Ear training is the process of connecting music theory (notes, intervals, chords, scales, melodies, etc.) with the sounds we hear.
Studying ear training is building a bridge between the language of music and the sounds that are designated by that language. The more we train our ear to recognize this connection, the better we get not only at tuning our instrument, but also at playing music, because we learn to understand what we play and to anticipate musical structures.
Who needs Ear Training?
The short answer is all musicians. Both beginners and professionals need to keep their ear in shape in order to know what they (and others for that matter) are playing and to anticipate what they are about to play.
This is why ear training is a mandatory course in about 99.9% of all music schools, conservatories and general music courses around the world. Ear training is also essential in order to master tuning by ear and relatively tuning.
How can You Train Your Ear?
The main focus of ear training being the development of aural skills, the training sessions mainly involve identifying sounds by ear and naming them, transcribing them, playing them back, singing them or, at more advanced levels, improvising upon them according to harmonic rules.
Basic ear training consist in the study of:
Scales and modes
Chord progressions and cadences
What are the benefits of ear training?
With ear training you can master tuning by ear and relatively tuning. But the benefits are more, as with a trained ear you can:
Ear training typically requires two persons to be efficient: one to ask questions, and one to answer them. The feedback you get on how you identify intervals, chords or scales is the key element to your progression.
This is where computers come in very handy for ear training.
There are many ear training software products to choose from, but EarMaster.com is one of my favorites. Why? Because…
It’s easy to use
It’s the favorite tool of music schools and conservatories across the world.
There are many options starting with a low price suitable for students.
The customer service and forums always come through.
You probably haven’t heard of EarMaster and it’s probably because they don’t advertise much. Most of their success comes from people telling others about it, just like I’m telling you now.
So How Does EarMaster works?
EarMaster includes two complete courses with over 2000 exercises that helps you organize your training. As you move along the exercises, the difficulty is raised automatically to match your level and skills.
The basic course that you use when starting with Ear Training, is related with intervals. Intervals are important for tuning as we use them to compare two notes to see if strings are in tune.
EarMaster plays two intervals: Interval A and interval B. You will have to point out which one was the larger of the two.
An interval is the tonal distance between two notes. The size of an interval is therefore measured by the distance between those two notes. Finding out the largest of two intervals is identifying the interval where the distance between its two tones is the biggest. For example, the interval C-E (Major 3rd) is larger than C-D (Major 2nd).
EarMaster plays an interval and asks you to identify it by its name using the multiple-choice buttons, or to transcribe the tones on the on-screen interface of your choice: staff, piano, guitar, bass, violin, solfege keyboard, and more.
Chords & Scales Training
EarMaster plays a chord and asks you to identify it by its name using the multiple-choice buttons, or to transcribe the tones on the onscreen interface of your choice: staff, piano, guitar, bass, violin, solfege keyboard, and more.
But this is not all. With EarMaster you can also practice:
EarMaster shows you a rhythm notated on the staff, and asks you to clap it while following the metronome.
You can answer the questions by clapping your hands in front of a microphone, tapping the rhythm on the space bar of your computer keyboard, or play it on a MIDI instrument.
Rhythm Training should not be boring, right? EarMaster includes another clever interactive rhythm training exercise that you will like. It shows you a rhythm notated on the staff, and then plays it with a few changes. Your task is to identify these changes by highlighting on the staff the note values that are different from those you heard. There can be two types of changes:
A note has been removed
A note has been divided into two notes
By using this detective-like activity, you will improve your ability to identify rhythmic variations.
Voice and instrument input with real-time feedback
Most of the ear training eexercises of EarMaster can be used with a microphone to sing or clap your answers in real-time.
For instance, the Melody Imitation and Rhythm Imitation exercises are exciting call and response activities where you can interact with the program by singing or clapping back what you hear. You can also plug-in an electric guitar, electric mandolin or a MIDI keyboard to play your answers.
To help you monitor your progress and analyze your strengths and weaknesses, EarMaster offers a detailed statistics window where you are able to review your results lesson by lesson, day after day.
Should you identify things that demand extra training (if you only get 40% success at recognizing diminished 5th intervals for example), you can easily configure each activity in Customized training mode to focus on the items of your choice.
Ear Training requires patience and perseverance but do not despair! It takes only 10 minutes of work per day to start seeing results that will make you a better musician.