Improve Music Listening Skills

Did you know there is a difference in the way you listen to music that can be more therapeutic?  When you differentiates between passive and active listening you begin developing music listening skills that can improve emotional awareness, gain emotional literacy and build emotional intelligence. That may seem like a tall order, but it all begins with identifying and communicating your feelings with others when discussing music.

Passive listening is being aware of music in the background but not focusing on it. Active listening engages full attention without distraction, following these six tips.

  1. Identify the musical instruments. Notice if you like their sound, or not. Does it trigger a negative or positive memory?
  2. What music genre is it, or is it a combination of genres? Label the genre(s) as ones you prefer, or not.
  3. Do you appreciate the performers’ technique? Does their life story or appearance enhance or detract from this appreciation?
  4. Can you connect to the lyric? What is the imagery the words create, the language used, the rate of speed of the word flow, and the design of the rhyme?
  5. Do rhythmic patterns [“the beat”] motivate you to move or sleep (i.e. invisible binaural beats). In Music4Life’s ecourses, “Is Your Music Toxic?” and “Danger Zones of Music Listening Habits” you learn about one beat pattern that may weaken the heart and disrupt muscle building.
  6. What’s the mood of the music? Is the lyric steering you into a mood that’s different from the music’s mood? If so, that could lead you into subconscious confusion that may keep you stuck in an unsettled mood rather than shifting you out of it.

Journal your observations of listening actively to music.  As you improve Emotional Awareness (i.e. #6 above), you are gaining Emotional Literacy.  Practice identifying and communicating your feelings with others when discussing music.



Masterclass (June 7, 2021). How to build music listening skills: 5 tips for active listening. At:

Hoffman Academy Team. Active listening exercises for music learning and fun. Accessed 7/16/22 at:


Today’s article was written by our Guest Blogger:

Judith Pinkerton, LPMT, MT-BC

Licensed board-certified music therapist

Founder/CEO, Music 4 Life® Inc.