Listening Log Guidelines and Recommendations

Listening Log is our Music Appreciation Course

Dear Parents and Students!

This page is designed to help student complete weekly assignments, either in paper form or online by posting on our Listening Blog specifically designated for students’ sharing their assignments. Please, note that the LLBlog is open to public, so take steps to help your children achieve and maintain appropriate approach to posting things publicly and protecting their privacy.

Below are general guidelines to help students and parents understand better the objectives of the course. These are not meant to limit the students’ exploration of the world of music, but to inspire them to open and widen their interests, as well as to teach them basics of critical listening.

Listening part.

Each student needs to listen to a minimum of two pieces per week and write comments for the Listening Log. The length of pieces has to be chosen appropriate to the student’s age, here is an approximate breakdown by age groups:

               5-7 years old – 5-12 minutes

               7-9 years old – 10-20 minutes

               9-11 years old 10-30 minutes

               12 and older – any length is good, just keep variety going, some short pieces are fine, but not only, kids need to mix genres, styles, and length.

Some very long pieces like operas, symphonies, concertos may need to be broken down into movements, scenes to be covered in several sessions. It is strongly advisable for this age group to listen to entire compositions, not just a movement here and a movement there. Each selection must be listened to the end, please nurture understanding that a piece of music is telling a story which can only be fully understood and appreciated once kids have a chance to hear it in its entirety

Stay away from using music as a background “soothing noise” for this particular assignment, because our goal is to develop active taste and critical listening skills. If kids listen in the car, avoid talking about unrelated things, and be prepared to time the playing of the recording so that it is complete before your ride is over. 

It is very advisable for parents to actively participate in the listening part of the assignments, try yourselves to hear and recognize the things in pieces which we discuss during reviews of the LL in class. Promote emotional engagement by engaging yourselves, by sharing with your child feelings and images which you yourself experience while listening. 

It is not necessary to research biographical of other data in preparation to the listening part of this course. We are focusing on emotional engagement and oral skills, while the informative objective is secondary for this course. It is, however, very helpful to research STORIES behind musical compositions, if any exist for the particular piece which your child is listening for his/her assignment. Some pieces are written almost as musical illustrations for tails, stories, etc, pretty much as modern day movie sound tracks. Other pieces may not have any clear plot behind.

Choose pieces from different genres, written for variety of instruments, solo as well as chamber ensembles, orchestras, bands, etc. Make sure you mix videos with purely audio recordings. Keep jumping around between styles and periods, add at least some music from  pop; jazz; rock; movie; opera; game; theater; ballet; Broadway; band; ultra modern; rap; Dixieland; folk from different parts of the world; inter-genres like musical comedy or parody.

It is very important to instill principles of good musical taste which are not by any means to limit oneself to only listening to music from certain periods or genres, while rejecting all other forms of music as “low grade” or “primitive”. The goal is to equip the students with clear understanding of criteria for good quality music  in ANY style or genre, because both good and bad music was written during all periods of time and in all styles and genres throughout the history.

Pay attention to how you pick performances and performers. Though it’s very tempting to have kids listen to other kids playing the same pieces as the ones they work on, it may not always be the best choice. Some of this kind of listening is very helpful as it ensures your child’s attention, promotes desire to match another little kid’s skills and surpass them. But mix in listening to the same piece performed by professionals, which will polish the child’s taste much beyond their current ability to play and serve as longer term booster of interest in improving and polishing their pieces. It is very important to listen to performances given by established professionals as those adhere to standards of quality, style, and good taste.

Each of the tabs on this page is dedicated to example lists of music compositions and performances to use as your starting points

Writing part.

The amount of written comments must be age-appropriate. The goal is to help kids become sensitive to emotional connection with music, develop their ability to listen to their own feelings in connection with the pieces of music, and to express those in words. For older kids we gradually introduce other critical listening skills like discerning musical forms, elements of musical language, and of course, differences in how performer use variety of expressive tools (phrasing, dynamics, tempo, rubato, articulation, voicing, pedal, etc) to shape the piece and express themselves. I recommend a game for parents of kids of all ages: listen to the piece together, discuss freely with your kids what you took out of it, let them speak as well, then write your own comments while the student writes his/her own, then compare the notes. 

Most importantly: Have an adventurous journey through the vast wealth of music together with your children!



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