21st Century Ear Training

My last post featured a forum thread about training absolute pitch by meditating on single tones. Thinking some more about learning absolute pitch and this particular ‘experiment’, I realised there were three reasons it appealed to me:

  1. The do-it-yourself mentality.
  2. The desire to work with and learn from other people.
  3. The ‘purity’ of the training.

These are all fundamental parts of a good sustainable ear training routine, and the 21st century brings new meaning to each of them. I’m going to talk about the first two in more detail below, and cover the third in a separate post on Monday.

Do it yourself

This site was started to explore the notion that technology can revolutionise ear training and make it a fun and effective process, rather than the slow and painful one it’s been for hundreds of years. Technology is powerful – but it’s also empowering: it allows us to come up with custom, personalised training regimes, and to make the best use of our time. Some examples:

  • Using Garageband to create your own music to study ear training concepts
  • Downloading audio files from this site to put on your MP3 player

Or, just as the forum poster mentioned:

  • Creating custom tracks to train in exactly the way you want to.

Ear training has always been an individual endeavour, but the exercises, courses and training products have been ‘one size fits all’. Take five minutes to think about the training you’ve done, and how you could tweak it to better suit you – to target your trouble spots, to be more enjoyable as you do it, or just to fit in better with the free time you have available. Then ask yourself whether you could use technology to make those changes. You may be surprised how much power and control technology can give you over your training.

If you come up with a great idea, or need help brainstorming, leave a comment below or ask in our Forums.

Taking control of your ear training course and tailoring exercises to suit your needs makes ear training personal – but it doesn’t have to be a lonely process…

Work with others

A lot of ear training exercises in the past have relied on working with a partner:

Training with a friend

Ask a friend to play a melody for you, then try to play it back on your instrument.

You make a change on the 10-band EQ. Your friend guesses what it is. Then switch.

Get together with friends and practice improvising, as they lay down the chords. Take turns to solo.

There’s a lot to be said for this kind of training, but it can be really difficult to organise, and even harder to keep regular. Maybe your friends just aren’t into developing their ears. Maybe it’s fun at first, but then they lose interest. Maybe you don’t know any other musicians who you can get together with like this. It’s frustrating to feel you can’t make progress without other people to work with.

The good news? You can bypass this hurdle.

There are two great benefits to the examples above:

  1. The training is interactive.
    You get immediate feedback, and can adjust the pace of training to suit you.
  2. The training is social.
    You get to spend time with another musician; you can discuss what each of you find difficult and you can learn from each other.

Technology can provide both of these benefits without the drawback of needing to find a real-life partner!

Modern training can be interactive, because there’s some great ear training software out there today. Check out this article for some pointers, or check out our own RelativePitch app, or Ear Training Quizzes (e.g. Intro, Drums).

Modern training can also be social. With the rise of Twitter, MySpace and Facebook, nobody can question any more whether the internet can be truly social – and a lot of us have been socialising online for years! I loved coming across the post over at Ultimate-Guitar.com because it’s great to see an enthusiastic ear training student just reaching out to see if there are others with similar interests or experiences.


It may not be quite the same as getting a bunch of local musicians in your living room, but there are literally millions of enthusiastic musicians online that you can make contact with! One great new site is Musbook – it’s a social network specifically for musicians, and you can find other people by musical preferences, geographic area, or the instrument they play. Struggling to find local musicians to share stories and tips with? Create a group on Musbook and start talking!


For ear training in particular, we really recommend joining our forums here on EasyEarTraining.com. This is where you can get the tips, advice, and support that you’ve been looking for with your ear training – and we’re open 24/7!

In my next post I’ll pick up on that third reason the UltimateGuitar post caught my attention: the purity of the training method. In the mean time:
What do you find exciting about modern ear training? Have you found any clever techniques, ideas for personalising training, or ways to collaborate with others online? Leave a note below and share your experiences!

Next in series: Perfect Pitch Is Not Magic
See also: Absolute Pitch Meditation