While you may already know the basics on how to listen to music and enjoy what you are hearing, it takes a trained ear to fully appreciate the craftsmanship and musical talent that goes into a song. The ability to dissect a song and hear all of the different instruments, intricate melodies and tempo will take your love for music to the next level. You don’t need to be a professionally trained music producer to pick out frequencies, match notes and fully enjoy the work that went into your favourite song. Here are four exercises that anyone can practise to train his or her ears on how to listen to music like a true music professional.
Step one: How to listen to music
Conscious listening with your favourite music
You don’t need any fancy software or mixing boards to learn how to listen to music like a producer or a sound engineer. Start off by intentionally listening to your favourite style of music. Pick out all of the different instruments that are in the track and listen to it on repeat while you focus on one instrument at a time. Listen to how each instrument plays off the other, and take notes about what you like to hear most. Identify the patterns that are repeated throughout the song and tap your foot along to the tempo. And if you want a real challenge, try listening to music out of your comfort zone and identify what elements make that music genre different—and the same—as your favourite music style.
Listening to your music library in High-Resolution Audio will make these tasks much easier. Songs in High-Resolution Audio quality retain much more information from the original recording session. When songs are converted to MP3 files, they lose a lot of that data and it makes it harder to distinguish the nuances in each song. Try listening to songs with your Sony MDR-1A headphones in a quiet room where you are able to fully concentrate on the music and identify each part of the song.
Step two: How to listen to music
Learn music theory basics
While you don’t need to go back to school to train your ears on how to listen to music, brushing up on some basic music theory will help you appreciate how music is composed. When you understand the rules that musicians use to create music, you can more easily start to recognize them in the music you listen to. For instance, knowing that melodies are made up of pitch, duration, rhythm and tempo can help you start to pick out each of these musical elements on their own.
Take some time to learn the vocabulary of music composition and how the elements work together to create your favourite music. One of the best ways to put your knowledge of musical theory to the test is to listen to classical music. Composers like Mozart and Beethoven offer a great way to learn what some of those terms mean firsthand and an awesome source of inspiration if you ever want to write your own music.
Step three: How to listen to music
Understanding and identifying frequencies
A vital element of sound, frequencies help us learn how to listen to music, recognize distinct voices, identify notes and even differentiate between music genres. Humans can hear a range of frequencies between 20 hertz and 20,000 hertz. While you certainly don’t need to be able to identify every frequency in that range, it is important to be able to identify between low, medium and high frequencies. Music producers use frequencies to mix music and create the final track that we all hear.
There are many resources out there that will go over what each range of frequencies sounds like and which range certain instruments fall into. For example, if you want to give your song the feeling of fullness and body, you should boost sounds in the 200–300 hertz range. This range will capture the notes of a snare drum and cymbals and will also make an acoustic guitar sound more full. While you don’t have to memorize every range, looking over all the ranges to identify which instrument falls into which category will help you achieve the sound you want to hear.
Step four: How to listen to music
Play back notes and songs on your own instrument
There’s no denying that one of the best ways to truly learn how to listen to music and grasp the concepts behind each song is to play it on your instrument of choice. You don’t need to be a musical genius to do this. Simply playing the basic chords of the chorus of your favourite song will help you understand how the music works a little bit better. Learning how to play the piano is the choice of many music producers simply because it is a versatile instrument that exposes you to many different notes, keys and styles.
No matter which instrument you choose, you’ll learn music theory along the way. Practising the basics like the "Do, Re, Mi" scale will teach you relative pitch that repeats at every interval. And if you don’t have an instrument handy, you can even use your voice. Singing or playing along to a song playing on the radio or your personal music player is a great way to see how that instrument fits into the structure of the entire song.
Practice makes perfect
You don’t have to be a professional music producer to identify and enjoy each part of the music you love listening to. Learning about the creative world of music will increase your appreciation for your favourite songs and artists. These four activities on how to listen to music will help train your ears in no time and maybe even inspire you to write a song or two.