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Critical listening

Listening to music critically is important in ARP.  We need to listen for such things as song structure, instrumentation, stereo image placement, frequency distribution, effects used.



Song structure

A song usually have three short melodies, two of which are repeated over and over again….

Intro: The intro of a song starts the song and introduces a melody or rhythm that leads the listener into the song.

Chorus: The chorus is a lyric-music combination that is repeated with little or no change throughout the song. Usually, the chorus lyrics include the song title and gives the listener a general idea about the song topic. The chorus music includes the most catchy melody in the song…The chorus is generally the part that your listener will remember from your song.

Verse: The verse has the second melody of the song, this melody hardly changes throughout the song. What changes is actually the verse lyrics; as the verses usually give details about the song topic. Notice that no matter how the lyrics change they all have to fit the same melody, without having to look “artificial”…This actually is a great challenge ;).

Bridge: The third melody and the one that is -in most song structures- appearing only once. It is better if the listener gets a “tiny” surprise in the bridge; that can be a change in the chord structure accompanied by a smooth shift to another scale…etc. However, the bridge melody always ends by shifting back to the original mood and repeating the chorus all over again. As for the bridge’s lyrics they usually represent a conclusion or a flash back to the whole song, this adds to the surprise. Sometimes, -especially in rock- the bridge is just a solo with no lyrics.

But how are those three parts arranged in the song? Well, you got Chorus, verse and bridge…Yes, arrange them in any way you want, but don’t get too messy or your listener will get lost. To make it easier, songwriters have come up with these agreed-on song structures most of the songs follow those three structures:

verse / chorus / verse / chorus / verse…etc.

verse / chorus / verse / chorus / bridge / (verse) / chorus

verse / verse / bridge / verse





Instrument id

This can be tricky because of effects that may be used and the context which the instruments are used (i.e. doubling a lead guitar line with vocals).

Instrument id




Stereo image

Audience perspective of performer perspective?

Low frequencies are fairly non-directional, whereas highs are very directional. As a result, pan low frequency sounds (kick drum, bass) toward the center of a mix, and higher frequency instruments (shaker, tambourine) further out to the left and right.


Check out this link there’s some great tips on creating a stereo image!



Frequency distribution

Spectrum analyzer

 Voxengo Span




There are all kinds of different effects that do very different or very similar thing.


Critical listening assignment 1

Critical listening assignment 2

  • Complete the critical listening sheet based on the following song.  It is important to use headphones for this assignment to hear the panning.

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