Here is a question that comes up a lot among musicians:
It’s understandable. All of us who study music want to learn as efficiently as possible, maximise our ear training results and become better musicians—a.s.a.p.!
So what’s the best ear training method?
The short answer: there isn’t one.
The perfect ear training method?
Lots of people claim to have “the answer”. The one perfect way to learn ear training. Mostly, they’re the creators of ear training products! And to be fair, they have genuine confidence and faith in their product.
Music schools and conservatories will set a single ear training syllabus for all of their students. They have to; ear training is essential, and they can only teach by setting a one-size-fits-all syllabus.
Unfortunately, however good one product might be, and however smart and experienced the music educators setting a syllabus are, this is all nonsense.
- A particular product might work perfectly—for a very specific kind of customer.
For example, 16-year old rock guitar players who all want to learn to play Jimi Hendrix riffs. Or adult music learners who want to play 3-chord songs on guitar by ear.
- A certain syllabus might be well-designed and effective—for most of that school’s students.
But it won’t work for all of them (in fact by all accounts most ear training courses leave the majority of music students frustrated and disappointed), and it certainly won’t work for musicians who don’t fit the profile of that school’s student intake.
These attempts to provide a “best ear training method” are all well-intentioned.
But they’re misguided.
The problem? It’s simply a nonsense question.
There is no one “best” ear training method because every musician is different.
Asking “what’s the best ear training method?”
is like asking
“what’s the best song ever?”
It might be fun to talk about—but there’s no right answer.
Here’s a better question:
What is the best ear training method for you?
With this question we can start to discuss things in a useful, meaningful way. The best ear training method for you will depend on many things, but there are three factors which we here at Easy Ear Training think are particularly important to keep in mind. Give these three some thought and your ear training will be fun and effective in the long term.
1. Your musical interests
Your favourite genre, the instrument you play, the era of music you love, the kind of mood you like to use music to create.
What kind of music resonates with you? What kind of music are you passionate about? If you want real ear training results—and if you want to enjoy ear training—make sure you keep these things in mind.
… if you hate classical music.
This may sound obvious, but it’s amazing how many music students plod through ear training exercises which bear no relation to the music they love! Don’t do it.
2. Your musical goals
What kind of musician do you want to be? What are the musical skills and abilities you aspire to? Make sure the areas of ear training you focus on are ones which will build the musical skills you actually want to have.
… if you want to be tweaking dials in the studio, mixing and mastering.
Think about the musical life you want and then make sure your ear training goals are MAGIC.
3. Your learning style
There are visual learners, aural learners and practical learners. Do you learn by reading? Watching? Listening? Doing?
There are creative thinkers and logical thinkers. Do you enjoy free experimentation or following a set process?
You must align your ear training method with your personality type and which types of learning tend to work well for you.
Don’t assume that just because ear training is about listening, there’s no value in reading or doing. Practising the skills will be primarily an audio-based process—but learning how to do ear training can be done in a number of ways.
… if you learn better through doing.
Just because a particular resource works well for others, it doesn’t make it the right fit for you. You know this is true from experience in other walks of life. So rather than just looking for what’s popular, take the time to think about what would be the ideal resource for you, and then seek it out.
So the “Best Ear Training Method” is…
Have you thought about each of the points above? Do you have a clear answer to each of them? If so, you’re ready to ask questions about the best method. If not… You’re never going to find a good answer to your questions about ear training methods.
Here are some examples of meaningful questions you might ask to help you discover your personal best ear training plan:
What are the best videos for learning to play chord progressions by ear for rock and pop music?
What is the best explanation of how to do scale ear training for improvising jazz solos?
Is there a good audiobook or podcast which explains how to get the perfect sound on bass guitar?
Once you have real clarity on:
- Your musical interests,
- Your musical goals, and
- Your learning style,
then it makes sense to ask “what is the best ear training method for me?”
So the only sensible answer to “what’s the best ear training method?” is this:
If you need help working out what area of ear training you’re interested in, you can explore different types of ear training. For more on planning your own approach to ear training, setting goals, and finding the right resources, follow our 4-step plan.
And if you need an all-in-one course to get you up to speed on the various aspects of modern ear training, check out the free Ear Training Crash Course.
If you want useful answers, you have to ask the right questions. Don’t just look for “the best ear training method”. Decide what matters to you, what you want to learn, and how you want to learn it.
Then go find the resources and tools you need to help you make fast, fun ear training progress.
Need help? Come ask in our forums.