If you or your child has recently begun studying music, then you may have heard the instructor talk about “ear training.”
What exactly is ear training, and why is it important?
Ear training isn’t absolutely necessary when you’re taking music lessons. In fact, lots of people have become proficient musicians without undergoing any kind of formal ear training.
Nonetheless, experts suggest that ear training can not only make you a better musician but also give you a deeper appreciation when listening to music.
When people train their ears, it enables them to use their aural skills to identify:
- and Pitches
Think of ear training as being similar to learning to take dictation. With dictation, you write down words as they are spoken. Ear training enables the listener to discern all of the various components of a musical composition, which means that these components could be written down or played on an instrument.
When musicians and others undergo ear training, they are able to hear and understand more about music as they listen. This further makes it possible for artists to find additional creative freedom, and this means that they can better express themselves through music.
Prodigies is all about engaging young children in meaningful and memorable play with individual musical notes!
We’re not just listening to different instruments or memorizing composers and styles. We’re actually learning the sounds of music and honing our sense of perfect pitch.
“What note is it?” A listening game in the Prodigies Play App and is one of the best ways to both develop and test for perfect pitch is to play simple listening games. Test your ear-training skills here!
A Skill That Can Be Acquired
Perhaps you grew up with the idea that people are either born with natural musical ability or not. If that were true, individuals who were not born with natural ability would never be able to learn how to play an instrument or even gain a greater appreciation for the music that they hear.
Fortunately, musical ability can be learned and nurtured. Part of this learning is ear training. Formal ear training used to take quite a bit of time, and it could be a really repetitive process.
However, technology now makes it easier and more fun to train your ears.
What Are the Benefits of Ear Training?
When you train your ears, you develop “an ear for music.” This enables you to hear a song, and then play it on the instrument of your choice. You’ll probably be able to play with greater sensitivity and creativity. You may even discover a newfound ability to write songs.
What about people who are audio professionals or who have career aspirations in that direction?
They can benefit from ear training by developing their ability to hear the sometimes subtle differences that can make a song sound so much better. It helps them to choose which parts of the music to emphasize to make the song more exciting while also making it easier to identify a problem or missing element so that it can be corrected or added.
Vocalists also may benefit from ear training. In fact, singing and ear training go hand-in-hand, and you can use your voice to improve your ear training and vice versa. If you’ve ever wanted to improve your sight-singing ability, then ear training provides you with the perfect means to do so as it allows you to work on intonation and tuning.
What Will You Learn During Ear Training?
Some of the main elements of ear training include identifying:
- Chords; and
- Chord Progressions
Let’s take a closer look at each.
Each key on the piano makes a different sound. It does this by producing a sound wave, which is basically air molecules vibrating back and forth, creating a pressure wave from the piano to the ears of the listener.
The most important property of these sound waves is their frequency, which simply refers to how fast the wave is moving. It follows then that pitch is what the human ear hears and understands.
Ear training to identify pitch involves learning to hear a note and being able to immediately identify it. For instance, many musicians train their ears for pitch by repeatedly playing the same note on a musical instrument while repeating the name of the note aloud to commit it to memory.
The word “scale” as it is used in music training comes from the word ladder. Accordingly, a scale is a collection of tones that are used to build both melodies and harmonies. Tones within a scale are ordered in accordance with their pitch.
You can learn to recognize scales by ear. Musicians frequently do this just by practicing scales on their instrument of choice. Typically, this begins with the major and minor scales before progressing to less familiar scales.
Interval ear training can be a great place for novices to start because it’s a fundamental skill. With this type of training, you learn to identify one note based on another note by accurately hearing differences in pitch. These differences are called “intervals.”
As an example, interval training helps you to hear that a certain note is a “perfect fifth” below or above another note. Other interval examples include octaves, minor thirds, major thirds and perfect fourths.
These intervals are the basic building blocks of both harmony and melody. You may improve your ability to recognize intervals by performing exercises in which you practice identifying the difference between various types of intervals. In the beginning, start with a small, identifiable set of intervals like thirds or fourths before moving on to harmonic forms and inversions.
When a musician plays multiple notes at once, she is playing a chord. When you combine different notes together, these will have a variety of characteristic sounds. Chord training for your ears enables you to identify these chords.
Chord training is wonderful for people who want to play by ear or write their own music. However, this knowledge also enhances the enjoyment of people who are simply listening to a favorite piece of music.
Begin your chord training by learning to identify the four triads, which are minor, major, augmented and diminished. This will help you learn how harmonies are arranged.
You’ll also want to work on identifying chord progressions. Much of modern popular music relies on repetitively using the same common sequences of chords. Progressions can give songs a mood or even dictate which genre they fit into.
When you have trained your ears to recognize chord progressions, your songwriting endeavors will undoubtedly improve as you decide in which direction you want your composition to go.
Pitch Training with the Prodigies Bell App
This 4 year old has a serious talent for Absolute Pitch — check out how he quickly he names the notes around the 15 second mark — it’s crazy!!
Most of us are not nearly this gifted with pitch and music, but it is certainly possible to develop similar musical skills with your kids by giving them “meaningful exposure to pitch during the critical period for auditory development.” If kids experience music and the individual notes at a young age, they will internalize the sound of the notes similar to the way we internalize language at a young age.
The problem however, is that most of us don’t start any kind of pitch-based music training until elementary school…around age 5 or 6.
At this point, the window for internalizing music and language is starting to close, and as a result, most of us miss out on learning music during the most impactful years. Getting your child started with music as early as possible is the best way to jumpstart your kids on a colorful, exciting and age-appropriate musical journey!
Simplifying Ear Training
For centuries, it was only possible to undergo ear training by sitting for hours at your instrument as you committed pitches and chords to memory. That still can be an advisable approach for perfecting your ear training.
However, you now have the option of using various software and apps to assist with the process. This means that you can continue your ear training wherever you like. You may find a website offering lessons or use an app on your smart phone.
In fact, these apps can make ear training feel a lot more like playing games than hard work. You might find that online or software-assisted ear training is a lot of fun.
Practice with an Instrument
This colorful and durable xylophone is a high quality mallet instrument for kids. The coordination it takes to play with a mallet is more difficult than the Deskbells, so it works as a slightly more challenging alternative and as an introduction to mallet technique.
The Many Aspects of Music Instruction
Remember that ear training is just one part of learning about music. Put it together with a study of music theory and instrument lessons to really get the full effect. When you study all three, you will be well on your way to becoming a confident and accomplished musician.
In fact, as you progress in your study of all three aspects, you’ll quickly discover that each one serves and informs the others.
Think of your training on an instrument as the practical application of all that you are learning. Music theory provides you with abstract concepts. Ear training functions as the bridge between the practical and the abstract.
What If I’m Tone Deaf?
The chances that you or anyone that you know is actually tone deaf are miniscule. Most people only think that they are tone deaf because they were told that they were singing out of tune or even that they just couldn’t sing when they were little.
However, most people can be trained to have a good sense of pitch. They can even learn to sing.
Usually, they are held back from developing these skills because they haven’t trained themselves to listen and haven’t developed the necessary vocal control.
The excellent news is that ear training can remedy both of these issues. Ear training makes it possible for people to identify a song that is in tune from one that is out of tune. Moreover, with singing ear training, people can learn to control their voice’s pitch so that they can produce the note that they hear in their mind.
The Benefits Of Meaningful Exposure To Pitch
Get Started on the Right Foot
At Prodigies, we firmly believe that everyone has the capacity to enjoy music and learn to appreciate it on a deeper level. We also feel that all children should have access to music instruction, since science has proven that learning about music can improve performance in all academic areas.
Of course, learning about music also is just plain fun. You, your kids and your students will fall in love with learning thanks to the engaging lessons here at Prodigies Music. With video lessons, sheet music, desk bells and more, you’ll have many options for introducing your children to the fun and fascinating world of music.
Start browsing through the offerings at Prodigies today to see just how accessible and rewarding music instruction can be.