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

Play By Ear - iPhone Ear Training App

Play By Ear is a musical ear training app for iPhones and other iOS devices that helps you develop the ability to hear pitches and play them back on your instrument by ear. Rather than force you to press buttons to indicate the notes you've heard, Play By Ear uses pitch recognition so you can play the notes back on your instrument (piano, guitar, trumpet, etc). Using your instrument to play the notes allows you to develop your ear training skills in a method that most closely matches how you'll actually play music. Regardless of your current skill level, Play By Ear's customizable interval, chord, and melody exercises can help you to improve your ability to play by ear. Download Play By Ear from the iTunes App Store.

download from iTunes


  • Pitch recognition
  • Use your instrument to interact with the ear trainer
  • Hands-free, continuous ear training
  • Interval exercises
  • Chord exercises
  • Random melody exercises
  • Scale pattern melody exercises
  • Jazz lick melody exercises
  • Melodic and harmonic note sequences
  • Ascending and descending note sequences
  • Microphone calibration
  • Customizable tempo
  • Ability to show or hide the first note of each ear training exercise
  • C, Bb, Eb, F, G, and D key centers to match your instrument


The Play by Ear iPhone ear training application will play an interval, chord, or melody exercise, depending on the highlighted button at the top of the screen. After listening to the exercise, the application will prompt you to play back what you heard on whatever instrument you play. As you play each note, the application will display the correct note and indicate whether or not you played the right note by coloring the note green for success and red for each error.

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  • Be sure to set the Global Settings to match the key center to your instrument. While there, you can improve the accuracy of pitch detection by using the microphone calibration feature.
  • Put your iPhone close to your instrument. The application uses pitch detection to identify the notes you're playing so it needs to hear you at a decent volume.
  • Pause between each note you play. You don't have to pause for long, but a brief gap will help the application to differentiate between each note.
  • Center your pitch. Make sure you're hitting the center of each note. A cracked note, or wavering pitch will result in a note mismatch.
  • If you can't get pitch detection to work for your instrument, you can turn it off in the Global Settings. Without pitch detection, you'll still be able to work hands free and you'll get all of the benefits of ear training, but you won't have to worry about note mismatches


If you have an questions about using the Play By Ear iPhone ear training application, or if you'd just like to send some feedback, please send me a message.