Arts & Entertainment, Music

Training Your Ears to Listen


Lesson time 14:27 min

Questlove shows you how to listen to and search for music to find remarkable moments.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Absorbing • Tempo • The Breaks


- I encourage you to search for that magic moment, and make it your own, and figure out how to make that magic last. And it takes patience. It takes time. And it takes absorbing. There are two ways to take in music. You can listen to it. This is us listening to it. I can talk over-- 9 times out of 10 when we're shopping in the supermarket, when we're in the mall, when we're in the dentist's office, when we're in the car, music is always on in the background. You can talk on top of it and not thinking anything of it. I mean, we're listening to music, but I'm also asking you how your day is doing, dah, dah, dah, dah. So I feel as though, often, great ideas happen when you absorb it. So sometimes you just have to zone out. And what you're waiting for, you're anticipating that part of the song in which magic is going to happen. [MUSIC PLAYING] And this is that magic part right here. Right here, this break down. To me, the reason why this is so perfect, I mean, it's-- to me, this is African spirituality. It's the drums talking. The drums are having a conversation. It's primitive and it's advanced at the same time. It does something to your spirit. Like, people-- it just speaks to me. And that's why people always search for songs that have the drum break down or that magic moment. So you know, again, when Kool Herc, the creator and the godfather of hip hop, he would only play that special part of the song. So everyone waits until that part comes on. Any time now. All right, the chorus is over. And here is the magic part. And it's like seven seconds of heaven. And then it's over. And you wait for him to play the other magic part. And it's only later when Grandmaster Flash figured it out, oh, I can now go back and forth on that one part, mark it and go. Now of course, this is the magic part, because for DJs, it's important to find that magic part that emcees can rhyme over. But even without an emcee, even without an emcee, it's still magical. It's raw. It's funky. And that's how you absorb music. And that's why I encourage for people to study songs, and absorb it, and take it in, and study it, and figure out how to make that magic moment last for people. I choose to spend music that was created before the age of technology. And one of the key elements that's often frustrating for some DJs in spinning older music is that, often, the music will fluctuate in speed. A great example of this is Stevie Wonder. Stevie Wonder is world famous. Sometimes I make that work for me. So say if I made a song that is at a steady, like, 106 BPMs, like "Sir Duke" on "Songs in Key of Life," it starts off at a slower pace. But somewhere in that bridge when the horn break down comes in, he gets excited. So again, he's going with his emotions. He's operating from his chakra, from his insides. And so suddenly the song gets faster. So I even keep a collection of songs in my head that I know can naturally transition me to a faste...

About the Instructor

Ahmir Thompson—better known as Questlove—is an iconic DJ, the drummer for The Roots, and the “coolest man on late-night,” but his first love is collecting and mixing music. Now the Grammy winner is sharing his passion with you. Explore DJ techniques, expand your musical vocabulary, and learn how to glide from genre to genre—including hip-hop, neo-soul, jazz, R&B, and more—to curate your own perfect playlist.

Featured Masterclass Instructor


The iconic DJ and Roots drummer Questlove teaches you how to be a better DJ, deepen your love of music, and make a perfect playlist.

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