I know the idea isn’t new, but I think one way that a person might get a solid grasp on tones is hearing two-or-more-syllable Chinese words pronounced in their various tones and then listening to them over and over again so that your brain can make the distinctions between them. I tend to have trouble distinguishing, for example, two third tones from two second tones, so having a series of short recordings of words would probably be very helpful for a lot of Chinese learners. What do you think?
My advice is to listen to the language as a whole. My experience is that the more we dwell in the bits and pieces the more problems we create in our minds. Grab 20-60 minutes of content that you enjoy listening to, and listen to it over and over and over, hundreds of times.
I think it can be helpful to listen to individual sounds at first, but on the whole you need to listen to (and be able to say) words as they come out in whole sentences.
You guys are right. I’ll stick with conversational content!