I know you can hear me……but are you
really listening?

I had an interesting discussion recently with some parents of my very young students, when one of them remarked that he used to find it very difficult to get his son to sit down and really listen to anything. This led to some fascinating memories by family members of their own childhoods, and it does seem that – ‘way back when’ – children were entertained aurally rather than visually. My own parents remember evenings gathered around the ‘wireless’, rather than the television. The radio was always on; it was the background to almost everything...... ‘Two Way Family Favourites’, ‘Workers’ Playtime’, ‘Listen with Mother’, ‘The Navy Lark’, ‘The Archers’ (still running!). Indeed, one of my mother’s favourite pieces of music is the ‘Berceuse’ from Fauré’s ‘Dolly Suite’, which introduced ‘Listen with Mother’, and I do remember her playing it to me when I was little. Even now, certain pieces of music can stop me in my tracks as I recall having first heard it some twenty years ago – music was our background friend.

Early listening is so important that it cannot be over-emphasised. The hearing of small children is acutely sensitive and diminishes as they get older, so it is imperative that they learn to listen properly. I have written before about the ‘what can you hear?’ game you can play with your child, and it probably goes without saying that if you can hear something, they should be able to hear it even better! Listening accurately goes hand in hand with learning a musical instrument, and the benefits of that have been well documented. Apart from the more obvious motor skill of hand-to-eye co-ordination, others include concentration; discipline (following instructions); memory (helps with retaining information); pattern recognition (helps with mathematics).

My own young students become used to being asked to listen for something in particular in their playing. And to give some of their (even) younger siblings the idea, I have decided to embark upon holding some group lessons. These will not only introduce the subjects of pitch, tempo and sight reading, but central to the exercise will be the use of musical games to teach them how to listen. Each session will end with a musical story, and will include my own favourites – ‘Tubby the Tuba’, ‘The Ugly Duckling’, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, to name a few. So there you have it – ensure your child learns how to listen properly – then they will be bound to hear you when you call for help with the washing up!

Claire S. Partington

C# Music Tuition
Claire's biography is here