s a no-brainer (excuse the pun!). Listening to music helps develop a student’s playing for sure but meanwhile it is also working away and benefiting the child and anyone else listening in ways we can’t even imagine.

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Just a quick glance around the web yielded the following interesting facts on music listening. In my opinion, regardless of where they come from and their legitimacy, if there is even a chance that they are all true I would be playing music constantly if I could!

  • Music can help us focus, relieving stress and anxiety.
  • Music can melt away a bad mood
  • Music helps develop the areas of the brain that are involved in language and reasoning.
  • Music helps you sleep better
  • Music strengthens learning and memory
  • Music can trigger physiological changes that modulate blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration.

 

Finally, Einstein – who reportedly was a friend of Dr Suzuki – once said that were he not a physicist he would be a musician!

 

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