Online Ear Training:
Ear Trainer 3.0
This free online ear training application has call and response exercises for intervals, chords, and melodies, as well as a programmable rhythm section that you can use to practice jazz improvisation. You can even create your own ear training exercises using the custom scratchpad. And best of all, since it's built with HTML5, this online ear training application works on Macs, PCs, and most mobile devices!
iPhone Ear Training App:
Play By Ear
Play By Ear is a free ear training app for the iPhone that includes exercises for learning to play intervals, chords, and melodies by ear. Like my online ear training application to the left, Play By Ear uses call and response ear training, but it also adds pitch recognition to show whether or not you played the correct notes. Play By Ear doesn't have as many features as the online ear training application, but it's a handy mobile ear training app that you can take anywhere.
Learn more about the free Play By Ear iPhone app
Online Ear Training:
When learning to play music by ear, one of the most effective ear training exercises is to play familiar songs by ear in a variety of keys. Any song will work for this type of ear training. You just need to know the song well enough to effortlessly sing, whistle, or hum its melody. With that level of familiarity, you can then try playing the song on your instrument by ear, without written music. My song randomizer streamlines this activity by choosing a random song from a database of several hundred possibilities.
Try the free song randomizer
WHY IS EAR TRAINING 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, like "Happy Birthday" or "Frosty the Snowman." Whatever the song, it was something that you could effortlessly sing or whistle, but you hadn't ever tried playing 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 without 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 on this 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.
- Ear Training - 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.