Posted by StringOvation Team on May 18, 2017
Ear training is often one of the most dreaded parts of the music education. Beginner string musicians typically focus on the basics, such as trying to ensure correct pitch and timing in their execution. Yet, ear training provides the foundation for connecting music theory with the sounds heard. In fact, it’s one of the first classes music students take in college. So, knowing why ear training is important and how to do a few exercises on your own can not only help you later in your music education, it can help you become a better musician right now.
Why is Ear Training Important for Musicians?
Being able to detect pitch by ear is an important skill for all musicians. It provides musicians of any level the ability to not only tune their string instrument without additional tools, but it also promotes a number of musical abilities, including:
- Music dictation and composition
- Stronger improvisation skills
- Identifying pitch while playing for improved musicality
- Performing better with other musicians
- Improve rhythmic skills
Like sight-reading, ear training is a fundamental ability to have if you want to become a professional musician. Because it helps connect musical elements like pitch, scales, chords and progressions and intervals in your mind, you’re able to decipher what is happening when you hear music. So, instead of waiting for a college course to introduce these concepts, you can get started by practicing a few of the following techniques.
Ear Training Exercises
Because you need to be familiar with music theory or have a lot of hours of practice under your belt, ear training can be a little frustrating for beginner students. There are four main areas addressed in traditional ear-training exercises: melody, chords, intervals (how many steps between notes), and rhythm.
You should also understand that subtle variations in pitch aren’t always wrong. Similar to the difference various instrument have in timbre, you can use pitch to establish wonderful depth in your performance. Remember that ear training takes time. You’ll need to devote at least five minutes during each practice session to training.
Building your pitch sensitivity
One of the easiest ways to learn distinctions between pitch and enhance your aural skills is by matching your voice to the pitch. A digital tuner that will produce the note is a great tool for this exercise. Start with A (a good place for beginners). Have the tuner play the note. Now try to hear the note in your head. Finally, sing the note and see where your voice registers on the tuner. Were you too high or too low? Being able to reproduce and recognize pitch is one of the first steps for building your aural skill.
Unlike solfege, which is the traditional method used to teach ear training utilizing syllables, when you sing the names of the notes, it can be easier for many students to make the mental connection. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a nice singing voice, the thing to concentrate on is mimicking the pitch.
To expose yourself to chord recognition, start with basic major and minor triads. Here’s where a training program can help. Choose one of the free online lessons to enhance ear training. These tools offer basic interactive exercises that help you better identify the more advanced aspects of ear training such as chords and rhythm. The following sites can help:
- Music Theory—This site offers free interactive ear training exercises that cover note recognition, chords, intervals, and scales.
- Music U—Offers a number of downloadable tracks that you can use to recognize notes, intervals, and chords, including perfect fourths and fifths.
- Ear Teach Musical Ear Training—You can download this free Windows Application to go through a series of ear training exercises online.
- Ear Training Online—Offers a number of different free programs that you can download for free, including GNU Solfege, for both beginners and advanced musicians.
Once you’re able to reproduce a pitch with your voice and can recognize chords and intervals by ear, you need to incorporate composition. Music dictation helps solidify all of the concepts you’re learning, and Noteflight is a great tool to use for this. Use your MP3 downloads. Working measure by measure, transcribe your music exercises onto Noteflight. It allows you to create compositions from scratch so you can easily write time, clef, and key signatures in addition to melodies and harmonies.
Ear training exercises like these can give you a head start on your music education. Because aural skills combine all the elements of music structure and theory, with diligent practice you’ll develop increased musical and performance ability.