It’s important to find time for ear training – regular practice is essential to develop and maintain your skills. Setting aside time for focused training is vital, but there are a lot of other ways to keep your training progressing…
Whatever area of ear training you’re focused on, you’ll find there are recommended exercises and training techniques for you to concentrate on and repeat, in order to develop new hearing skills. In this kind of concentrated practice, you’re often going through a process of:
- Familiarisation and training
- Testing yourself
- Checking your answers, to reinforce correct instincts and squash the bad ones.
This type of training is key at the beginning, as you need a strong basis to work from when approaching a new area. For example, if you want to train audio EQ, it’s important to start by learning the standard frequency bands and getting a sense of their sounds. Likewise, somebody just starting off with interval training should spend some time learning the names of the intervals, memorising their order, and getting to know their characteristic sounds.
(Click here for more about ear training and how we learn)
Ear Training Everywhere, Every Day
Once you have this basic framework in place for an area of ear training, it’s worth stopping to think about how it relates to your everyday life. You might be surprised just how many places your newly-developed skills can start to appear! Here’s a few examples to give you the idea:
Car alarm or ambulance siren
- Relative Pitch: What’s the interval between the tones it’s flipping between?
- Absolute Pitch: What notes are being used?
- Audio EQ: What octave is the sound in?
- Audio Effects: Is the sound a nice sinusoid? More like a clipped/square wave? Does the siren pitchshift as it drives past?
- Rhythm: What tempo is the sound varying at? 120bpm (twice a second)? Faster?
- Relative Pitch: If the song’s repetitive, what are the intervals used? This may be particularly challenging as the tones may not lie exact intervals apart!
(More ear training for birds, I say…)
- Absolute Pitch: Roughly what notes are being sung? Can you tell how close they are to the correct notes?
- Audio EQ: What frequency range is the birdsong in? Which instruments tend to have presence in that range?
Speech and Conversation
- Relative Pitch: Can you tell what note range a person’s voice varies over as they speak? Some people’s don’t vary much – others will shift by up to an octave as their mood varies!
- Absolute Pitch: Do your friends have characteristic notes they speak at? Often people have a rough ‘home’ frequency they tend to centre on. What’s yours?
- Audio Effects: Can you hear the environment a person’s speaking in? Try to hear the reverb and echoes our ears normally tune out.
- The possibilities here should be obvious to all ear training students!
Hopefully that gives you the idea. Have you been doing this already? Can you think of daily opportunities to hone your skills? Be sure to tell us in the comments!
Practise Active Listening
The training you can do in these situations is quite passive – unless you have an instrument, music player, or computer handy, it can be hard to check your answers. Whipping out your violin mid-conversation to check the pitch of someone’s voice may not be the best move! However, the point here isn’t to train and test and check – it’s to develop your active listening skills. This is core to every area of ear training, as it’s simply the ability to consciously focus on what you’re hearing, and make more sense of it.
The great thing about active listening is that the more you practice this skill, the more in-built and automatic it becomes. At first it will take a conscious effort to do any of the examples above, but as you spend more time trying, and support that with concentrated training at home, you’ll find these things begin to jump out at you. Seasoned musicians and professionals can tell you immediately (and in great detail!) what they hear, because their brains have been trained to take it all in. This is what we should all be aiming for in our training.
We hear sound practically all day, every day, and that can provide a massive advantage to the switched-on ear training student who knows how to tune in to the noises around them. Struggling to find time to practice ear training? Not any more!
Have examples of ear training all around you? Tips and tricks for tuning into the sounds we hear all the time? Leave a comment or come tell us in the forums!
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