Online Ear Trainer 2.0

 
Play Mode controls what happens when you click play. Auto-mode, puts the player on a loop, delaying each loop for as long as desired.
Check this box to immediately show the first note of the sequence as it plays. In Rhythm Section mode, the "first note" displayed is the key without the progression/chord type.
Check this box to delay the complete results of what was just played.
Set the key center to the key center of your instrument so you can play along. You can also change the octave range of melody line used in each exercise by selecting an octave up/down option.
Use this dropdown to specify a cadence to play before each exercise. Cadences provide a reference key/tonality from which you can compare other tones. The "Follow..." option will play a major cadence in the same key as the exercise that's about to be played.
Check this box to activate Interval exercises. The ear training tool will randomly select an exercise from any of the active/checked tabs.
The ear training tool will randomly generate intervals based upon your selected intervals. You can preview an interval's sound by clicking on the interval name.
Ascending plays the lowest note first. Descending plays the highest note first.
Melodic sequences play each note separately, one after another. Harmonic sequences play all of the notes at the same time.
If you specify a root note, it will be the lower note of each interval.
Select this box to add the compound interval for each selected simple interval. A simple interval is less than an octave (e.g. Major 2nd) while a compound interval (e.g. Major 9th) is an octave farther apart.
Check this box to activate Chord exercises. The ear training tool will randomly select an exercise from any of the active/checked tabs.
The ear training tool will randomly generate chords based upon your selected chord types. You can preview a chord's sound by clicking on the chord name.
These chords aren't as common as those shown to the left, but they do appear occasionally in jazz music. I would suggest focusing more on the chords shown to the left, adding these ones if you have the time/interest.
"Root" position puts the chord's root note at the bottom, whereas each inversion puts a different chord member in the bass. The "Drop 2" option uses a root position chord, placing the second highest scale degree in the bass.
Ascending plays the lowest note first. Descending plays the highest note first.
Melodic sequences play each note separately, one after another. Harmonic sequences play all of the notes at the same time.
If you specify a root note, it will be the lower note of each chord.
Check this box to activate Random Melody exercises. The ear training tool will randomly select an exercise from any of the active/checked tabs.
The ear training tool will randomly generate melodies using the notes/scales you select.
If you select C and D in SINGLE NOTE mode, your random melody will only use those two notes. If you select C and D in MAJOR SCALE mode, the random melody will use any note from either the C or D major scales. In JAZZ LICK and SIMPLE SONG mode, you'd end up with licks in the key of C or D.
Note length specifies how many notes will comprise the random melody.
This specifies the length for the scale pattern or jazz lick. A short melody is about 4-6 notes, while a long melody is 8-10 notes in length.
To make the random melody easier to hear and play, you can restrict all notes to a single octave.
You can use any of the following instruments for the main exercise and piano sound.
Change the duration that each note is played. Shortening the sustain results in more of a staccatto attack. This does not apply to rythmically sequenced notes such like simple songs and the rhythm section's call and response exercises.
If desired, you can repeat each exercise when you're in auto play mode.
The duration of each interval or chord when played harmonically (at the same time).
The duration of each note when played melodically (one after another).
Modulation repeats an exercise moving the pitch up or down. Basic modulation repeats notes/melodies immediately while cycle-based modulation repeats each exercise after a full resting period as it moves through the circle of 4th's or 5'ths. Modulation will not affect rhythm section exercises.
Modulation intervals set the distance for each modulation.
Choose whether or not you want a short pause to occur between each modulation.
Check this box to activate Rhythm Section exercises. The ear training tool will randomly select an exercise from any of the active/checked tabs.
Select one or more keys for the rhythm section exercise. Only one key will play per exercise and changes made to this option will not go into effect until the NEXT sequence is played..
Select a chord/progression type to play throughout the entire exercise. Changes made to this option will not go into effect until the NEXT sequence is played.
Choose the rhythm section instruments that will play.
The number of measures for which the rhythm section will play. Changes made to this option will not go into effect until the NEXT sequence is played. For Rhythm Changes and Cherokee, 12 measures represents one chorus (which will actually be longer).
Call and response generates melodies using the number of notes you select (the melody starts after a 2-measure intro). If you have "Show First Note" selected, the notes are shown in the staff. Listen to the melody and try to play it back on your instrument, matching both pitches and rhythms. You can change the Midi Instrument under the Advanced tab.
This specifies the length for the call and response phrase. A short phrase is 1 measure long, while a long phrase is 2 measures in length. Each phrase ends with a sustained note about 2 or 3 beats in length (extending the phrase for another measure). Wait for the note to stop before repeating the phrase.
Randomization will subdivide the given chord progression into the number of measures shown. For each group of measures, a random key will be chosen from your selected options. The "Single" options will use one progression type for the entire exercise, while the "Mixed" options will choose randomly from the selected progression types. Note that randomization is not compatible with Call & Response.
When activated, you can use your computer keyboard to play notes on the piano and to control playback. The corresponding keys will appear on the piano image shown above. Additionally, you can use > for play, < for stop, n for harmonic repeat, and m for melodic repeat.
Yes, just like that!
Changes made to any of the rhythm section options will not go into effect until the NEXT sequence is played. So, if a rhythm section exercise is currently playing and you add a new key to the mix, that key won't be used until the current rhythm section exercise ends and a new one begins.
Loading and initializing the ear training applet...
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Controls
Intervals
Chords
Melodies
RSection
Advanced
Tempo
 
 
Play Mode
Show First Note
Delay Results
Key Center
Starting Cadence
Intervals will not play unless you check the box in the tab above
Note Direction


Sequence Type


Root Note

Ear Training Tool Introduction

This ear training tool has exercises for intervals, chords, melodic call and response, and a rhythm section feature for jazz improvisation (the RSection tab). Explanations for each ear training option are visible by hovering over the images. Let me know if you run into any problems. Last updated: March 10, 2013.
launch the song randomizer
Chords will not play unless you check the box in the tab above
Inversions
Root
1st
2nd
3rd
Drop 2
All

Note Direction


Sequence Type


Root Note

Melodies will not play unless you check the box in the tab above
Note/Scale Options
C
C#
D
Eb
E
F
F#
G
Ab
A
Bb
B
All
Each box is a...

Melody Length

Restrict to Single Octave

Random Melody Introduction

This feature generates random melodies that you can use for sight-singing and call-and-response ear training. These exercises will probably be easier if you've already mastered interval identification. I also recommend that you begin with "Single Note" mode and short 2- or 3-note melodies.

The Rhythm Section will not play unless you check the box in the tab above
Keys To Play
C
C#
D
Eb
E
F
F#
G
Ab
A
Bb
B
All

# of Measures

RSection Info
Progressions
All
Call & Response

Call & Resp. Length

Randomization

Accompaniment
All
Modulation

Rest Between Modulations

Modulation Intervals
Minor 2nd
Major 2nd
Minor 3rd
Major 3rd
Perfect 4th
Tritone
All

AutoPlay Repeat Count
Midi Instrument

Note Sustain

Melodic Note Size

Harmonic Note Size

Activate Keyboard

If the ear trainer isn't working properly, please see my troubleshooting section for assistance...

MY DAILY EAR TRAINING ROUTINE

Ear training is one of the most important parts of my daily practice routine. When I began ear training back in 2004, I'd start each day with intervals, then move on to harmonic intervals and chords. Now, however, my skills have progressed to the point where I can skip intervals and begin with random 6-note melodies. From there, I typically practice some of the longer scale patterns, simple songs, and jazz licks (all found under the Melodies tab). Once my ears have warmed up with the various melodic ear training exercises, I'll finish my ear training session by improvising over random jazz chord progressions (under the RSection tab). In total, I probably spend 20-30 minutes on ear training each day (including playing songs by ear), but I'd definitely do more if I had the time.

To help you understand how I use this ear training tool in my daily practice routine, I recorded clips of myself actually using it. Next to each clip you'll see a [CONFIGURE TRAINER] link. If you click on that link, the ear training tool will auto-configure itself so all you need to do is click the ear trainer's PLAY button and it will use the same settings that you hear in the clip.

MY EAR TRAINING CLIPS - RECORDED ON NOVEMBER 18, 2006

play - Random intervals played melodically [CONFIGURE TRAINER]

play - Random intervals played harmonically [CONFIGURE TRAINER]

play - Random chords played harmonically [CONFIGURE TRAINER]

play - Random melodies, 6 notes [CONFIGURE TRAINER]

play - Random melodies, 4 notes with modulation [CONFIGURE TRAINER] - This exercise is new to my routine and it's very challenging for me right now. BTW, if you configure your ear trainer to use this clip's settings, you can turn off modulation under the Advanced tab. Also, clicking any of the above CONFIGURE TRAINER links will turn off modulation.

ADDITIONAL NOTES ABOUT MY EAR TRAINING CLIPS

As you'll notice, each of these clips demonstrate call-and-response ear training. In other words, the ear trainer plays some notes and then I try to play them back on my instrument, by ear. I believe that this is the best ear training method because it simultaneously improves our aural skills and ear-hand coordination (the ability to play something by ear on our instruments). Both of these skills are necessary for jazz improvisation. If you try call-and-response ear training and end up making a bunch of mistakes, try starting with just a few intervals or 3-note random melodies (see GETTING STARTED for more info). Also, be sure to try slowing down the tempo to give you more time to absorb and think about the various pitches.

While recording these clips, I didn't look at the ear trainer's staff for starting notes. Instead, I relied solely on my ears to find each note. Yes, there are some mistakes in these clips and yes I hesitated before playing several of the notes, but with each passing month/year my accuracy improves. You should have heard how many mistakes I made two years ago!

Once I've finished this ear trainer's exercises, I fire up my other ear trainer and play simple songs by ear.

GETTING STARTED WITH EAR TRAINING - LEARNING INTERVALS

Intervals (distances between two notes) are the building blocks for all chords and melodies. If you're already able to play random melodic sequences of three or more notes accurately by ear, you can skip right over intervals. However, if you're struggling to play simple phrases by ear, intervals are a good starting point. Once you're able to hear the distance between two notes, you can move on to chords, melodies, and real music.

SINGING INTERVALS

You don't have to be able to sing each interval, but singing is a great way to internalize the sounds of music. Singing is also convenient since you can do it just about anywhere (in the car, in the shower, etc). If you are going to try singing, I'd suggest you start with a few intervals (3 or 4). Master them in ascending order. Then add more intervals. Once you can sing all of them in ascending order, learn to sing them in descending order.

Using the ear training tool to sing intervals:
  • Select the "Intervals" tab of the ear trainer and make sure the tab's checkbox is checked
  • Select one or more intervals you'd like to work on from the "Intervals to Play" options
  • Select the "Note Direction" you want to work on (I suggest starting with ascending)
  • Set the Play Mode to "Sing: No Play"
  • Click the "Next >" button to generate the intervals
  • When an interval appears in the staff, click the bottom note to establish its sound. Sing that pitch aloud. Now try to sing the second note. Click the second note to check your accuracy. If you've missed, try finding the note you sang on the keyboard and then listen to the difference between the correct sound and the sound you sang.

TIP: Some people like to associate each interval with sounds from popular tunes. A perfect fourth (ascending), for example, is the sound heard in the first two notes from "Hear Comes The Bride". I think it's ok to use a few song associations when you're starting out, but long-term, they could hinder your ability to play accurately by ear. For example, if you're playing an improvised jazz solo, you won't have enough time to think through a bunch of song associations to decide which note to play next. And even if you did have the time, certainly all of that extra processing would interrupt your creative flow. Further down on this page, you'll find a list of intervals and song associations.

IDENTIFYING INTERVALS

As you learn to sing intervals, you should begin to test your ability to identify intervals by sound. These tests will help reinforce the your mastery of each interval. Additionally, the tests will start you on your way to identifying and playing intervals (by ear) in real music.

Using the ear training tool to identify intervals:
  • Select the "Intervals" tab of the ear trainer and make sure the tab's checkbox is checked
  • Select one or more intervals you'd like to work on from the "Intervals to Play" options
  • Select the "Note Direction" you want to work on (I suggest starting with ascending)
  • Select the "Sequence Type" you want to work on. It's probably best to begin with melodic sequences (notes are played one after another). Once you master melodic sequences, try harmonic sequences (notes are played together).
  • Set the Play Mode to "Play: Manual"
  • Check the "Delay Results" checkbox. This will allow you to hear the interval before the results are shown. Of course, you can always look away from the screen to avoid seeing the results.
  • Click the "Play >" button to generate and play the intervals.
  • When the interval sounds, sing both notes of the interval, listening closely to the each tone. Try to identify the interval distance and note name before the results are displayed. If you guess the wrong interval, use the keyboard to compare the sound of the guessed interval and the correct interval.
PLAYING INTERVALS

Once you've gotten good at singing and identifying intervals, you should try to play the notes on your instrument as you hear them. You will basically want to follow the instructions shown in the IDENTIFYING INTERVALS section, however there is one import option. Beneath the "Play Mode" box, you'll see an option to "Show First Note". Checking this box will always display the first note, so you'll have a pitch reference to use when playing the next note in the interval. As you gain more experience with these exercises, try un-checking the "Show First Note" box.

If your ear is having trouble locking in on the notes, slow down the tempo and/or reduce the number of intervals you're trying to play. When my ear is struggling to find the notes, I'll set the tool to a simple interval (e.g. seconds) and play along with that for a while. After a few minutes, my ear is re-tuned and ready for harder/farther intervals.

Suggestion: Once you get good at melodic intervals, be sure to try harmonic intervals. When listening to harmonic intervals, try to pick out each note from the bottom up. Listening from the bottom up is useful because chords are often played with the root note as the lowest pitch. Consequently learning to identify harmonic intervals and chords from the bottom up can help you to identify chords/keys.

RANDOM MELODIES

Playing random melodies by ear is similar to playing simple songs (or any other music) by ear, however the ear training tool provides a controlled environment that helps you to gradually improve and challenge yourself. As with intervals, you should practice both singing and playing random melodies by ear.

Using the ear training tool to generate random melodies:
  • Select the "Melodies" tab of the ear trainer and make sure the tab's checkbox is checked
  • Select which notes or keys you want to use in the random sequences. When starting out, I'd suggest picking 3 or 4 notes. Be sure to select "Single Note" where it says "Each box is a...". If that option is set to major scale, then each checkbox will pull-in every note in the major scale(s) identified by your selected "Note/Scale Options".
  • Select the number of notes you want in your random sequence. Once again, 3 or 4 is probably a good place to start.
  • To prevent large interval jumps, check "Restrict to Single Octave"
  • The play settings should be familiar at this point, so make your selections (Sing vs. Play, Delay, etc) and click the "Play" button to begin.

ADDITIONAL EAR TRAINING SUGGESTIONS

When playing along, be sure to set the "Key center" to your instrument's key (Bb: trumpet, clarinet, tenor sax, Eb: alto sax, F: french horn, C: you know who you are) so the notes and pitches will match your instrument... unless, of course, you'd also like to work on transposing.

As you become more familiar with how the ear training tool works, you'll probably want to use the automatic looping function for many of the exercises. This is done simply by selecting one of the "Auto" Play Modes.

Looking for more material to play by ear? If so, be sure to check out my simple song randomizer.

Need help with basic theory? If so, try this site or this one.

ADDITIONAL READING

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.

Learning To Improvise - Ear Training: This article discusses the importance of ear training in jazz improvisation.

Suzuki Method & Music Education: This article discusses some of the 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.

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.

INTERVAL ASSOCIATIONS FOR EAR TRAINING

You may find it helpful to associate each interval with the beginning of a popular tune that you already know. As mentioned in the GETTING STARTED section, I think it's ok to use some song associations when you're just getting started with ear training. Long-term, however, they could hinder your development if you're constantly referring to a bunch of song associations when trying to play music by ear.

Personally, I haven't had much success with song associations. When I was in college, I learned a song association for every interval, but it was extremely slow going when I tried to use them with sight singing or dictation. During dictation tests, I'd listen to notes and then frantically try to determine whether they sounded like "Happy Birthday" or "Georgia On My Mind". Sometimes it would click and I'd get it right, but more often I'd still be thinking about one interval by the time the next was played. And, naturally, it was way too slow for jazz improvisation. There are a few song associations that I can't get out of my head, like "Love Story" for minor sixths, but for the most part I haven't used song associations during my return to ear training and trumpet playing.

MINOR 2ND

  • Ascending: Nice Work If You Can Get It
  • Descending: Joy To The World, Solar, Descending Major Scale

MAJOR 2ND

  • Ascending: Happy Birthday, Ascending Major Scale
  • Descending: Mary Had A Little Lamb, Freddie Freeloader

MINOR 3RD

  • Ascending: Georgia On My Mind
  • Descending: Hey Jude, Frosty The Snowman

MAJOR 3RD

  • Ascending: Major Triad, Oh When The Saints (Go Marching In)
  • Descending: Summertime, Giant Steps

PERFECT 4TH

  • Ascending: Here Comes The Bride, All The Things You Are, Auld Lang Syne
  • Descending: Oh Come All Ye Faithful

DIMINISHED 5TH (TRITONE)

  • Ascending: Maria (from West Side Story)
  • Descending: Blue Seven

PERFECT 5TH

  • Ascending: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • Descending: Feelings, Seven Steps To Heaven

MINOR 6TH

  • Ascending: Love Story (Theme), Manha de Carnaval
  • Descending: Chega de Saudade (No More Blues)

MAJOR 6TH

  • Ascending: My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean, Take The 'A' Train
  • Descending: Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen

MINOR 7TH

  • Ascending: Star Trek Theme
  • Descending: Watermelon Man

MAJOR 7TH

  • Ascending: Ceora
  • Descending: I Love You

OCTAVE

  • Ascending: Somewhere Over The Rainbow
  • Descending: Willow Weep For Me

TROUBLESHOOTING ISSUES WITH THIS EAR TRAINING TOOL

WINDOWS/LINUX/MACOSX: JAVA RUNTIME ENVIRONMENT IS MISSING

If you don't see anything but a blank gray or white area at the top of the page, or if you get a message telling you to download a plugin then you probably don't have the required Java Runtime Environment (JRE) Plug-in (version 1.4.0 or higher). You can verify your Java installation and upgrate to the latest version here: www.java.com. Click the "Do I Have Java?" button and then follow the instructions if it prompts you to install a newer version.

WINDOWS: NO AUDIO

Most often, audio problems with this ear training tool are caused by Windows' MIDI settings. You can verify that MIDI is setup properly with the following steps:

1. Go to Start->Settings->Control Panel
2. Open "Sounds and Audio Devices"
3. On the "Volume" tab, click on "Advanced..." located in the "Device volume" section. Make sure "MIDI Synth" isn't muted or turned off. It might be called "SW Synth" or something else. The important thing is that nothing related to midi is muted on that page.
4. If the volume stuff didn't seem to be the culprit, then go to the "Audio" tab, make sure "MIDI music playback" is going to your audio card. You could also try sending it the default Microsoft synth (your audio card might sound better, though)

Note: the above was written for Windows XP. I haven't had trouble with Windows 7 and this ear training tool, but if I did, I'd probably visit Control Panel's "Sound" window to configure one of the devices on the Playback tab.

MAC OSX: NO AUDIO

If another application uses MIDI but doesn't free up the MIDI ports when it's finished, the ear training tool's audio might be unavailable. The easiest solution is to reboot your computer. Upon restart, the MIDI ports should be reset and the ear training tool will function properly.

MAC OSX: DELAYED AND/OR SPORADIC AUDIO

This happens to my Mac sometimes and seems especially bad when using the RSection feature for long exercises and with multiple voices (Piano, Bass, Hi-Hat, Ride). The applet starts playing the MIDI sequence and then all of a sudden the sound cuts out. Sometimes it comes back on its own and sometimes it doesn't. I've read that this is "just the way things" are with the most recent Mac OSX and the current java runtime engines, so I don't think there's anything that can be done at this time aside from restarting the exercise and/or rebooting.

USING EXTERNAL MIDI DEVICES FOR AUDIO

I don't have any personal experience with this, but somebody mentioned that you may need to delete Java's soundbank file in order to send the MIDI output to your external device. I'll go ahead and assume that if you really want to do this, that you can figure out the details on your own. Good luck!