12 Ways to Listen More

Every Suzuki student should know the difference between Active and Passive listening, and incorporate both into everyday life and practice. And even if you're not a Suzuki student, you should still know and do both. You should know because listening is a crucial part of being a musician. Listening constantly to music teaches the brain to listen for those sounds in the future.

I ask all my students to listen to the entire Suzuki CD (of whatever book they're learning) once each day. Sometimes its like pulling teeth to get this to happen, but when it does, EVERYONE wins. I don't think students would "hem'n'haw" so much if they knew how much easier life gets when they listen to the songs they're learning or have learned.

It happened this week with one of my kiddos. We missed our lesson last week because I was at Teacher Training, so she did a lot of listening. Oh sweet victory! It worked! She came to her lesson yesterday with the next song's notes learned and her body and soul were ready to "get her learn on!" Mom even noticed a difference!

So here's the deal with listening. There's Active Listening and Passive Listening. It's important that musicians do both. Both engage different parts of the brain, parts that we need while playing music ourselves. Both assist in a general comprehension of the music to which you're listening.

Active Listening


Active Listening can be thought of as reacting to what you're hearing. When you're actively listening to the music, it has your undivided attention. You then do something that demonstrates you are listening and understood.

Passive Listening


Passive Listening can be thought of as listening without reacting. Music turned on the background is a good example of this kind of listening. You're hearing the music, but not necessarily responding to it outright.

Imagine a 9 year old playing video games in the basement. Mom yells downstairs, "Dinner's ready. Bring up the laundry when you come up!" A good example of active listening happens when our little gamer friend, yells "Coming!" and adds, "The laundry's not dry yet!" Proof of passive listening would be if he paused the game and just came up stairs. He might've heard his mom say something but comprehension and understanding didn't occur (or let's face it, he might just be lazy.)

Ways to incorporate Active Listening into your own practice routine...


- Freeze and hold for the entire length of the song. Do this with bow holds, cello posture, extensions, anything that requires a static muscle memory.
- Turn it up and Dance! This works wonderfully to songs in 3/4 or in 6/8. It allows you to really feel the sway of the rhythm and musical phrases.
- Watch it happen on paper! Listen to the song while you drag your finger across the page. I have even known some students to mimic the needed weight of the bow on the page with their finger tip.
- Air-bow in your lap with the bow upside-down (bow hair in the air) and do the bowings during the song.
- You make me want to La, La! (Sing "La" along with the music.)

Passive Listening Ideas


- Turn it on while doing chores.
- Listen while you write in the bowings. This should probably be done towards the beginning of learning a piece to have its full effect.
- Have it playing in the background of work or homework. (Make sure this is okay with your cubicle partner or have headphones handy.)
- Draw or color while listening. Brownie points for drawing me a picture and emailing it to me!
- Take a bath and have it playing.
- Listen in the car
- Listen while brushing your teeth and getting ready for bed. (This one's especially good for (pre)Twinklers. Twinkle is the perfect teeth brushing length!)