Online Ear Trainer 3.0
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Registration allows you to save custom chord progressions, melodies, and other scripts under the "Custom" tab.
IntroductionThis ear training tool has call-and-response exercises for intervals, chords, and melodies. After each exercise is played, try to play back the notes you heard using your instrument.
If you want to practice jazz improvisation, the progressions feature allows you to play along with random chords and popular progressions. You can also use the custom feature to create your own melodies and chord progressions.
Let me know if you run into any problems. Last updated: March 6, 2016
Melodies IntroductionThis feature generates random melodies that you can use for sight-singing and call-and-response ear training.
I recommend that you begin with "Single Note" mode and short 2- or 3-note melodies. As your skills improve, you can move on to longer melodies, scale patterns, popular songs, and jazz licks.
Progressions IntroductionThis feature generates random chord progressions that you can play along with while practicing jazz improvisation.
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 melodic intervals and work my way through harmonic intervals and chords. Now that my aural skills have improved, I jump right in with scale patterns, popular songs, and jazz licks (all part of the melodies feature). Once I've demonstrated some accuracy playing melodies by ear, I continue my ear training practice by improvising over random chord progressions and playing along with actual recordings.
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.
Random intervals played melodically [CONFIGURE TRAINER]
Random chords played harmonically [CONFIGURE TRAINER]
Random 6-note melody [CONFIGURE TRAINER]
Long jazz lick with a modulated repeat [CONFIGURE TRAINER]
As you'll notice, each of these clips demonstrates call-and-response ear training, where the ear trainer plays some notes and I respond by playing back what I heard using my instrument. I prefer this type of ear training because it simultaneously improves my aural skills and ear-hand coordination (the ability to play something by ear on an instrument). With test-based ear training applications (e.g. "click the button to identify the interval"), you may develop the skills needed to identify intervals and chords by ear, but you still have to transfer those skills to your instrument.
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 some of the notes, but with each passing month/year my accuracy improves. You should have heard me before I started practicing ear training. I couldn't play anything by ear!
SING FIRST, PLAY SECOND
For beginners, I definitely recommend singing back the notes before you try playing them on your instrument. Singing will ensure that you heard the pitches correctly and it will also help you to better internalize the sound of each note.
When I hear a melody and I can't play it accurately by ear on my instrument, I immediately try to sing the melody. More often than not, my attempt to sing will prove that I didn't actually retain the sound of the melody. I might have forgotten some of the notes, or maybe I simply didn't hear it correctly the first time. Regardless, by removing the instrument from the equation, singing allows me to isolate the pitches and really get into the sound of each note.
For more on the importance of singing, check out my article on vocal improvisation.
MY THOUGHTS ON INTERVALS
If you're already able to play random melodic sequences of three or more notes fairly accurately by ear, you can skip right over intervals. However, if you're struggling to play simple phrases by ear, intervals might be a good starting point since they're comprised of just two notes. But that's all they are: a starting point. Once you've developed some accuracy with intervals, you should move on to 3- and 4-note melodies so you can begin to hear and play longer phrases by ear.
When learning intervals, some people like to associate each interval with sounds from popular tunes. It might be okay to use a few song associations when you're starting out, but they aren't a practical tool for playing actual music by ear. For example, when you're playing a tune in real-time, there's no time time to think through a bunch of song associations to decide which note to play next. It simply won't work. So, the sooner you get away from song associations, and for that matter, the sooner your get away from intervals, the better.
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, etc) 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.
ABOUT THE CUSTOM EAR TRAINING SCRATCHPAD
The scratchpad, located under the custom tab, allows you to create your own sequences. It's based on ABC notation but you can also create simpler sequences using a raw format that I created. Following are some examples to get you started with the scratchpad:
EXAMPLE 1: QUARTER NOTE MELODY
This sample includes 3 octaves of notes, starting from G below the staff and ascending chromatically. As you can see, if you want a melody comprised of quarter notes, you can just list the individual notes. Also notice the use of a natural sign ("=") to cancel the use of a previous sharp or flat.
G, _A, =A, _B, =B, C ^C D _E =E F ^F G _A =A _B =B c ^c d _e =e f ^f g _a =a _b =b c' ^c' d' _e' =e' =f' ^f' g'
EXAMPLE 2: SIMULTANEOUS NOTES
To play notes simultaneously, enclose the notes in brackets ("[ ]"). By default, the notes will sound for one beat, but you can add a number after the closing bracket if you want to hold the notes for a longer period of time. The following example plays each note of a G dominant 7th suspended 4th chord followed by the notes played simultaneously and held for 4 beats. Afterwards, it rests for 2 beats ("Z" is a rest) before playing the same thing in the key of C.
G, C D F [G,CDF]4 Z2 C F G _B [CFG_B]4
EXAMPLE 3: CHORD PROGRESSIONS
If you want chords without a melody, begin with a 'N:chords' line. This tells the system that you want to use the abbreviated chord notation. The actual chords should be separated into measures with a pipe ( | ) symbol.
F | F | E-7b5 | A7+9 | D- | D-| C- | F7 |
Bb | Eb7 | F | D- | G7 | G7 | G- | C7 |
The following example shows all of the currently supported chord types:
C | C7 | C- | C-7b5 | C7b9 | C7+9 | Cdim | C+ | C+4 | C7+4
EXAMPLE 4: CHORDS AND QUARTER NOTE MELODIES
This 2-measure sample includes chords and a simple melody. When combining chords and melodies, chords should appear in quotation marks, with the melody notes appear afterwards. In the second measure, we add a 4 to the 'C' to indicate that it should be held for 4 beats. Note that while melody notes use ABC notation, chords can use a standard sharp and flat notation (e.g. "F#7", "Eb-").
"G7" G F E D | "C" C4 | "C-" _E2 "F7" A2 | "Bb" _B,4
EXAMPLE 5: CHORDS AND EIGTH NOTE MELODIES
By default, each note is treated as a quarter note. If you want to treat each note as an eighth note, begin with a 'L:1/8' line.
"Gm" F C F A ^F D F A |"C7" G A _B G ^G e d _d |"F" c4 z4
ADDITIONAL READINGIf you'd like to learn more about ear training, here are some recommended articles from my jazz blog:
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.
Dave Douglas on Ear Training: Jazz trumpeter, Dave Douglas, shares his thoughts about ear training.
John Murphy - Ear Training Interview: In this article, I present an interview I did with University of North Texas professor, John Murphy.
I built the first version of my online ear trainer back in 2004. Back then, Java applets were fairly common and they offered the best performance for audio sequencing in a web browser. Although I can still get better performance from a Java applet, applets themselves are no longer in favor. This is largely due to various security issues and a general disdain for browser plugins like Java and Flash.
I've wanted to move away from Java for my ear trainer for some time, but I couldn't accomplish the fine-grained sequencing directly in HTML until recently. With the power of HTML5 and MIDI.js, I'm finally able to create a version of my ear trainer that runs without any additional plugins!
This ear training application performs best in recent versions of Chrome, Opera, and Firefox web browsers (Chrome seems to be the best). Performance is fine in Safari, but the audio quality isn't as good. If you find any bugs, please let me know. For the time being, though, I will not be addressing any issues with Internet Explorer.
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