- Who is this artist? A who, what, where, when, why question about the performer.
- Who is the composer? Same questions come to mind.
- What instruments are performing?
- What style is the music? Baroque, Hip-hop, Classical, early jazz, Rock, Heavy metal, Grunge, experimental, etc. If you are not sure dig in and do some research.
- If there are lyrics, consider transcribing them by ear and writing them down. This is an illuminating experience if the music is in a style you do not normally listen to. Or never listen to.
- Now let us go deeper into the piece. Can you pick up the form? If it is classical is it in Sonata form, Rondo, etc. If pop is it: intro, verse, verse, chorus, verse chorus, bridge, chorus and out. If jazz is it in 32 bar AABA or blues form?
- If it is modern pop, does it have a four-chord cycling progression?
- If it is classical, what is the time signature?
- Is there improvisation?
- Is there a score available online? If so, you might try your hand at it.
Listening to an unfamiliar piece of music can be pleasurable, baffling or even annoying. Here are some steps to consider making it a deeper experience.
Ear training gives you the ability to conceptualise what you hear, nothing more. There are countless phone apps, YouTube videos, and social media hustlers, and books promising results in short order. Unless you are in possession of perfect pitch and deep prior experiences listening to music, this will take some time. I am 48 years in. I am still working on it.
Ear Training for Jazz Musicians
Listening is practicing. A bold statement I'll stick to. Try the following immersive listening exercise.
This is just the beginning of learning to listen like a musician. As a musician I ask myself when listening, "what is going on here?"
I'm a professional pianist and music educator in West Toronto Ontario. I'm also a devoted student of the drums.