Ear training is one the most critical practices if you are planning on composing, playing, or singing. Without proper ear training, it will be difficult for any musician, sound engineer, or DJ to achieve their full potential.
Ear training reconditions how musicians, audio engineers, and even DJs experience music. In fact, it helps to improve one’s ability to connect with the sounds they hear. As an essential aspect of a well-rounded musician, aural training also forms the foundation of how one plays and sings music.
Want to learn more about ear training, why it’s essential, and find out what the best ear training exercises are for improving your singing voice?
In this post, we discuss what ear training is, why it’s crucial as well as give you some ear training exercises to practice. The ability to match pitch with your voice lies heavily on how well your ears are trained to identify sounds.
What is ear training?
Ear training refers to the process of breaking down the different elements of music and connect them with the sounds we hear. It’s also building a bridge between the chords, scales, intervals, melodies, notes or language of music with sounds designed for that language.
When you develop a musical ear, you can:
- Identify the interval between two notes.
- Identify the name of the scale.
- Identify the type of chord used.
- Identify the name of the note or pitch.
- Improve your ability to express yourself through music.
Ear training is essential for audio engineers. Unlike musicians who gain skills like identifying chord quality, chord progression, and others. Sound engineers can improve their skills, such as identifying frequency ranges.
Why is ear training essential?
Ear training is a fundamental skill if you want to become a professional musician. First off, it helps you connect musical elements such as chords, chord progressions, scales, and pitch in your mind. As such, you can decipher the real meaning of what’s happening when you listen to music.
Aural training improves your ability to play what you hear. Basically, you can express harmony and melody, which is the real pinnacle of musical expression. Thanks to the training, you can let your fingers run all over a music instrument such as a piano or guitar.
When a vocal coach teaches you about the relationship between intervals and how to play on an instrument, it becomes much easier for you to transcribe the sounds you hear. This is how great musicians and instrumentalists you love gained their skills. Without ear training, it will be challenging to recognize intervals and for your fingers to begin playing what you’ve heard.
If you do not feel confident about your musicality, we recommend aural training exercises. Ear training exercises develop your ears, helping you gain confidence. In turn, your performance will improve, making it enjoyable for the audience to listen to you.
Remember, in addition to the proper singing positions, learning how to pitch in tune improves your singing. For the people listening to you perform, it will be a much more pleasant experience to listen to someone with exceptional vocal control.
Who needs ear training?
The ability to detect pitch by ear is a vital skill for all musicians – beginners and professionals alike. This skill provides musicians with the ability to tune their string instruments without the need for tools. Not only that. Aural training promotes other skills such as improvisation skills, music composition, and dictation, among others.
As an aspiring musician, you may have no idea how to hit high notes or what voice type you are. Ear training can help you become aware of your voice, helping you select the right songs for your voice.
For example, you can make a difference between a countertenor like Bruno Mars and a bass voice like Tom Waits.
Aural training is also vital to audio engineers. It helps audio engineers to identify EQ ranges fast. Basically, ear training helps an audio engineer to find frequencies they need to achieve what they want.
It also helps audio engineers create the perfect sound using the right audio effects and to fix sound problems during live concerts.
Other professionals who will benefit from ear training include:
- Studio producers
- Recording engineers
As a music lover, you can benefit from ear training too.
Can you imagine being able to enjoy every note and chord in a song?
Aural training can help you learn the names of musical elements, and how to appreciate different music styles.
Ear training exercises
A majority of people can hear a note perfectly. But they have a hard time understanding the intervals or hitting the right pitch. The good news is by following the ear training exercises below, not only will your sight-sing or read. But you will understand the full texture of the music.
Here are a few ear training exercises to try.
Chords and interval identification
Chords and intervals ear training refer to exercises that will help you develop the ability to identify the quality and quantity of chords and intervals. The ability to recognize intervals and chords by ear requires a significant understanding of music theory.
Interval refers to the space between notes. There are 12 intervals. Some of these intervals are very easy to identify. An excellent example of an octave is the first two notes from the song “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” Other intervals that may have similar qualities include:
- Here comes the bride – 4th
- Jaws movie theme – minor 2nd
Intervals have an identifiable character, and if you familiarize yourself with each interval, the better your ear will be. Interval ear training can be applied in transcribing melodies by ear. Not only that. Transcribing chords even becomes easier as you can identify the distance between chords.
Remember, intervals are the building blocks of harmony and melody. If you can understand music notes, you can hear the difference in pitch. We recommend starting with a small set of intervals, such as thirds or fourths.
Chord training is all about harmony in music. As you already know, music has different characteristics. Thanks to chord training, it will be easier for you to identify chord types by ear.
Chords are a combination of notes above the tonic note. There are different types of chords, and each has a particular sound.
- Major Seventh
- Minor Seventh
- Dominant Seventh
You may be familiar with a few of the chords above (major and minor), while others are new to you. When you master the basic types of chords, you can move on to training with more advanced chords as well as recognizing chord inversions.
Match an individual pitch
In pitch ear training, you learn how high or low notes in music are. Every musical note has a particular pitch. Even when you speak, other people can hear the pitch of your voice going up and down.
There are two ways of tuning your ears to pitches of musical notes:
- Absolute pitch
- Relative pitch
Absolute pitch is the ability to identify a musical note by ear. Also referred to as the perfect pitch, it’s a rare ability where a person can re-create or identify a musical note. A singer can do this without comparing it with another musical note. For example, identifying pitches such as F#, A, or G played on various instruments.
Relative pitch is the ability of a person to re-create or identify a musical note by comparing it to another musical note. Basically, you can identify the interval between musical notes. For example, three octaves above C.
Whether you are a beginner or professional musician, matching an individual pitch is a vital skill. To match an individual pitch, sing the first note in one of your favourite songs. For example, guys can sing “Imagine” by John Lennon while girls can sing “Back to Black” by the late Amy Winehouse.
What you will note is that the first three syllables of the song “Imagine” are on the pitch G3 while the other song is on the D4 pitch. There are other videos or music with tons of different pitches to match, which will help you find your range.
As you try to match individual pitch, pause the music or video when a new note plays. We also recommend that you cup your ears when singing into a microphone. By doing so, you can hear the pitches clearly.
It’s important to match the pitch of different instruments. As you already know, 99% of the music has more instruments than the musician’s voice.
When training your ear, actively listen to the instruments and try to match the individual pitch in the song. Are you able to match the individual pitch of instruments in the song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by the Beatles?
If you listen carefully, you will be able to identify that the piano is playing an A4, which is quite high for many musicians. So, if you struggle to hit this note, we recommend that you try an octave down.
For example, try singing an A3.
Scale ear training helps in developing a musician’s ability to know musical notes relative to other musical notes. The problem is, scale ear training is not a popular topic among musicians and instrument learners. As such, a majority of musicians and instrument learners neglect scale ear training.
This is highly unfortunate as scale ear training helps with:
- Identifying the type of scale such as major or harmonic minor
- Identifying the degree of the scale where each note is for example root or the seventh
In music theory, a scale refers to a set of musical notes ordered by pitch or frequency. An ascending scale refers to a scale ordered by increasing pitch while a descending scale is ordered by decreasing pitch.
Singing scales improves a musician’s pitch memory. This is the ability to hear notes accurately and sing them. What you need to know is that singing scales are an essential skill for any musician’s ear training.
There are four scales every musician should learn.
The Major scale is the first type of scale introduced in music or voice lessons. As a familiar scale structure to musicians, the major scale contains seven pitches. It also has the repetition of the starting pitch because it’s an octave higher. If you are new to scales, the easiest way to conceptualize them is to imagine a staircase.
Like the major scale, the minor scale also has a similar number of whole and half steps. But the order is usually altered, producing the following sequence – whole – half – whole – whole – half – whole – whole. The result is a lowered third, sixth, and seventh.
The chromatic scale contains half steps, which makes the scales longer. As a difficult scale to sing, it only contains small steps, which are evener. Last, we have the whole tone scale. It’s built entirely of whole steps, unlike the chromatic scale.
When it comes to scaling ear training, we recommend that you use a mnemonic system. This will make it easier for you to remember the scale. Remember, when performing this exercise, you need to sing everything.
Begin by singing on solfege before singing prominent tendency tone resolutions such as FA-MI.
Chord progression recognition
Chord progressions refer to the movement from one chord to another. As the harmonic bedrock of music, chord progressions ear training can help you recognize chord changes and progressions by ear. This allows you to write and play them on your instrument.
What you need to know is that chord progressions ear training is another form of relative pitch. How you may wonder. Well, in chord progressions ear training, you get to recognize chords based on the relationship with other chords. You can do this by listening to the interval between notes.
The key to recognizing chords is to get the sound deep in your ear. Besides recognizing the chords, you need to sing. Singing takes chord progressions ear training to the next level. To sing, listen to the root note first.
To recognize chords and transform the way you listen or experience music, listen to the sounds, and identify the interval between notes. If you listen closely, you make it easier to hear chords. Singing is another way of taking chord progressions ear training to the next level.
First off, listen to the root note. Can you recognize it? Afterward, start singing root-3rd-5th-7th and listen for the instruments to check your pitch.
There are more tips that will help you enhance your ear training. First off, cup your ears. Cupping your ears enables you to boost the volume of your feedback loop. This allows you to trap the frequencies of your voice.
Second, learn to sing the two most common scales – major and minor. As you sing the scales, match your voice with the pitch. Last, sing along with another musician. Choose a musician with good vocal techniques. You can learn a lot from an experienced singer – pitch, tone, volume, and rhythm.