Play By Ear is an ear training application that includes exercises for learning to play intervals, chords, and melodies by ear. The exercises are all based on call and response, where the application plays some notes and you play them back on your actual instrument.
The iPhone version of Play By Ear also includes pitch recognition to determine whether or not you played the correct notes for each ear training exercise.
Play By Ear doesn't have as many features as the online ear training application shown to the right, but it's a handy mobile ear trainer that you can take anywhere!
Ear Training Online:
Intervals, Chords, Random Melodies
This free online ear training tool includes exercises for learning intervals, chords, and melodies. You can use the random melody feature to practice sight-singing and call-and-response (it also has pre-programmed jazz licks). The auto looping feature is especially useful so you can work hands-free, listening to the exercises and playing them back on your instrument. This online ear training tool also includes a rhythm section feature that dynamically generates jazz play-a-long tracks for major, minor, dominant7, II-V7-I, blues, and rhythm changes chord progressions... and more!
Ear Training Online:
Simple Song Randomizer
When learning to play by ear, one of the most effective ear training exercises is playing familiar tunes by ear. They can be simple songs like nursery rhymes, xmas carols, or jazz standards and rock/pop hits. All that matters is that you know them well enough to effortlessly sing, whistle, or hum their melody. With that level of familiarity you can then try playing them on your instrument by ear, without reading music. My simple song randomizer ear training tool streamlines this activity by providing you with a random song name and starting note.
WHY EAR TRAINING IS IMPORTANT
Ear training helps you to identify and play music entirely by ear, without the aid of written music. The ability to play by ear is essential to any improvising musician because it's the only way to accurately play the ideas in your head. Non-improvising musicians can also benefit from ear training as it allows you to learn new tunes, compose new tunes, and play any melody entirely by ear.
Here's another way to look at ear training... think of the last time you were around other people and somebody asked you to play a popular song on your instrument. Maybe it was an xmas carol, or maybe it was a rock song. Whatever it was, it was likely something that you could effortlessly sing yet you probably hadn't ever played it on your instrument. The question is this: Were you able to pick up your instrument and play the song by ear, or did you tell the person you couldn't play the song because you needed written music? I've been in this situation many times myself and I've always found it demoralizing when I couldn't play even the simplest of tunes by ear. And that's where ear training comes in. Regardless of your current ability, ear training can strengthen your ears moving you closer to the point where you can effortless play anything by ear.
EAR TRAINING ARTICLES
I've written several articles about ear training at my jazz blog. Following are some highlights:
- Learning To Improvise - Introduction: This article discusses my jazz education and the odd absence of adequate ear training. As you'll read in the article, my lack of ear training and my total inability to play by ear prevented me from succeeding at jazz improvisation.
- Learning To Improvise - Ear Training: This article discusses the importance of ear training in jazz improvisation.
- Play By Ear - Supporting Evidence: Interviews and masterclass notes where professional jazz musicians and educators discuss the importance of ear training and the ability to play by ear.
- Ear Training - Reader Email: Selected messages from readers of my jazz blog in which they discuss the importance of ear training in their musical development.
- Suzuki Method & Music Education: This article discusses some of the ear training principles behind the Suzuki Method and how those principles help students learn to play by ear.
- John Murphy - Ear Training Interview: In this article, I present an interview I did with University of North Texas professor, John Murphy. Among other things, John Murphy teaches jazz aural skills (ear training) at UNT's school of music.
- John Murphy - Musical Fluency: This is a short article by a University of North Texas Professor which compares fluency in a language to having strong aural skills.