Listening Guides

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    I am teaching an after school program and am going to be doing some critical listening with my students.  I see many lessons on the NAfME website referring to listening guides…  Where are these listening guides?!  Any help would be great.


    I make a listening guide by drawing shapes and directions that the music moves.

    If it is high and short, I might use dots.
    Ascending/Decending lines, dots, squiggles, etc.
    For big block chords I have thicker lines
    Layer shapes for polyphonic music
    I label the form and copy/paste sections so they are exact
    Trills are a squiggle line

    Sometimes I have pre-made slides and point while the students listen, sometimes I draw it on the smartboard as it happens. <—–That takes a strong knowledge of the song in its entity!

    This has been effective in 4th/5th grade when we study bigger classical selections preparing for our trip to see the Philly Orchestra. If I have time, I have them make their own guides while studying the music. We have a classroom set of iPads that each student can move at his/her own pace.


    Amcastle has some good ideas. I love listening charts, and they can be as personal as your teaching style. Sometimes, I’ll use a ‘call chart,’ which is simply a numbered list of the things happening in the music. As the students listen, I’ll call out each number as it happens. For young kids, I might replace words with pictures, like pictures of a trumpet, trombone, french horn, and tuba for a brass section.

    Once they’ve listened with a call chart and are a little bit more familiar with the piece, you can give them a chart with ‘missing pieces,’ and ask them to fill in what they hear.

    Choose one of your favorite pieces and sit down with markers and paper. As you listen, draw the events in the music. That’s how I fell in love with doing these, after a college professor introduced me to the concept.


    I also heard these called listening maps. Here are a few websites that give examples of listening maps:

    The book “Fun with Composers” by Deborah Lyn Ziolkoski has a bunch of listening maps as well as fun activities to do while listening to music.


    I also use the Bowmar’s “Adventures in Music Listening” series. Lots of great ideas for listening lessons and many listening maps!


    General Music Today has had several articles on listening maps. Here’s the link to the journal:

    Here’s a web summary of one with photos of some interesting musicograms:

    Some of the articles in GMT:
    “Of Hot Cross Buns and Hot Dog Buns,” Spring 2007
    “Mapping Performance as General Music Informance,” April 2010
    “Animated Listening Maps,” Spring 2007

    Find more with a search on “listening maps.”

    Linda Brown
    NAfME Staff

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