Skip to main content

Passive vs. Active Listening

Listening should be the cornerstone for any type of musical training.  Music is sound art.  Without knowing what has been accomplished, how can a student know what could be accomplished?

Intonation, rhythm, musicality, phrasing, tone, and artistry are just a few of the things we learn from listening to music.  But not all listening is equal.  It's important to understand the two main types in order to really make the experience effective.

Passive listening is having the piece or pieces you are learning going on in the background.  It could be a single piece or an entire set of repertoire your teacher expects you to become familiar with.  Passive listening should not be intrusive.  The music should be at a moderate to low volume so you can concentrate on other things.

The idea behind passive listening is to start learning the cadences and patterns to your piece.  It's similar to trying to learn a language.  If you have Spanish radio on you start to become comfortable with the ebb and flow of Spanish pronunciation.  Not every word needs to be understood.  Your brain is learning how to predict the patterns.

Active listening is listening with intention.  At this point you are either listening to a single piece or maybe just a single passage in a single piece.  The music should not only have your entire focus but there should also be something you are pointedly focusing on.  For example, trying to hear dynamics or trying to hear a particular pitch.

Active listening is a deeper study.  You know the piece and now it's time to figure out how to play the piece.  This same holds true for every craft.  Authors are not simply born with witty lines and a knack for describing action scenes.  These things must be studied and practiced.

Both types of listening are equally important.  Active listening loses its effectiveness if you're having to waste the type learning how your music goes.  And passive listening will never give you the level of detail you need to know in order to truly master a piece.  Both need to take place and both need to be just as important as time spent playing the instrument.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Principles of Sowing and Reaping for the Suzuki Parent: 5 Steps to Beginning Suzuki Success by Preparing the Soil

Last school year, I started a group of 4-5 year old students in a pre-twinkle cello class. One mother actively ignited her daughter Ella’s interest in the cello before enrolling in the program. Over the course of a few months, she helped Ella prepare to engage in a new learning process. They observed lessons, listened to cello music, talked about the cello, and actively built Ella’s excitement - all before starting lessons.

This experience allowed me to see how much a parent can cultivate their child’s interest, motivation, and readiness. It gave me a new appreciation for the parents’ role in preparing young children for a positive Suzuki experience.

Here are five ways to prepare the soil to help your child succeed in a Suzuki experience.


1. Build Your Knowledge

Parents are integral to the success of the Suzuki process. If you start a young child in a Suzuki program, your role as a parent will be very active. Your knowledge and education about the Suzuki method and philosophy helps y…

The Private Teaching Business Model

Over my years of teaching I've come across a wide variety of interpretations about the private teaching business model.  I feel that this is a natural result of the type of society we live in.  Many services these days are either "subscriptions" or "appointments."  For example, a gym membership is a subscription.  You pay a monthly fee to use the facility at any time during their hours of operation.  A doctor's visit or a haircut is an "appointment."  You call ahead to set up a time, you show up and then pay after the services have concluded.

With most services falling into one of these two categories, most people try to rationalize music lessons as one or the other.  However, music lessons are neither subscriptions or appointments.  They are actually a combination of both if the business entity is going to be successful.

The reasons why this hybrid business model occurs are:

1)  The service itself is centered around personal attention (appointmen…

Martial Arts and Music

I remember a few years ago I was having a conversation with one of my adult students about martial arts and music.  I always looked forward to my conversations with this student because she happened to be a fabulous Montessori teacher and founded what ended up being one of the biggest Montessori schools here in San Diego.  So she was this wealth of knowledge and it was such a privilege for me to be able to "pick her brain" from time to time.

Going back to the conversation, she observed that music and martial arts work really well together because they both required the same type of focus.  I have practiced martial arts for almost ten years so this is an opinion I have had for a long time but it surprised me to hear it coming from someone else.

Both music and martial arts revolve around the idea of a focused body and mind.  Teaching an extremely young student how to keep their instrument in place for one Twinkle is more mental training rather than physical.  Holding a light …