Can Video Games and Movies Make You a Better Musician?

Child Playing Video Games

There are countless ways to practice music without touching your instrument. This one is particularly fun because you can do it while playing a video game or watching TV. In music, listening is a crucial skill. You listen to yourself for pitch and you listen to the whole ensemble so you know how your part fits into the mix. This is commonly called “active listening.” There are several levels of active listening, but we will be focusing on how to improve the fundamentals of active listening from the comfort of your couch or computer chair. 

Video games and movies are full of music. However, we are often so focused on what is happening on screen that we only subconsciously take it in. Our brains are really great at passively taking in information, especially sound. Imagine how much richer your experience would be if you listened actively to the music. The next time you’re watching a movie or playing a game you can also develop your active listening powers!

3 Tips to Test and Develop your Active Listening Powers

  1. Melody Hunt:  Motif is a term that in music that refers to a short melody attached to a certain idea. For example, when we hear the Jaws theme, we understand the signal that something is sneaking up for an attack. We recognize it and respond to it every time we hear it. Motifs are all over movie and video game scores. A great way to train your ears is to try to pick them out each time they pop up. Sit down to watch a movie or to play a video game and pick a melody. Try to say something every time you hear it and see who can catch the most. The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars are two great movies to use for a melody hunt. Some great games to do this with are Undertale and Hollow Knight. 
  2. Musical Foresight: The music in movies and games does a great job of setting up your emotions for what is going to happen in a scene.  If you listen carefully, you can even use your ears to predict what is going to happen.  Pick a movie or a game and try to predict what is going to happen next using your ears.  You’ll be surprised how much you get right!  The music might even save you from walking into a trap in the game you’re playing. 
  3. Guess the Instrument: Every big climatic moment in a game or movie is opened by an equally huge musical moment. Whether it’s an awesome car chase or a big boss fight, there is always a certain instrument or group of instruments playing the main melody.  Try and guess what the instrument is and see who gets the most right. (You can usually find the answer on google.)  Some might really surprise you!

If you “turn your ears on” to try and do those three things. your active listening skills will get a lot better. When you go back to band class you’ll be amazed how much more you can hear! It’s a really great way to get away from a practice rut and still improve as a musician.  Unlock your ears and learn how to use them well. It will also make you a lot better at playing your instrument.