If you’ve begun ear training according to an old-fashioned, theory-heavy syllabus or you have only tried it to pass an exam, you may well wonder “Does ear training actually help you as a musician?”

The answer is: yes – IF you do it right.

In fact, with the right approach to ear training, this question becomes nonsense! Your ear training is driven specifically by what will help you in music, so every practice session you do helps you towards your real musical goals.

Great Musicians Have Great Ears

If you want to be a good musician, it’s not enough to train your fingers. Performing notes accurately from a written score may impress an average listener, especially if your fingers fly across your fretboard nailing a killer solo on stage.

But to the discerning listener and other musicians, it’s not enough to simply play the right notes with accurate timing. You must imbue your performance with musical expression, and this relies far more on your ears than your fingers.

  • Your fingers may know how to bend a note a semitone upwards – but when should they do that to really emphasise the emotion of a melody?
  • Your fingers may know how to play louder and quieter – but which passages should you increase the volume of to have musical impact?
  • Your fingers may know how to run up and down a particular scale – but how can you improvise from that scale in a way which moves the listener?

These kinds of skill are what differentiates a musician from a robot. That may seem like a silly comparison, but just listen to a simple MIDI music file, the synthesiser in your favourite score editor, or the kinds of mechanical musical instrument which were