Tips for a cappella ear training
Build up gradually from two voices to more. Remember that one group or song may be easier for you than others because of the particular voices singing or your prior familiarity with the music.
Look out for stability
Sustained notes and chords can help you tune in your ear to the voices present. Pick apart the voices when they stop moving for a moment – and then try to follow them as they diverge again.
You may also find there are singers providing a consistent accompaniment which is easier to stay focused on than the wandering melodic parts.
Form a mental picture of where each singer “lives”
This will feel more natural to some people than others (are you a visual learner?) but for me personally, imagining the voices stacked above each other and “watching” them move in pitch relative to each other helps me understand and follow the harmonic structure.
Look while you listen
There are plenty of a cappella performances on YouTube and if you can find appropriate tracks to practice with, you may find that watching the singers helps you work out who’s singing what, when. This can also be a distraction though, so use this tip sparingly! If you can, it’s better to close your eyes and focus on the sound alone.
Use music you enjoy
This is a good tip for ear training in general!
The wide range of a cappella music means there’s no need to practice with tracks you don’t enjoy listening to. Whether that’s traditional choral music or more modern rock covers or “show choir” style arrangements of the latest Justin Bieber hits… We won’t judge you! (Well, okay, we will just a little if it’s Bieber. Pop music is provably terrible after all…)
Make it routine
This is a skill where practising a little and often will definitely provide swifter improvement than occasional big enthusiastic bursts. Try to work some a cappella into your every day music listening (if it’s not in there already!) and make sure you occasionally just stop – and listen.
If you need more help planning your training, we can help you create a personal training plan:
Those are my top tips for using a cappella music to develop your musical ear.
What did I miss? Do you know a cappella inside-out and have your own advice to share? Have I overlooked some great groups which everyone ought to hear about? Don’t by shy, give a shout below!