Listening – To concentrate on hearing something
Listening is a term I learned to become very familiar with while studying for my music degree in my undergrad. Up to this point, I had thought of listening as being a very simple action; you’re either or you’re not. I did not think of listening as being a skill that can be worked on, practiced, and developed to a higher level, like many other aspects of music performance. It was a wild experience to see how much more some of my peers could get out of listening to someone play Ride of the Valkyries on tuba than I could. These classmates could pick out and analyze parts of the music that I didn’t even know were happening, because listening was a skill they have been practicing and developing for years already.
Ever since then, my entire approach to active music listening changed a great deal. I’m always trying to find different things to listen to in familiar music that I might not have noticed before, such as vocal harmonies, time changes, musical nuances, etc. In time, the skill started to get easier. By practicing active listening with music, I noticed that many aspects of my musicality improved. My sense of rhythm and pitch got better and singing harmonies got so much easier. Many of these listening skills carried over to other parts of my life, the biggest one being the social skills and communication. For most of my life, hearing non-verbal inflections in the voice was not easy for me, and that’s such a big part of expressive communication. Now, however, hearing and understanding these non-verbal cues has become very natural for me, which has helped immensely in my music therapy internship. The skill of actively listening and picking out both verbal and nonverbal forms of communication has been essential while working with clients in music therapy. It helps to understand what kind of emotions a client might be feeling when they cannot verbally tell you. It also helps greatly while helping a client write song lyrics about something that has happened in their life. By practicing active listening, I was able to work on a lot of these skills and apply them to my practice as a music therapist.
The sense of hearing is the sense that we, as music therapists, connect with the most. It’s the medium by which we intervene and improve our client’s lives. We’re always hearing. We never stop hearing. In fact, the very last sense to go during death is the sense of hearing. However, hearing and listening are two different activities. Listening takes attention, practice, and development. Developing the skill of listening has helped to improve many aspects of my life, and the people I work with.