Analytical Listening (What Is It & How Can You Do It?)

In this brief guide, we will explore the meaning of analytical listening, examples of analytical listening, appreciative listening, Analytical listening music, and task oriented listening.

Analytical Listening: Meaning

Analytical listening is a manner of listening to an audio composition, piece of music, or a sound collection in which the meaning of the sounds are interpreted as they are heard.

Analytical listening is an active process of listening rather than the more passive type of passive listening where the listener merely pays attention to the sounds stimuli that is being provided to them.

This type of listening may be used most in cases where music production is happening as the musicians need to constantly listen to where the notes are off or which part of the song or sound needs adjustment or fine-tuning.

Analytical listening allows the listening to actively engage in the music they are listening to, as opposed to passively enjoying it or passively receiving it.

Researcher Sheila Williams, a pioneer in the field of Analytical Listening, gave two types of listening based on the function they serve, Analytical listening and Holistic Listening.

In holistic listening, the focus is more on the entirety of the soundscape that is being heard, and it is enjoyed or even understood, to some extent, on the basis of what it sounds like as a whole.

Contrary to this process analytical listening involves focusing on one aural feature of the array of sounds that is being heard, so that the individual may be able to isolate and analyze those features and change them if it is needed.

To develop analytic listening skills, one primarily needs to learn to separate the individual aural  components or features of the available soundscape before they are able to focus on those individual sounds.

As might be expected, naturally, this is something that requires skill and practice, which is why analytical listening is considered something that can be learned and not necessarily something that people instinctively know to do.

For example, music producers who scout for talent in random locations or in bars or other places where people might sing to get discovered, have to learn to listen analytically so that they may be able to identify the timbres and textures of a voice, which in turn helps them articulate their requirements to the voice talent, to elicit the best vocal performance. 

Another reason why the music producer needs to engage in analytical listening is so that they can adjust the parameters of the audio technology to achieve the best possible result with the singer and the music as a whole.

According to these examples, one might also presume that analytical listening may often make the right final result which allows people to listen in a holistic manner, because if no one listened analytically and off-key features stood out in songs or sound collections, no one would be able to listen to it as a whole.

Analytical listening is not just important in the field of music, it may also be frequently employed in fields where a decision needs to be made on the basis of what is heard and what is seen.

What is seen may provide a baseline for what one is looking for in what is being said, and by applying the LSD (Listening, Summarizing and Digging Deeper) technique, one can get more information rather than just what is being said.

Examples of Analytical Listening

The following example of analytical listening procedures and training has been taken from a paper about developing ear training modules for the purpose of improving analytical listening.

This example deals with the parameters of establishing how to go about creating a model for the new Ear Training program.

“A teaching or examination session would involve a number of questions (perhaps 10 or 20) taking two to three minutes each in a live presentation. Each question deals with a different phonetic point. 

In Q1 of the sample given here, the focus is upon the presence or absence of a glottal stop at the beginning of a short sequence – whether there is a “hard confrontation”. (This is, in fact, a realistic example of the sort of phonetic judgement that has to be made routinely by a Speech and Language Therapist in a voice clinic). 

Each question in turn comprises a number of items – we have settled on five in the exercises we have designed so far. The five items within the question all test the same perceptual judgement, but with a different dictated sequence. Each item is repeated typically three times before the students mark their responses and move on to the next. 

The dictated material may be of various types – sometimes English-like, sometimes nonsense – and can be constructed to contain potential distractors (e.g. in this case a glottal stop at the end instead of the beginning). The similarity of the technique with forced-choice perception testing will be obvious.

Of course, the listener may sometimes guess, but the overall scoring is arranged to take account of this (as with any Multiple-Choice test). Each question alone has some statistical utility anyway: a listener who makes the right choice five times out of five has only a three percent chance of doing this by guessing. 

When all five items have been dealt with, the students move on to the next question, which will generally focus upon a different phonetic distinction.”

Other examples of analytical listening include a clinical psychologist listening to the ramblings of a patient who has speech incoherence and trying to analyze it and understand the symptoms, or a participant in a study listening to sounds in a Dichotic listening task to test some aspect of cognition.

Analytical Listening: Music

Analytical listening in music is quite possibly one of the most common uses of analytical listening, and research papers often focus on developing modules for ear training to make the producers better analytical listeners.

Analytical Listening in Music focuses on the aspects of the music that need to be adjusted and their tonality changed, and they often tend to be done from the explicit perspective of making the holistic sound better.

Critical listening is another type of listening often used in music, and as opposed to analytical listening, critical listening involves critically examining the features of a soundscape with the specific purpose of making it better, whereas analytical listening is more concerned with just the analysis of the components.

The simplest example of analytical listening in music is when a guitarist tunes their guitar; they may have a lot of sensory input from all around them, and they are hearing various sounds coming from the guitar itself as well, the way their plectrum hits the string, the way the string vibrates, and so on, but they are still able to analyze whether the note sounds right.

Task Oriented Listening

Task Oriented Listening may often be used in psychological experiments where cognitive processes associated with comprehension or following instructions need to be studied, and they may often involve varying types of sounds and stimuli.

Task-oriented listening is also known as action-oriented listening and it involves the listener seeking a clear message about what needs to be done, and usually it does not need great patience on the part of the listener to do any thinking while they are listening as there is no significance to the reasons behind the task.

Task-oriented listening may be very important in the context of workplace or arenas where the person needs to be able to comprehend what is being said and do it, and it needs more alertness and attention than analytical listening, which may involve the faculties to be more primed at interpretation. Such individuals may come off as control freaks but it is only fair to know that they are simply detail-oriented and try not to miss out on any important cues.

Appreciative Listening

Appreciative listening is a type of listening where the listener listens with the intention of acquiring certain information which they will appreciate, and which may meet their needs and goals. 

Appreciative listening may be used most often when someone is listening to something they need or something they genuinely enjoy, and it  is unlikely to happen when the person is being made to or asked to listen to something.

In other words, for appreciative listening to happen, there needs to be intentionality on the art of the listener, and they need to be internally motivated to listen.

People generally use appreciative listening when listening to music, poetry or the stirring words of a speech.

Critical Listening

Critical listening is another type of listening that is generally employed when listening to music from the perspective of paying attention to and changing its core features that make up the holistic soundscape.

Critical listening involves evaluation of the content of the message and most critical listeners tend to listen to all parts of the message, and they may then go about analyzing it, finally leading them to evaluating what they heard. When someone is engaging in critical listening, they are also critically thinking, which is a skill that can be developed with time, and this is something that allows the person to be able to simultaneously listen and evaluate.

Critical listening may be used when a student is listening to a lecture about a subject they don’t know much about, or when a panel of judges listens to a researcher present their research paper.


In this brief guide, we explored the meaning of analytical listening, examples of analytical listening, appreciative listening, Analytical listening speech and music, and task oriented listening.

Analytical listening is a fascinating subject that there is a lot to learn about, and it can prove to be quite a great skill to have.

In psychology, listening on its own has been researched a fair bit, and it is often used as a variable in various experiments related to cognition, memory, speech and so on.

If you are interested in analytical listening or have any questions or comments about what has been discussed here, please feel free to reach out to us anytime.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Analytical Listening

What are the 4 types of listening?

The four types of listening are appreciative, empathic, comprehensive, and critical.
The four types of listening usually depend on why you are listening, who the speaker is, and what your cognitive capacity to listen is like, among many other factors.

What are the 5 stages of listening?

According to researcher Joseph DeVito, the 5 stages of listening are: receiving, understanding, remembering, evaluating, and responding.

What are three reasons why listening is difficult?

Listening is difficult because of the interplay of different factors, the main ones of which include physical, psychological, physiological, and semantic. 
These usually interact in different ways to interfere with the act of listening, which can happen in ways such as sounds in the environment interfering with what the person is hearing and then their own physical state which ascertains how much they will hear.


Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!