Ear Training for Singers the Easy Way

Are you new to ear training?

Well, this is an article for you. I am going to explain what ear training is, why it is important for singers and how to develop your “ear” to become a better singer and musician.

What Is Ear Training?

Ear training is any activity that improves one’s “ear” for music. Ear training helps you hear pitches more clearly, understand what you hear and connect what you hear with what you sing or play.

Why Ear Training for Singers?

Ear training is an area that every singer should explore. Ear training helps you become a well-rounded singer with the ability to hear and identify pitches better, improvise or even compose own music. Ear training gives you musical freedom to express yourself.

ear training benefits

Every singer should work hard at developing relative pitch.

Relative pitch is an ability to identify notes by recognizing relationships between notes. It helps you create or re-create the right melody by knowing the relationship between notes. It helps you create a certain mood in a song by choosing the right types of chords. It helps you play or sing songs by ear by recognizing the right chord progression.

perfect pitch, relative pitch

Basic relative pitch skills include:

  • Recognizing intervals
  • Recognizing chords
  • Recognizing chord progressions

An interval is the distance between two pitches/notes. A melodic interval is two notes played one after another. A harmonic interval is two notes played at the same time. Interval ear training helps a singer to recognize a pitch based on another by hearing the distance in pitch. These kinds of exercises lead to developing relative pitch. Interval recognition is where most people get started in ear training. For example, interval ear training will teach you to hear a “perfect fifth”, and if you know that the first note was a C, you can work out that the second was a G. The ear training programs start with a small set of intervals (for example thirds, or fourths and fifths), and gradually introduce more complex intervals.

A chord is several notes played together. Chord ear training helps a singer to identify chords by recognizing their typical sound. Chord ear training usually starts with recognizing triad chords, more specifically major and minor triads. Chord ear training also helps a singer to understand harmonies in music, to sing or play by ear, to write own music but also to hear more detail in the music you listen to.

A chord progression is a sequence of chords. Chord progressions ear training helps a singer to recognize common chord patterns and play them by ear. If you want to learn to play songs by ear, the best kind of ear training to do is chord progressions ear training.

I am sure you have heard this fact: a great number of songs are made of three or four chords! Doing chord progression ear training helps you play many popular songs by ear.

The common belief is that people are born with an ear for music. They are either gifted or not. Well, some people are born more gifted than others. It’s like in sports – do you remember the kid in school who quickly picked up any sport and excelled in it? But do you also remember the kid who made the sport team and later excelled in it by hard work? The same goes for ear training. Some people just hear the intervals and chords quicker than others but the truth is that you can train your ear!

Ear training takes time but it does not have to be boring. Ear training can be easy, fun and effective by using today’s technology. Ear training is an essential part of singer’s education and therefore recognized institutions like Berklee College of Music make ear training a core part of the curriculum.

So How Do You Do Ear Training?

One way is to listen to great music. Really listen!

The other way is to use some great resources available to us on the net, both free and paid ear training software. I researched this topic and I found a couple of resources that I believe are fantastic! I tried them myself and they work!

Theta Music Trainer

This is my favourite ear training program! I love it.

It’s available for both PC users (Theta Music Trainer website) and mobile users (Theta Music Trainer on iTunes).

Let me introduce you to the website trainer. The program has many ear training and music theory games that are organized by topic to help you figure out what skill to train. You can play the first three levels of the games for free straightaway without setting up an account. You can also play the first three levels of all games, record your scores and track your progress simply by creating a free account. It is a fantastic resource! If you work hard you can even get onto the top player board. And if you are feeling up to it, you can sign up for monthly ($7.95 US) or early subscription ($49.00 US) to get access to all levels.

Theta Music Trainer
Click to access Theta Music Trainer

What I love about this website is that in addition to the games it offers valuable information about ear training, basic concepts in ear training and music theory. So if you have never heard about intervals or you don’t know your scales, the site will explain the basic concepts. Then the fun can start. Choose from many games and improve your ear for music. Each game has several levels and you can view your accuracy and achievements after each game. It even suggests what you should be training next. What a great resource! I cannot say more praise about it.

To check it out, go to Theta Music Trainer by clicking this link.

theta music trainer

 There is also a version for iPhones, iPads and iPods that you can take with you and work on your listening skills wherever you go. The app has the same games but it does not have the theoretical part that the website has. It goes for only $7.00 US. I love these games and I purchased the mobile version too so I can practice in places without the internet connection. To check out the mobile version on iTunes, click the link below:

Theta Music Trainer – Theta Music Technologies, Inc.

Relative Pitch Interval Ear Training

There is one more app for iPad and iPod that I want to introduce to you. It’s called Relative Pitch Interval Ear Training and I have been using it for some time. The app is an interval training program for learning to distinguish ascending, descending and harmonic intervals across two and a half octaves.

This app is very good for beginners because these ear training exercises start with the introduction of very basic concepts – same and different sounds. Then it builds in difficulty over 13 lessons – from semitones and major and minor thirds to more complex tasks.

relative pitch app

The app has:

  • a training mode where you learn about the concepts,
  • a testing mode where you check your progress and unlock new levels and new challenges in training,
  • a custom mode where you set up your own tasks if you’re having trouble with one specific piece of training.

The app has a simple interface. There is a lite version and a paid version for $7.99 US. The paid version gives you access to all levels and offers a wide choice of high quality instruments, including Piano, Guitar, French Horn, Clarinet, Violin, and Male and Female Singing Voices.

This app is easy to use and makes ear training fun. I fully recommend it.

You can access it by clicking the link below:
Relative Pitch Interval Ear Training – key lessons for musicians and singers to learn, practice and perfect music theory – Easy Ear Training

I hope this post was helpful and now you are on your way to ear training for singers the easy way!