Yes. You do not necessarily need a teacher or a school to train your ears. This is demonstrated by the vast number of musicians who have attained incredible ears over their career, through active and passive ear training, without once being taught it in a classroom.
There are two parts to learning ear training: learning how to do ear training effectively, and actually learning listening skills through ear training.
Remember: Ear training is the process of improving your ears for music. This means that you must learn how to do it, and then use it to learn!
1. Learning how to train your ears
For this part, it is best to find some form of “teacher”. This does not need to be an in-person human instructor, but you want a source of information which can help direct you to the most useful methods, help you find the resources you need and guide you as you plan your training.
This “teacher” could be:
- A book on ear training
- A website devoted to the subject
- A community of musicians who are all doing ear training
- An interactive app which features ear training lessons
- A friend who has done more ear training than you
Without a teacher like this, there is a risk that you won’t discover the right way to do ear training or find a method that suits you. This will lead to frustration when it comes to stage 2…
2. Learning listening skills through ear training
This is the actual use of ear training to improve as a musician. Once you’ve understood how to do ear training, the actual practice of it does not necessarily require a teacher. As long as you have some reliable source of feedback on how you’re progressing, you can take responsibility for guiding your own ear training practice.
Note that you do need some form of feedback to know if you are hearing what you should be. Again, this doesn’t need to be a human tutor. It could be:
- Ear training exercise MP3s which announce the correct answer as you test yourself
- An interactive app which tests your skills
- Checking your understanding using your instrument, for example by practising playing by ear
- Working with a friend to test each other
As with any learned skill, the important thing is to have a “feedback loop” where you can try something, see if you were right or wrong, adjust your approach, and try again. As long as you have some kind of feedback source you will be able to progress.
Traditionally ear training was relegated to the classroom and taught by a professor. These days students are increasingly taking charge of their own learning process, and drawing on the vast resources available through modern technology to make fast progress even without a human tutor.
Do not worry if you don’t have an ear training teacher. Use the tips above to ensure you:
- Learn how to do ear training
- Learn listening skills using ear training
and there’s no reason you can’t improve your listening skills just as quickly and reliably as music students in the classroom.
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