Training & Resources

Early Years: Tune Into Listening

Tune Into Listening are the proud winners of the Excellence in Primary/Early Years award received at the Music Teacher Award for Excellence 2017.

Tune Into Listening was a yearlong action research project involving two key partners – Hillfields Children’s Centre in Coventry and Allens Croft Children’s Centre in Birmingham. Evesham Nursery School and Vale of Evesham School and St Paul's Nursery also participated in the project.

Early Childhood Music Specialist Nicola Burke worked in close partnership with Hillfields and Allens Croft to explore how to create rich music listening experiences for children. Martha Thompson also participated as a shadow musician in the project.

The overarching question was: ‘How can we use recorded music effectively?’

Throughout the project we played with, danced with and painted with the children, listened to and laughed with the children, observed children and debated many themes and ideas. We hope that this resource offers an insight into the project and our findings. We also hope it offers Early Years Educators ideas and inspiration to play a range of music to the young children attending Early Childhood education today - to encourage children to actively listen and ‘keep their ears open.’

A key question that needs to be raised and discussed in Early Years Education is: ‘What is appropriate music to play to young children in Early Years settings?’

If you would like to participate in an ongoing debate on this subject you can join the Tune into Listening Facebook Group by clicking here.


Thanks & Acknowledgements

Huge thanks needs to be given to the following people, without their commitment and support this research would not have been possible:

  • Nicci Burton, Amie Randle, Amanda Fennell, Julie Bond, Helen Watson and Fiona Brinson from Hillfields Children’s Centre.
  • Lianne Rooker, Becky Denscombe, Emily Kirton and Laura Brodie from Allens Croft Children’s Centre
  • All of the parents, carers and children we had the privilege of playing with and talking to. 
  • Youth Music, MAC and Arts Connect for their support throughout the project.

Contact Us

If you would like to get in touch to offer your feedback about the Tune into Listening resource or if you have training requests regarding music listening or music making in the Early Years then please contact us.

Volume Levels

It is important to note that throughout the research we were very mindful of the volume of music we were playing. We are aware that ears can be sensitive and when working with young children it is particularly important to be aware of this and play music at a level that is appropriate. The film clips used in this resource do not reflect a true level of sound that the music was playing at. When transferring from one media to another, sound levels are not accurately portrayed. Sound levels are affected by the speakers used to play the music, the camera capturing the footage and the device used to watch the film clips.

How do children listen?

Children can listen in many manners of ways – just like children can learn, in many manners of ways. Developing listening skills with children can be explored to find out their preferences for how they listen. Loris Malguzzi from Reggio Emilia eloquently wrote in The Hundred Languages Poem: “The child has a hundred, always a hundred ways of listening”

To read the entire poem you can go to:

We wanted to create rich listening experiences and explored this by: 

  • Observing the responses of children when music was played in the environment.
  • Using music for focused listening activities. 
  • Encouraging children to move freely to the music they listened to. 
  • Creating opportunities to paint and or draw whilst listening to music. 
  • Playing music whilst children had access to instruments and observing how they played. 

We found that some children preferred to listen whilst painting whilst others preferred to listen whilst moving, others preferred to simply just listen. 

The children’s preferences in how they listened were also affected by how they felt on the day, and the style of music that was played. For most of the children involved there was no set specific ‘way’ in how they listened. This is not particularly surprising as we can often listen to music in different ‘ways’. 

How we listen to music can change and can be impacted by how we feel and the style of music we are listening to. For example listening to strong ballads whilst driving and singing along may be more enjoyable than listening to them whilst exercising. The music we hear can impact how we feel and what we may be doing at any given moment. Music can be incredibly emotive and can impact our mood – both positively and negatively. How much is this considered in early childhood education?

Research, findings and practical ideas for Early Years settings

The research enabled us to look at children’s listening experiences. The findings and practical suggestions have been collated by Nicola Burke into the ten categories found above. You can simply click on each tab to find out more. In addition to this, you can find out why there was a need for the research and look at the music that we played by clicking on the download tabs below.