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Listening Skills

In order to become good at listening questions you should do many of them - practice makes perfect! If you don't have a workbook or exam papers with a CD you can go to the exam materials archive on www.examinations.ie where they have past papers along with the music to go with them.

Some musical features (TRIAD MART):

  • Texture: how many layers the music has and how they fit together
  • Range: the distance between the highest note and the lowest note, narrow, wide or medium.
  • Instruments: What instruments or family of instruments are playing and are they playing legato, staccato, arco, pizzicato, vibrato, tremolo, strumming, glissando...
  • Articulation: whether the music is legato (smooth), staccato (detached) or a mixture of both.
  • Dynamics: the louds and softs.
  • Melodies can be made up of steps, leaps, a mix of both, repeated notes, based on scales, ornamented or not...
  • Accompaniments can be made up of sustained notes, repeated notes, block chords, broken chords, ostinatos...
  • Rhythm can be even/steady, dotted, syncopated, have triplets...
  • Tonality: wheter the music is major, minor, modal or atonal

A very important point: "Nice" is terrible
If asked to descibe the dynamics in a piece, saying that they're nice, dramatic, flowery or any other adjective won't get you marks. Use only musical terms. E.g. To describe the dynamics, write about how the music began soft and gradually got louder. If you're asked about instruments, name instruments! You get the idea!