Learning to Listen

Singing teachers listen for a living. Most of them have not been taught to listen.

One of our participants in the most recent Somatic Voicework™ training said that she had been “waiting to respond” instead of actually listening. I think that’s typical. We are busy thinking up a response and not actually hearing, taking in, thinking about, being present with and generally absorbing what the person who is speaking or singing is actually communicating. In singing teachers, it can be a serious flaw to “not listen”.

However, in all the workshops, seminars, presentations, lectures, master classes and discussions put on by the profession, how many of them have ever offered anything devoted to listening skills? How many of them have ever discussed that being listened to changes how we communicate. If we know that we are being listened to (as in an interview), what we say and how we say it is absolutely going to be different than if we know that no one is ever going to hear our communication and that, in fact, it really doesn’t matter what we say.

Further, listening has many levels. We can hear the words. That’s the surface. We can hear the meaning of the words. That’s a bit deeper. We can hear the implication of the meaning of the words. That requires that we comprehend what was said and give it some thought. We can hear the tone of voice of the person saying the words. That adds another layer of depth to the communication, sometimes revealing irony or sarcasm. We can also listen to the sound of the voice for other clues. This is the most important thing a singing teacher can do, because a singing teacher has to listen for FUNCTION. The sound is telling the listener what, exactly, is being done in the throat and body while the sound is being made. Make no mistake, the sound has every ingredient in it that you need to know about how it was produced.

If you want to teach functionally, one thing you MUST accomplish is to learn to listen for function. You must also learn to listen to the singer before, during and after the lesson as he talks about his experience of making sound, having a voice, learning technique and achieving his goals. If you do not do that, you will not be very successful, no matter how good you may think you are and no matter your level of education.

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One thought on “Learning to Listen”

  1. I love this- but I would take it a step further, and I’m not sure if this is even what you’re referring to. I believe that a good teacher goes beyond the listening, but translating that into feeling. This is usually referred to as kinesthetic sense. I think good teachers who are good “listeners” actually have an acutely developed kinesthetic sense. It’s what allows them to go beyond the textbooks and teaching by rote and actually understanding what is physically happening to the student.

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