Here is a good process to follow when you first begin ear training.

Note: You might also like our step-by-step guide to planning your ear training.

Choose your goals

First, think about the kind of musician you want to become. The ear training plan for someone who wants to become a pro jazz musician will be very different from that for a guitar player who wants to play in bands, or a pianist who wants to add improvisation to their pop repertoire.

Think about the sorts of musical skill you want to develop through ear training, such as:

  • Improvisation
  • Confidence in sight-singing
  • Freedom in writing or arranging music
  • Jamming well with other musicians

Only once you are clear about why you are starting ear training can you develop an appropriate and effective plan.

Plan your route

Once you have chosen your “big picture” musical goals, you will need to break them down into smaller milestones and sub-goals. The purpose of this is two-fold:

  1. To map out the route from your current abilities to the goal you want to reach
  2. To help you stay motivated by providing intermediate accomplishments, so you know you’re making progress.

You can find examples of how to work towards ear training goals in topics such as intervals, chords, and progressions here on the site.

And if you need help making your ear training plan, come ask in the forums!

Choose your methods

Different people learn in different ways, and there’s a wide variety of tools, resources, and approaches which can support your training in a way that suits your own learning style.

  • Do you learn best by reading? If so, look for articles, tutorials, manuals, and other information sources to help guide your training.
  • Do you learn best by listening? Seek out podcasts and audiobooks which explain what you need to know.
  • Do you learn best by doing? Then find a friend or tutor who can guide you in practical terms as you begin training.

Of course, whichever approach you use to learn about ear training, the training itself will always be focused on listening.

Still, there are a variety of tools you can use, from training MP3s, to interactive mobile apps, to online games. It’s vital that you explore a range of these early on to be sure you are benefitting from the ones which will help you make the fastest progress training your ears.

Track your progress

Once you’ve come up with your plan and found helpful tools and resources to use in your practice, it’s time to begin training. That doesn’t mean your planning work is done though!

For your ear training to keep momentum and for you to continue progressing at an optimal speed, it’s essential that you regularly take the time to re-evaluate your plan.

That’s not to say you should change it on a whim – this would result in slow progress as you swerved from goal to goal.

Instead, keep your goals in mind as you track your progress, and be willing to make small adjustments to the way you train if you notice things aren’t quite right.

For example:

  • If you’re struggling to keep up your daily practice, you might need to adjust the length of your sessions, or switch to an every-other-day schedule.
  • If you’re starting to find your training boring, it might be time to find some new tools or resources which can help you keep pursuing the same goal.
  • If your progress in one area has stalled, it might be time to spend a while training a different skill to give your ear a different challenge for a time.

The key is to stay focused on your goals, track your progress, and remember to check and adjust your plan when you need to.

If you want a more structured and in depth guide to starting ear training, check out our free Ear Training Crash Course, or the full Ear Training Essentials guide.

Similar questions answered on this page:

  • How do you plan your own ear training?
  • How can I make an ear training plan?
  • What’s the best way to start training your ears?