Getting the Most From Classical Music Recordings: Try These Tips

Listening to recordings of classical music can bring much joy, meaning, and solace to one's life. It can also be overwhelming or confusing! Thankfully, there are some easy steps you can take to make sense of it. (Hint: I actually use these tips myself!) Here are some ideas.

Let's say you are listening to a recording of a symphony performed by a famous orchestra. Or maybe it's a recording of a concerto that features the piano. When you hear something interesting, memorable, or moving, pause the track. Write down the time stamp (the minutes and seconds) for that part, and see if you can hum it back to yourself. Is it an idea that the violins played? Was it a series of low notes or a big swell in the sound? Take note of it. Then, press play. Repeat the process as many times as you like. Go back and review the memorable moments. What are your favorites? Why?

For an added challenge, see if you can remember a single musical moment as you listen to an entire recording. Pause the track when you first hear something interesting or moving. Write down the time stamp. Hum the memorable moment to yourself as described above. Press play again. A few seconds or minutes later, pause the track, and see if you can recall the initial interesting part from before. Can you hum that same memorable moment back to yourself? If not, rewind the recording to the time stamp you wrote down and listen again. 

Sometimes it's difficult to keep track of all the interesting ideas that a composer explores within a single piece. By attempting to hum just one interesting idea, you can strengthen your understanding of a piece - as well as your endurance for listening to the music. This is sort of like a card game in which you try to find matching images. Does your memorable moment come back throughout the piece? Does it inspire similar ideas? It's alright if you need to refer back to the time stamp you wrote down!

Soon you'll be able to identify (and perhaps memorize!) many moments from specific pieces of music. By referring to your notes, or learning certain parts of a recording by heart, you'll strengthen your appreciation of the music. You'll be able to associate different musical ideas and parts with the names of classical pieces. You'll know what specific pieces mean to you, and what magic they hold.

For more tips and to join a community of kindred spirits, visit Happy exploring! 

© Anja Wade Music Studio 2023