A perfectly trained ear is one of the most significant assets you can have as a musician or artist. Yet, many musicians don’t take the time to develop their ear! Instead, they rely on other abilities such as technical proficiency, experience, and gear. But, you’ll feel a lot more confident if you don’t have to rely on them.
May 6th, 2021
Below we will share three exercises that can help you train and develop your ear. But, first thing’s first, what is ear training?
As you may have gathered, ear training and music theory go hand in hand! When you train your ear, you’re learning how to identify musical elements more accurately (and objectively). There are many different ways to train your ear, and what you focus on will depend on who you are as a musician and what you want to accomplish.
For a composer, for instance, it may be worth practicing transcription to the point where you can hear a melody and write it down in musical notation. On the other hand, it may be better for a musician in a band to focus on learning how to identify the key of a song instantly.
Now that we know what ear training is, here are three practical exercises to get you started. You can do these exercises on your own, with your instrument or a keyboard, or with a friend.
1. IDENTIFYING INTERVALS
Single intervals are probably the most accessible place to start if you don’t have any ear training experience. An interval is just the space between two notes. So, for example, C to E is an interval of a Major 3rd. C to E♭ is an interval of a Minor 3rd.
Begin by playing a C, and then play a D one step above (ascending intervals tend to be easier to hear starting). This is an interval of a 2nd. Play that interval a few times until your ear becomes familiar with how a 2nd sounds.
Now move on to a 3rd. Play the C, and then play an E above the C. Again, play that interval a few times until you’re familiar with how it sounds. Now play a 2nd followed by a 3rd. Can you hear the difference and differentiate the two intervals from each other?
Keep going like this until you have gone through to an interval of an 8th or an octave.
Once you’re familiar with these intervals, start testing your ear. Have a friend play an interval for you and try to identify which interval it is. Another option is to listen to your favorite song and pick out intervals from the melody. Listen and try to determine what kind of interval you are hearing and use your instrument or keyboard to check yourself.
2. IDENTIFYING ROOT NOTES
Now let’s move on to chords. The easiest way to start training your ear to hear chords is to start simple and work your way up. For this exercise, we will try to identify just one note in a chord – the root note.
In music theory, the root note gives the chord its name and is the note from which all the other notes in the chord are built off. In a C Major chord, C is the root note.
- Play a few chords on your instrument or a keyboard.
- As you play the chord, emphasize the root note so your ear can pick it out easier.
- Listen to how it sounds and become familiar with it.
Get a friend to play a simple chord progression, and using your instrument or keyboard, try to identify the root notes in the chords your friend is playing. Another option is to pull up a song with a basic chord progression and try to find the root notes. It also helps to sing the note names as you go to really ingrain the sounds into your memory.
3. IDENTIFYING CHORD QUALITY
Once you begin getting comfortable identifying root notes, you can start trying to work out the chord’s quality. Major and minor are both chord qualities, as are diminished, minor 7, and augmented. But for this exercise, it’s best to start with identifying simple major/minor triads and working your way up to more complex seventh chords.
Play a C Major chord and listen to how it sounds. Now play a C Minor chord and really hear the difference. Repeat this exercise with a few different chords to get your ear accustomed to the sound of major and minor.
Next, pull up a song you like or get a friend to play a simple chord progression and try to identify the chord qualities. Does the chord you hear sound like a Major chord (happy) or a Minor chord (dark or sad)?
Being an active listener as you write, play, and listen to music throughout the day can be a great way to help improve your ear.
For more, you can read the original article published here
This article is a re-post, with small modifications, of “3 TRAINING EXERCISES TO HELP DEVELOP YOUR EAR” an article published on tunecore.com