Musicians tend to categorise themselves as a “sheet music reader” or a “play-by-ear musician”. This is often related to whether the person has had formal music lessons or taught themselves, but there may also simply be a natural inclination towards one or the other.

In the world of classical music learning and sheet music reading, ear training is a natural addition to your studies. As you learn to read notes on the page and to play them on your instrument, ear training provides the bridge between the two worlds, allowing you to “pre-hear” the music you will play, and and to improvise your own music without the need to write it down first.

Outside that world though, it can be unclear whether ear training is relevant or useful.

If you can already play music by ear, what’s the point of ear training?

Ear training is not simply for learning to play by ear. It is about hearing more detail in music and understanding what you hear. These benefits are just as relevant and useful to a “play by ear” musician as a “sheet music” musician!

Hear more detail in music

Even if you can already play music by ear, your skills are probably limited in some way or another.

  • Perhaps you’re good at playing chords by ear but struggle with melodies.
  • Perhaps single-note riffs are fine, but harmonisation always feels too complicated.
  • Or maybe you have good ability when music is played slowly, but with faster music it all just feels too rushed to figure out by ear.

Whatever your play-by-ear abilities currently are, there are almost certainly ways you could improve them. You can:

  • Extend your skills to more complex music
  • Broaden your skills to a wid