Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Listening With Eyes!

Watching is better than listeningIf you’re anything like me, it can be really challenging encouraging students to listen properly to their performance whilst at the same time playing (or singing).

The other day, one of my beginner pupils made the all too familiar statement: “I can’t hear a tune!” Yet any other person listening would have, like me, surely been able to make out the strains of Beethoven’s famous “Ode to Joy!”

So why then can it be so hard to actually hear what you are playing whilst in mid performance? And more importantly, how can students be encouraged to “hear” what is “good, bad and ugly” in their playing or singing so that they can improve?

The answer lies in two facts:

  1. most humans are better at understanding what they can see rather than what they can hear
  2. the process of trying to listen properly whilst at the same time read the music and physically play or sing is at best, extremely complex

So what’s the solution?

A simple method to assist students is to video their performance on your phone or tablet so they can watch back and see the positive areas of improvement and the specific areas to further work on.

Here are some simple ideas for how to use the “hearing by seeing” videoing method:

  • Help with improving poor body and finger posture
  • An insight into good and bad breathing technique
  • Analysing stage craft and presentation
  • Spotting weaknesses in sight reading rituals
  • Looking into pacing and build-up in improvisation
  • Evidence as to whether notes are being improperly overlapped on keyboard instruments
  • Putting a “magnifying glass” on fingering issues, phrasing and voicing etc., etc.

The Self-Teaching Method! Videoing is so effective that I barely need to offer any comments because often they can suddenly see what they are doing wrong and the progress is rapid. In fact, this new teaching technique I’ve been trying has proved to be so successful that I am seriously considering videoing the odd scale, sight reading exercise and piece in most lessons. It’s especially helpful in preparing students for competitions or exams.

If a “picture paints a thousand words” then how many words does a moving picture paint?!?

Of course the danger in all this, is that the developing musician becomes reliant on “seeing” their performance. Listening with the eyes can therefore only be a bridging aid to developing better listening skills through effective ear training (aural).

And finally, don’t forget to have permission to video and let them see you delete the file afterwards so as not to enter inappropriate waters. Also, if you capture an especially good performance, maybe you and/or your student might like to upload the video onto YouTube to share with the world!

What do you think? Is videoing a good method of teaching? What are your experiences?


See other posts by Reuben Vincent


About the Author

Reuben Vincent
Reuben Vincent is a freelance musician working as a composer, producer and private music teacher, based from his purpose built recording studio in Bagillt, Flintshire, North Wales, UK. His main instrument is the piano although he is also known for a "mean" solo on the Kazoo!!!


  1. Robin Steinweg

    What a great idea, Reuben. Ability to video is on my wish list–I appreciate your words of caution, too. I can tell you care a whole lot about your students!

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