Every musician who sets out to train their ears will at some stage struggle for motivation.

By its nature, ear training must be somewhat repetitive: your ears need to hear the same musical elements again and again to truly ingrain their characteristics in your brain. This repetition can cause your enthusiasm to wane: it’s easy to get bored.

There are two big ways to tackle this challenge and ensure your motivation remains strong:

1. Keep the big picture in mind

It’s the rare musician who is actually motivated to do interval drills! Rather, these ear training exercises are the means to an end, and it’s the end which motivates.

We begin studying music because we wish to become incredible, talented, creative, expressive musicians. We put in the hours practising our instrument, learning repertoire, and perfecting our playing skills to accomplish that goal.

It’s the same with ear training. We begin training our ears because we dream of having incredible musical ears which can easily understand anything we hear in music, and allow us intelligent creativity in the music we compose, improvise and play. We put in the hours practising interval recognition, studying chord types and learning common chord progressions because these exercises help us to develop those ears we dream of.

So if your motivation is waning, the solution should be clear: Instead of focusing on the day-to-day practice and the nitty-gritty of exercises and drills, focus instead on the end goal which inspired you to start practising these drills in the first place.

Imagine having the musical ears you dream of and how it will impact your musicianship. Then return to the daily practice with a renewed enthusiasm for the goal it’s helping you to reach.

2. Mix it up

The biggest enemy of sustained motivation is boring repetition. If there’s nothing new in your daily practice, each day becomes a tedious repeat of the one before.

To avoid this, you must find ways to make every day’s practice session a little bit different than the last.

It’s best to do this in small ways. Consistency in your practice actually helps your ears develop quickly, so if you disrupt your routine too much you will make slower progress. Look for ways to introduce new interest each session while focusing on the same core exercises.

For example, if you’re practising interval recognition, you might like to vary the instrument whose sounds you practice with. You’ll find that switching from piano sounds to guitar sounds for example provides an interesting new twist, while still developing the same core sense of relative pitch.

Or if you’re studying chord progressions (such as 3 chord songs) it’s easy to vary the style of music you use over time. Spend a week practising just with rock-n-roll from the 1950s. The next week try to find country songs with I-IV-V progressions. After that, move on to acoustic singer-songwriter tracks. The possibilities are endless, and all can be used to hone your ears for exactly the same underlying chord progressions.

It does take a bit of active thought to come up with ways to keep your practice interesting, but it’s well worth it.

If you have friends who are training their ears too, you should try exchanging tips for practice. You may find that your friend approaches the same subject in a different way, and simply swapping practice routines for a week or two reinvigorates your enthusiasm and brings a fresh excitement to your own ear training.

How to stay motivated in ear training

Between these two strategies it should be easy to keep your motivation for ear training high. Remember what you’re working towards and ensure you keep a bit of variety in the way you traing your ears – and every practice session can be fun and rewarding!

Similar questions answered on this page:

  • How can I keep enthusiastic about ear training?
  • Why is ear training so boring?
  • How can you make ear training interesting?