Question: I find that music really relaxes me and find it very difficult not to listen to music during the sefira. Can I listen to chazzanus?
Answer: The Gemara (Yevamos 62b) teaches that 24,000 students of R’ Akiva died between Pesach and Shavuos. Therefore, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 493:1) writes that we observe certain mourning practices during this time. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 493:1) adds that this has been intensified by the tragedies of the Crusades that ravaged European communities in more recent times.
While there is no mention in the Shulchan Aruch of the prohibition on listening to music during the sefira, the Magen Avraham (493:1) writes clearly that one must not dance during this time. As music and dancing are often synonymous, R’ Moshe Feinstein writes (Igros Moshe YD 2:137) that it has become the prevalent minhag to refrain from listening. Likewise, the Aruch Hashulchan writes (OC 493:2) that while engagement parties are permitted, there must be no musical accompaniment. R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 1:111) stresses the importance of this restriction and brings sources to demonstrate that refraining from listening to music is not a new minhag.
R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 15:33) writes that the prohibition does not just apply to live music but applies equally to recorded music too.
Nonetheless, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 6:34) and R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Moadim 2:11:14; 2:14:3) write that one may listen to chazzanus or recordings of davening being sung.
In conclusion, one may listen to chazzanus during the sefira.