5 Steps for Teaching Listening Analysis
As a Music teacher, teaching listening analysis skills come second only to performance skills. I have always found it interesting that there is a strong correlation between good listening skills and performance skills. Students who can critically analyse a piece of music from listening to it, seem to always be better prepared in performance because they have the ability to apply what they hear to what they play.
So how do you teach these skills? Well, it is not something that just happens. It is a skill that needs to be explicitly taught and modelled so that students can develop into better musicians.
This post is about how I help my students navigate their way through this skill so they can become critical thinkers, better writers and even better musicians. There links to heaps of FREEBIES, YouTube resources and products, so keep reading!
The very first thing you should do with any new class is a Pre-Test for listening skills. This can take any form you wish, I have used for many years what was called the “Selmer Test”. This test is a really old one! A former colleague of mine had a recording of this, and it was on cassette, now if your remember a tape/cassette player you are showing your technology age. The test was quite simple, but it was good indicator of a students’ musical “ear”. The test had activities such as pitch—higher/lower/same, rhythm same/different, chords same/different, melody same/different. Do yourself a favour and keep a record of this pre-test data, it will help you track your students and their progress.
Teach your students the definitions of musical terms. You can do this however you choose. I have used lots of different strategies over the years, but the best seems to be a combination of techniques. I teach the term, demonstrate what it sounds like with either a live demonstration or use of a recording. We write this information down. After this, to cement the ideas/concepts I like to use cooperative learning activities with resources like my FREE Term Cards. These cards are best printed and laminated for durability, then the students match the definition and term as a group. They really love doing this activity, no matter their age!
The other resource that my students like to use are the FREE YouTube clips that I created about 5 years ago. These videos were created to help a year 11 Music class, but ever since then I have used them with every single Music class that I have taught! You get to hear my lovely Aussie accent 🙂 the links to each are below. You can also purchase all the Power Point slides that accompany these videos at my store, link here
The next step is to teach students to use this information with the music that you are currently studying in class. At this point I use the Question cards that are also FREE at my store! For each of the Concepts of Music there are a series of questions, and possible things to observe while listening to the music. I always use the Model, Guided and Independent approach at this stage. So for each concept I show the class what to do, we then have a go together with another piece of music, then they complete a listening analysis on their own. I will always mark the work and record the data. At this stage I know if we have to go over anything or if we can keep moving forward.
At this stage I also like to teach how to put the information from the analysis into Paragraph form. This can be quite a daunting task for many students, but if you follow the Modelled, Guided and Independent strategy, your students will become confident in this part of the process. Currently I am doing this process with my Year 7 classes. We are studying the Pioneers of Rock and have been listening to music, analysing it and then writing a paragraph about the music—together! We are still in the modelling phase, but that is OK! They have an assignment that they will complete independently soon, so all the help they can get before doing this on their own will not only improve the quality of work but also the completion rate!
The next step is to let students complete a full analysis on their own as an assignment. I have a set assignment for each year group, and each year the analysis gets harder and more in depth. The Mega Bundle of Music Listening Analysis has enough assignments for 6 year groups. The first one has more simple question that cover the big ideas. The second one has more questions for students to cover and complete in their analysis. The third one is at the same level as the second one except it asks students to compare two pieces of music. This of course adds to the complexity of the task. This assignment I use at the end of Year 9 and in Year 10. The assignment does not only ask students to complete the analysis questions on two pieces of music, but to also compare and then write a paragraph explaining the similarities and differences between the two pieces of music. To help you know what your students should be able to do, I have collated 10 different student samples for you to use. Some of these samples are brilliant examples of what to do and what students in Years 9 and 10 are capable of, but some samples are also not so great, demonstrating the realities of teaching!
This all leads students down the path to analysis. In New South Wales, Australia, Year 12 Music 1 students complete an Aural Exam where they listen to a music excerpt and answer a question based on the Concepts of Music (four questions and music excerpts in total). Over the years I have created so many listening resources for my students in preparation for this type of exam. Through experience, I know the best way to prepare my students for this type of exam is to start early, and by this I mean from the beginning of their musical journey in high school. This has meant that in their Year 12 exam, my students have always performed well above state averages! There are lots of different ways to success in musical analysis, but the best way from my experience is to guide students through the steps I have outlined in this post.
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Julia from Jooya