So where do you stand about the about the importance of deliberately training your ears as a musician?
Developing a well-trained set of ears can help you “step up your music game” in a way that most people who play instruments never even bother to do. Our ears are clearly the engine behind everything that we play that does not appear in a written form (as in chord sheets or note sheets).
This means that by improving our ears we will get to improve upon our:
- Improvisation(lead guitar/lead piano/lead harmonica/lead whatever…) skills.
- Effective use of different chord “spice ups” on songs we play (adding fresh and unique sounding tensions with sus4 chords, 6th's, etc…)
- Ability to figure out and play a song's melody by ear – especially helpful for melodic instruments (flute, melodica, clarinet and so on) players that like to jam with other people but of course for guitar and piano players as well.
- Ability to figure out a song's harmony (chords progression) by ear. An attribute that is extremely handy in so many everyday situations we stumble upon in our music life. (“dude, can you play “that” song ?”)
- Ability to memorize a much bigger number of songs (thanks to our improved ability to tell chord progressions by ear) and sport a wider repertoire as a result.
- Generally, become a much more skilled musician since our ears are the core of our music playing abilities.
In the past year I have been toying around with a few different ways to effectively practice and improve my ears in order to gain a better control on all the attributes listed above. At some points I was even doing ear training for one hour every day. My abilities to tell the chord progression in songs, determine exact intervals and all the other advantages above have indeed improved significantly and I enjoy it every day with any instrument that I play.
However, after a lot of trial and error I have got to the clear conclusion that you can get almost the same results from only 10 minutes a day! (ever heard of the 80/20 rule? It states that 80 % of benefits will come from 20 % of one’s time and efforts) And now, I am proud to present to you…
The Ultimate 10 Minutes Daily Ears Workout
Today, we are far luckier than the millions of musicians who lived in previous centuries and did not have SMARTPHONES like we do. In 2015, with a little help from certain apps, anybody who wishes to, can easily develop a very fine musical listening skills.
The idea is to deliberately train your ears to distinct between different intervals for a short time every day. The training itself is pretty fun and you feel the improvement immediately. However, the big results will come in slowly – and over the course of a few months, you will take your music playing to a whole new level on all the instruments that you play. At this point it can be fine to lower the frequency of the “workouts” if you feel cool with that.
Interval training is the core of all ear training and will give you the most benefits, but using these apps you can also train yourself for distinguishing between different kinds of chords, for figuring out chord progressions by ear, for perfect pitch training and more.
There are tons of apps that offer ear training. The apps that I have personally found out to be very effective for the task are below. A lot of the ear training apps do not offer an intuitive experience so I suggest sticking with the ones below.
- Ear Worthy– In my opinion Ear Worthy provides the most comfortable and intuitive way to practice the recognition of different intervals and different kinds of chords and it is my main ear training app.
- Ear Trainer (by Thoor Software) – Another great app that also helps track your results and improvement.
- Guitar Tuna– Mostly known as a guitar tuner, but Guitar Tuna also offers a very fun (and addicting) mini-games section where you can practice identifying different chords.
- Theta Music Trainer– There's a wide variety of mini-games, and my favorite one is “Speaker Chords” where you practice identifying chord progressions. Super useful and you can access the basic levels from the free version. The full version costs a whopping 49$ and I would not recommend getting it since I think it's way overpriced and most of it's contents can be found for free (or almost free) in other apps.
- InTune– A small little app that works on your ability to distinct notes in super-fine accuracy. Working with this app will help you get better with tuning your guitar by ear and easily feeling when an instrument is getting out of tune.
* The above links are for the Apple Appstore. However, all of these apps are also available for Android phones.
For most of these apps there is a free version available and the paid version usually costs a fair price that's between 2-10$. Obviously, I recommend playing around a bit with the free version to see if you like it before you buy.
So what exactly do I do with these 10 minutes? It's all up to you, and as long as you work your ears for 10 minutes a day, the amazing results are going to come. Usually my own Ears Workout looks something like this:
- 3 Minutes of interval training (using Ear Worthy)
- 2 Minutes of recognizing different chord progressions (using the Theta Music Trainer)
- 2 Minutes of super fine notes training (using the InTune app)
- 3 Minutes of recognizing different kinds of chords (using Guitar Tuna or Ear Worthy)
This is just one example of a good structure, but the idea is to keep shuffling around and spicing it up so the Ear Workout will not get boring and you will stick to it for the long term in order to fully reap the benefits.
Another important aspect that you can add (especially if you already have a daily guitar practice routine) is to actually practice figuring out melodies and progressions on the guitar itself. When you do it regularly, you get another major boost to your improvement.
The Guitar Theory Revolution course that I highly recommend anyway, also provides you with a bunch of MP3's for ear training that you can use to practice “passively” while driving in the car for example. I do it on very busy days and it's great.
That's it. Remember, each and every one of us can find those 10 minutes a day. Maybe before or after a guitar session, or as you wake up and eating breakfast. Another option is in the evening before you go to bed.
Remember the motivation – by doing so, you are giving yourself a very big edge over the average guitar joe and take your music game further on to new levels.
Time to practice…
Thank you for reading, have fun!
* Photos are courtesy of thebestguitarlessons.com and personalizedmusiclessons.com.
* Originally posted in April '15.