Guided Listening: EARS 2
Introducing Electroacoustic music in Key Stage 3 through online guided listening
Guided listening was developed as an online educational tool for introducing electroacoustic music. It forms an integral part of the EARS2 (ElectroAcoustic Resource Site) online educational resource which is aimed at Key Stage 3 (11-14 years of age). This case study presents an overview of the guided listening concept, examples of guided listening resources, and links to the EARS 2 online educational resource.

Electroacoustic, electronic or sound-based music, is one of the most exciting new forms of music that came out of the twentieth century and is thriving today around the globe. Much of what we can do with sounds has been made possible due to the development in technologies which we can use to make music.
EARS2 2014.

Further definition of Electroacoustic Music

Project Lead
Dr. Rob Weale
Centre for Enhancing Learning through Technology (CELT)
Music Technology and Innovation Research Group (MTIRG)
Guided listening as a concept emerged from my doctoral research and post-doctoral work around Intention/Reception. In particular exploring ways in which electroacoustic music (a form of sonic art) can be introduced to listeners who have not previously (knowingly) encountered this type of music. It is my belief that introducing this particular form of music making to young people, one that is not fundamentally based on the music of ‘notes’ but on the creative use of potentially any recorded sound, can open doors to a form of expressive sonic creativity that does not require knowledge of a music-based theory (i.e. how to read music or organise note-based content into structures that conform to note-based music theory). It can empower young people to follow a creative path that is of their own making, allowing them to make their own rules as to how they structure, manipulate and organise sound to create interesting sonic artefacts. Hence tapping into a creative drive that emerges from within themselves rather than being an external predefined creative template that they conform to.

Guided listening in practice concerns presenting text-based information about an electroacoustic composition to a listener in real-time whilst they listen. The information presented has a direct bearing on the sounding elements of composition. The presentation of the composition and text-based info is facilitated by way of a digital animation (video) that contains an audio recording of the composition with animated text annotations.

Example of a guided listening object (excerpt)

Created for EARS2 ( by Rob Weale. Audio by Sebastien Lavoie. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported

Creating a guided listening object

Creating a guided listening object requires identifying something to hold on to factors (SHF) within a particular composition that can offer the listener certain keys to understanding the composition in terms of how it was made and what it is attempting to communicate/express (if indeed it is attempting to do this).

These SHF can be used to describe:

  • organisational approaches that the composer has used to create the content
  • technological methods that the composer has applied in the creation of the content
  • subjective meaning-based aspects that the composer is attempting to communicate through the composition

Depending on what the learning requirements are, will influence the type of SHF that are used to annotate the composition in a guided listening object. For example, if the aim is to learn about the application of audio technologies to create recognised musical effects, e.g. reverberation; parts of the composition where the composer has used reverberation effects can be highlighted and brought to the attention of the listener. Or the aim might be to explore the use of compositional techniques to establish emotive effects, for example highlighting how the composer is creating a sinister sounding ambiance through the layering of particular sound types.

Developmental Considerations
There are some limitations to be aware of in the creation of guided listening resources. Due to the temporal nature of music and the inability to freeze frame sound as can be done with moving image, there are constraints that this brings to the use of real-time textual descriptions. Such description must be succinct, yet must be presented on-screen long enough to be read before disappearing from view, and to be understandable in the context of the sounding elements to which it applies. This means that complex compositional approaches that would require a significant amount of text to describe and understand cannot be engaged with using this method. Also, the level of language used, and the expected level of understanding should be considered in relation to the reading level and knowledge-base of the age group accessing the resource. For example, using complex terminology and language to describe content for an 11-year-old may be difficult for them to read, interpret and understand in the time required for them to apply it to what they are hearing in real-time. A listener can obviously view the guided listening resource multiple times if there is difficulty in understanding. Nevertheless, in general, developing guided listening resources requires a considered and judicious use of text. The ideal approach being to use short sentences and a language that effectively highlights and/or describes the composition.

In their integration into the EARS2 resource, guided listening objects are categorised as beginner, intermediate, or advanced depending on the user level at which they are aimed.

Integration into EARS2
The guided listening approach has been integrated into the EARS2 resource. EARS2 is an online teaching and learning resource that has been developed at DMU by the Music, Technology and Innovation Research Group in close collaboration with several internal and external partners.

The predecessor of EARS2 – ( [NOTE 2015: the current EARS webite ( is undergoing a major update of its Content Management System (CMS), in the meantime the site has been moved to a temporary CMS which has limited functionality] – was created for university-level students and professionals. Due to the success of this initiative, it was decided to create an educational site for younger people in order to open up this world of sound organisation to people of all ages and backgrounds, but especially those starting secondary education, and their teachers.

The goal here is to offer EARS 2 users the chance to learn about all aspects of this music in an integrated, user-friendly and enjoyable manner. EARS2 2014.

Links to guided listening resource on the EARS2 website:

Compositions that were created by myself (Rob Weale) specifically for guided listening:

Compositions by other composers that have been used to create guided listening objects:

Note: EARS2 is a dynamic resource, content is added on an ongoing basis.

CELT Case Studies
If you would like to have your eLearning practices captured and disseminated in a similar case study, please contact your Faculty ELT Project Officer
This case study was prepared by:
Dr. Rob Weale (CELT)
Date of publication: October 2014