Big Ears

Help participants develop their ear and the critical listening skills that are nearly impossible to notate

Critical listening skills like tone, intonation, and groove are universal and highly sought after by all musicians. These skills are also often overlooked or taken for granted in favor of traditional music education skills like music theory and reading skills. Help your participants become well rounded musicians by developing their ear, overall critical listening skills in their playing or music productions. Below are a few ideas on how to help your participants accurately identify and communicate music elements and use them in their own playing or songwriting.  

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How to… 

Be creative in how you communicate musical skills in instrument workshops, ensembles and/or music productions.  

Some ideas for Big Ears workshops include (but not limited to): 

Music Theory:

  • Find the Note: Play a note on piano and have other instrumentalists match the pitch on their instrument
  • Intervals: Give starting notes and find second note based on reference of sound. Limit options to Major, Minor 3rd, etc.
  • Identify Chords: Determine whether chords in root position are minor or major. Move chords around but don’t invert. Make it easy at first and build from there.
  • Transcribe: Figure out a guitar line/chords by ear.

Music Production/Engineering:

  • Listen as a Producer: Describe instrumentation and explain arrangement. How many hooks? Any interludes? Etc.
  • Mixing: Working through a mix and talking through the different instruments and how we handle certain frequency ranges
  • Physics of Sound: How does sound travel? What are frequencies, how are they measured, and what are the frequency ranges instruments play in?


  • Rhyme Schemes: What type of rhyme schemes is the artist using? Slant rhymes, or perfect rhymes?
  • Lyrical Imagery: Is the artist using metaphor, simile, alliteration? What does it make you feel or visualize? 
  • Performance: What type of emotion is the artist using on the track? How does it support the lyrics? 
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