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The secrets of how to listen like an orcherstra conductor

Prepare by “tuning”

When a professional orchestra prepares for their performance, they tune their instruments every time, whether they are playing in the same concert hall, a new location, with regular performers, or with guests. The process and practice of tuning their instruments before they begin is crucial to creating a predictable and consistently high-quality performance.

Although a musician may have performed in the same building only twenty-four hours earlier with the identical instrument, they still humble themselves to their conductor, audience, and fellow performers, and tune their instruments every single time. While undertaking that tuning, they are simultaneously tuning into the sound of the other instruments and performers. Tuning is a skill, a practice, and a strategy. Tuning is a sign of discipline, self-respect, and mutual respect—for everyone involved.

Getting ready for a performance is about their physical presence—where they sit, how they sit, lighting, the placement of sheet music, and clear eye contact with the conductor.

Even if the orchestra has done it thousands of times, the practice of tuning is always an act of curiosity and care. It is a process of practice with a mindset toward mastery. When tuning, they are not going through the motions. It is deliberate, sequenced, and thorough. It is not something they can fake. You either are tuning the instrument, or you are not. This is a commitment to consistent improvement and creating a memorable experience rather than just playing music.

Professional performers will take from five to ten minutes during the tuning process. This varies based on the age of the instrument, their knowledge of the venue, and their familiarity with the music. When tuning, the orchestra is always tuning to the note “A” (usually 440 hertz, or vibrations per second), led either by the oboe or the first violin.

When you attend a concert or a performance, you prepare yourself to listen by taking the time to become present to the location, your physical and human surroundings. Knowing that you will be listening respectfully to the performers and the audience, you switch your mobile devices to a setting that reduces or removes distractions.

Listening is a state of mind

In the Deep Listening Research, switching electronic devices to silent before a discussion commenced made the most significant listening improvement for 86 percent of participants.

This action makes a vast difference to your listening. Although it is easy to do, it is hard to practice.

The stories, static, and unhelpful frequencies playing in your mind before you arrive in a conversation make listening hard. Listening is demanding and draining when you compete with the chatter in your mind.

If you are in a profession or a situation where you can’t switch your phone to silent, vibrate, or off, announce to the others at the beginning of the conversation that you are on-call or you are expecting a call—explaining this before you start signals to the others that you will need to attend to any call or message that arrives, and helps them understand and empathize with your circumstances.

Listening is a state of mind.


Each fortnight you will go into a random draw for 2 sets of the Deep Listening Practice Cards.

Listening is a contact sport and this will create the opportunity for you to practice regularly with someone else in your workplace.

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