It’s that holly jolly time of year again, and we have some festive suggestions for your ears this Christmas!

Santa Loves Ear Training!

After all, if even a busy man like Santa can keep up with his ear training, surely you can squeeze a little in…

Free Christmas Ear Training Download

Last year we created a new Christmas ear training exercise, “March of the Candy Cane Soldiers” which uses our Unravelling Music system to teach you about hearing chord progressions and keys using the circle of fifths.

Put it on your MP3 player along with all your festive favourites and you can relax in the knowledge your aural skills are being honed each time it comes up on shuffle (well, assuming you do a bit of active listening!)

March of the Candy Cane Soldiers

Download free Christmas ear training track

A Christmas special, “March of the Candy Cane Soldiers” teaches about key modulation, chord progressions, rhythmic figures, musical codas and the circle of fifths.

Practise Intervals with Christmas Carols

A good way to get started learning interval recognition is to use “reference tunes”: melodies you know all-too-well, which start with the interval you want to learn. Christmas carols and Christmas songs are great candidates for this since we hear then so often, and in so many different arrangements. Their melodies are firmly fixed in our head!

Try these examples to get started learning intervals with Christmas carols:

  • White Christmas, “I’m-dream-ing”: Minor Second / Semitone ascending and descending
  • Silent Night, “Si-ii-lent”: Major Second / Tone ascending and descending
  • Deck The Halls, “Deck-the”: Major Second / Tone descending
  • Frosty the Snowman, “Fros-ty”: Minor Third descending
  • While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night, “While-Shep” – Major Third ascending
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas, “We-wish” – Perfect Fourth ascending
  • Away in a Manger, “Aw-ay” – Perfect Fourth ascending
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem, “Oh-Lit” – Perfect Fourth ascending
  • Oh Come, All Ye Faithful, “Come-all” – Perfect Fourth descending
  • Jingle Bells, “Dash-ing” – Major Sixth, ascending
  • The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire), “Chest-nuts” – Perfect Octave ascending

Know any others? Share them with us by leaving a comment below!

Ear training all the time

Developing your ear for music should be part of your everyday life. Every song you hear and every piece of music you play can be a chance to improve your aural skills. At this time of year when we’re surrounded by Christmas music, it can be easy to get tired by the endlessly-repeated Christmas classics.

Here are our suggestions for finding the opportunity for aural skills development amongst all that relentless Christmas music:

1. Listen out for instrumentation

Listen to the instruments used in Christmas songs. Try to shift your attention from one instrument to another.

What instruments are being used? Which are most distinctive? Any tell-tale sleigh bells in the mix? How do the instruments combine to create a festive feel?

2. Appreciate the harmonies of Christmas carollers

The standard of singing can be… “variable” when it comes to Christmas carollers! But sung carols are a great opportunity to learn to appreciate harmony. Listen to how the parts complement each other. Try to follow a vocal part which isn’t the melody you know so well.

Do different arrangements of carols use different harmonies?

Whether or not you’re a singer yourself, try singing along with one of the harmony parts.

3. Mix it up with alternative Christmas radio stations

Alternative Christmas Radio from
If you want the merry mood without the Christmas cliché try listening to alternative stations like “Christmas Rocks!”, “Christmas Lounge” or “Xmas in Frisko” from Soma.FM. You’ll find old favourites given a new twist – and maybe even discover some new ones.

4. Play carols by ear

The best way to learn to play by ear is to just do it. Christmas carols are a great candidate for trying to play by ear. You already know them so well, you should be easily able to find the right notes with the “trial and error” method on your instrument. Or maybe you have a lead sheet but need to improvise an arrangement?

Don’t be afraid! Your audience will overlook any mistakes in the spirit of holiday forgiveness (and if your audience is just yourself remember to allow yourself the same forgiveness! The only kind of bad music is silence…)

5. Set some new goals

Christmas is swiftly followed by the New Year… so now is the time of year to start thinking about new ear training goals!

Here’s 4 steps to help you define great goals and follow through to achieve them in 2013:

  1. Know your destination
  2. Know where you are now
  3. Plan your route
  4. Choose your transport

You might even choose to help yourself even more by subscribing to Theta Music Trainer, The DLP Music Program or an ear training app to help yourself along!

Whether you’ve been naughty or nice to your ears this year, take a bit of time over the holidays to show them some love and appreciation.

We’ll leave you with this fun, festive, frivolous song… about music theory!

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