My mother always said that I heard only what I wanted to hear. For example, she would say “after dessert I would like you to please fold your laundry.” I would hear “…dessert…….” I believe this can afflict spouses as well, but I have no definitive proof.
However as musicians we truly do need to pick out the specific sounds we are asked to focus on, such as matching pitches and staying in tune when others may be trying to distract us with harmony and the like. Playing an instrument at a young age is proven to help increase the attention span in young children, but it also increases their ability to filter, analyze, and focus on specific sounds.
Many of my young students have ear training sessions that involve singing and pitch matching but sadly I cannot come home with everyone to practice this. We know the World Wide Web is full of many wondrous things, and the one I am choosing to focus on today is the beautiful pitch matching game Alice in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The game is to help Alice climb the stairs (an octave) and in order to move Alice to the next stair you have to choose which picture makes the same sound as the stair lost Alice is on. The sounds rotate in a harmonizing and awful fashion, so the listener has to focus on the sound and pitch they are looking for.
Now I’m not one of those crazy videogamers or suggesting your students become one, but some of these online music games are quite helpful and feed the curiosity that all minds encounter with music and music theory. Have a go, and see far you can take Alice!