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Tutorial: Ear Training For Musicians

By moosers on 05/03/2010 - (Anyone)

Introduction

This tutorial is one for musicians who play any kind of instrument.  The following thoughts are some ideas that I've found to be useful when it comes to getting your ear in tune...

Step 1

The main point that I would like to get across with this tutorial, and really anytime that you're talking about your ears, is that it is essential to keep your ears healthy!  This means that you should be wearing hearing protection whenever possible and whenever needed.  If you feel that you can't hear properly in a loud environment with over the counter ear plugs, I'd encourage you to get a pair of custom ear plugs, as it is a great investment and will help you dearly in the long run.  This means during shows, practice, etc.  More than anything else that I have to say, keeping your ears in good shape will be the most important...

Step 2

While this will probably not come as a surprise to you, the best way that I think you can train your ears is by simply playing your instrument!  This will help you to get all of the minute details down that you will need to in terms of being able to recognize the details of your sound and the relationship between notes.  It may sound simple, but just do what you do and over time you'll see yourself getting more trained in terms of knowing how to get the sound that you want from your instrument.  I'm speaking both in terms of tone and in phrasing.  If you practice all the time and really concentrate on what you're playing, everything will fall into place over time in terms of training your ear...

Step 3

Beyond playing at home, another very helpful ear training exercise is to play to some of your favorite music and even just listening to music in general.  I do this all the time when I'm playing guitar, as I find it helpful to improvise over music that I'm familiar with.  I also will play the songs without anything playing, but there's just something about playing along with a recording that can be really helpful.  They also make backing tracks to play along with, no matter what kind of instrument you play.  This can also be a helpful thing if you're trying to work out a particular part or are just trying to learn the ins and outs of a song without needing to have the other musicians present...Which leads me to my next point.

Step 4

While playing on your own and with recorded music can be a beautiful thing, there is nothing more important than playing with real musicians!  Even if you're just playing with a friend, feeding off of other musicians is a very important thing to be able to do and get used to.  There is no replacement for playing with real people and it definitely isn't an experience that can be emulated.  For this reason I'd encourage you to get out there and to play with other musicians as much as possible.  You'll learn a lot from each other and might see things in a way that you wouldn't have...

Step 5

While this may seem like some obvious stuff to experienced players, for those new to the game I can't stress enough how important practicing is!  It's really all that you can do to get better at your instrument and to get your ear in shape.  It can years and years and it really isn't ever an ending process.  As long as you keep playing and listening, your ear will develop naturally...

Conclusion

While I hope you found this helpful, please keep in mind that everyone is different and that you must find your own way!