An aspiring jazz trumpet player's blog about jazz improvisation and ear training.

March 17, 2010 Ear Training 13 Comments

iPhone Application - Play By Ear

Over the past few months I've been working on an ear training application for the iPhone. I finally finished the application last week and I'm pleased to report that it's now available for download from the iTunes App Store!

play by ear

My iPhone ear training application is called "Play By Ear" and like my other ear training applications, it's free! If you've got an iPhone I hope you'll give it a try and let me know what you think. This is my first iPhone application and I think it's pretty cool. Hopefully you'll agree.

download from iTunes


You'll find a list of the basic features and some tips at my iPhone ear training application's homepage. It's similar to my Java ear training applet, but there are some significant differences. For starters, the iPhone ear training application is a much simpler application. It doesn't have the rhythm section feature, nor does it have stuff like the jazz licks and song-based melodies. The iPhone ear trainer does have one nice feature, though, that my Java ear trainer doesn't: pitch recognition.

Unlike my Java ear trainer, my iPhone ear training application uses pitch detection to listen to the notes you play. It then displays the correct notes as you play them, coloring them red or green depending upon your accuracy. I spent a lot of time tuning the pitch recognition to work with a variety of instruments (trumpet, piano, voice, guitar) and I'm sure I could spend even more time, but in my experience it works pretty well for pitches within an octave or two of a piano's middle C. I tested on both an iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS, but I don't really know if it works on an iPod Touch since it requires a headset to use the microphone. At least that's what I've read.

That's all for now. I just wanted to get out a quick message about my new iPhone ear trainer so you can start using it. Please let me know how it goes!


Comment by Tate

I will be using it often

Comment by Eric

Congrats man. This looks fantastic.

Comment by Mace

Besides the name, I love it!

Seriously, congrats. I know how hard you worked on this.

Comment by Rob

Hi Rick,

I have downloaded the app for iPod Touch and tested using the headphone mike (actually the handsfree from my Blackberry). I haven't tested with the trumpet yet, but works fine when I sing into it.

Thanks so much for developing this app!


Comment by Bradley


I've been checking the app store every night for a decent ear trainer since I got my phone in January. Last night I found it. Yours is truly designed for the self-motivated musician.

One possible improvement would be limit the range particularly in the melody section. Might make it more accessible to less accomplished musicians... but its just a quibble. Truly a great app given unselfishly.



Comment by Rick

Hi everyone,

Thank you for trying the ear training application and than you for the nice feedback. Hopefully you'll get some use out of it.

@Bradley - I'm trying to go with the iPhone ethos of simplicity, so the featureset is by design somewhat limited. I may add octave limiting at some point, but you can already get it and many more features with my existing online ear trainer. You can give it a try here: http://www.iwasdoingallright.com/tools/ear_training/main/


Comment by Bruno

Hi Rick,

Congratulations! Your ear training tool is a wonderful piece work!

But I don't have an iPhone. Is there any reasonable way to get it to work on a "Android" driven Google Phone?



I understand that you're giving the tool away for free, but I'd like to send you a donation through paypal.

Comment by Rick

Hi Bruno,

I don't own an android and since it's a smaller market, I probably won't create an iPhone application for it anytime soon. Sorry! But... it works nicely on an iPad, in case you were thinking of getting one. And thanks for the offer to donate, but it really isn't necessary. Perhaps you could instead donate that money to your iPad fund!


Comment by leo

Why 3.1.3 system compatible only? You are letting out all the jailbreakers out there.



Comment by Johannes

Recommended by Dave Douglas!


Comment by adimeshort

Kudos to you for the effort you put towards helping us untrained ears out! and gratuitously too

it depresses me to see how many people are trying to re-market at a costly price, slightly different approaches to recognizing pitch... I mean come on... More trained ears means a higher percentage of good musicians (well... you'd hope anyways lol)


i downloaded the app and i will be stop'n by the site regularly



Comment by Mus14

Wow, you are very high tech and intelligent. I am going to have to try it out someday.

Comment by Jon

Looks like a great app! Congratulations! I'm sure it's going to be a great help to this, and the next generation of musicians.

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