Ear Training...

 

Music is all about hearing. Having good aural skills is a fundamental aspect of being a good musician. Understanding the sounds we hear is a necessity to interact with other musicians, to reproduce melodies or chord progressions, to improvise or even to tune your instrument.

A musical ear gives you a complete insight in music. Think of the famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven. His musical ear was so trained that he managed to write some of his most famous symphonies while being completely deaf, simply because he could hear the music in his head and transcribe it. The ability to compose music in your mind is just one of the many skills you will obtain by improving your musical ear.

Have you ever thought about what might be the difference between a good musician and a REALLY good musician?

The answer is very likely to be Ear Training!

Ear training is the process of connecting theory (notes, intervals, chords, etc) with music (the sounds we hear). The more you will exercise to recognize this connection, the more you will appreciate playing music, because you will learn to understand what you play.

Ear Training Q&A

Q. What is ear training
A. Ear Training or Pitch Exercises are the terms used to describe the method of teaching and learning how to identify a note and sing in tune with the note or chord that is played.

Q. Why do I need to learn how to pitch a note to the music?
If you want to learn to sing or play an instrument it is essential to be able to sing the correct notes in the right place (and at the right time!). Ideally a singer should be able to recognize the key being played and sing any one of the notes within the chord or scale without sounding sharp or flat (unless that is the effect you require for the song!!).

Q. My friend can do this and she hasn't had lessons - but I can't - why is this?
Some people are born with an excellent 'ear' for music and are naturally talented, but most singers need to learn and practice the art before it becomes second nature.

Q. How can I tell if I am on pitch or not?
Record yourself singing along to a song that you know well and listen back to your efforts - are the notes you sing melodic, are they exactly the same as the singers or do they sound harsh, sharp or flat? If the latter is the case then you are not singing 'on pitch'. You can also try recording yourself singing our online scales. If you are singing in key then the notes you sing will sound like the notes that are played.

Q. What is 'Perfect Pitch?'
This is the term used to describe someone who can sing (or play) the notes (or chords) along with the music without reading the sheet music. It is also used to describe the ability to sing any note on request without hearing the note played by an instrument. Some people are born with this ability - others need to learn and practice to become competent.

Q. I can't Pitch - am I Tone Deaf?
Unlikely - very few people are really 'Tone Deaf' which is the term used to describe someone who appears to lack the ability to differentiate between one note (or chord) from another - This is extremely rare! Most people who think they are 'Tone Deaf' just need to learn how to listen and practice their pitching skills. It takes some people longer than others but it CAN be learned.

Using a guitar or piano play the note 'C' (any octave within your vocal range is fine) - listen carefully as it sounds then play it again - this time singing the note as you play. If the note is too high or too low for your voice play the note in another octave and/or sing the note in the octave that is comfortable for you - even if the note played is higher or lower than the C note you sing - if you are pitching correctly both notes will 'gel' together. If, however your pitching is incorrect your voice will sound 'sharp' or 'flat' (or may be a completely different note!).

Repeat this exercise with each note going up and down the scale. Then do it again picking random notes.

Once you have mastered the exercise above and can pitch the notes you are singing to the ones that are played then move on to the following exercise.

Play the chord C (notes C, E, G) listen carefully to the notes that make up the chord. Play the C chord again, identify the middle note E and sing it. Repeat the exercises listening and singing each note within the chord until you can identify each note and sing it easily without being put off by the other notes being played. Repeat this exercise with the chords D, E, F, G then repeat again randomizing the chords order of play. Then do it all over again using minor chords, 7th's etc., until you can sing any note from any chord in every scale that your voice is comfortable singing.

Now lets make it a little more difficult! Play a C chord an octave above or below your vocal range, but sing the notes in your range. This will help you recognize the chords regardless of where on the scale they are played and consistent practice should aid in improving your ability to pitch your notes regardless of how 'busy' the accompanying music.  At the end of the day, practicing is the only way to improve your ear and give you the ability to harmonize on the fly and actually hear the notes in your head without actually playing them.  Having this skill will increase your musicianship greatly.