Last time we looked at the top tech tools for learning to play by ear. Sometimes, though, you want something a bit more structured: a helping hand to lead you through the learning process. So today we’re sharing our pick of the courses we think can really help you develop your play by ear skills.

Missed the rest of the series so far? Start here!

Theta Music Trainer

If you’ve spent some time here on our site it will come as no surprise that we’re recommending Theta Music Trainer! We think they have a great attitude to ear training and have developed some fun games to improve your aural skills.

Theta Music Trainer offers games and courses

With so many aural skills you could focus on, and so many games from Theta Music Trainer, it could be hard to know how to plan your training. Fortunately they offer three training courses to lead you through developing your ear (and even music theory skills!) Once you’ve played for a while you can use your personal reports to check your progress.

With plenty of training available for free, it’s well worth you taking a look.

Discover, Learn, Play

Although not focused on playing by ear, if you’re looking for a great instrumental course which features ear training along the way look no further than Discover, Learn, Play!
DLP helps connect your ear to the theory

Offering a strong syllabus across a range of instruments, DLP will lead you from the basics to a real natural familiarity with your instrument. The listening examples in lessons and aural tests in quizzes will help you build aural understanding of the theory material you’re studying, and then you can take that on to practising with your instrument in the final “Play” section of each lesson.

Not as aural-focused as Theta Music Trainer or our own apps and ear training downloads but what we love about DLP is how it not only teaches the theory so well, but immediately connects music concepts to listening skills and instrumental practice. That’s how learning theory should be!

Learn more or go give it a try.

Hear and Play

As the name gives away, Hear and Play are all about learning to play by ear! Don’t let the heavyweight sales-focused website put you off: there’s some fantastic material here, including a lot of free examples to show you the courses are worthwhile. Check out this 30 minute lesson on figuring out the key of any song by ear:

Hear and Play have a wide range of play-by-ear courses, mostly focusing on piano, but with material for guitar and drums too. If you’re a pianist, check out their course for playing piano by ear (or the audio alternative). If you’ve got the guitar basics down and want to play gospel music, their Gospel Guitar course will be right up your street for adapting your playing by ear to that style. And if you want to learn to play drums by ear they’ve got you covered.

They also offer an ear training software product – but we haven’t had a chance to give it a try yet! If you have, we’d love to know how you got on. offers great play-by-ear teaching

To see if Jermaine’s style of teaching suits you, check out their four free video lessons on playing by ear.

Berklee Music

Berklee College of Music is one of the most respected music schools in the world – and their online school offers a wide range of fantastic e-learning courses. Their teaching approach is a mix of written material, audio examples, and classroom-style interaction with a top instructor and the other students on your course.

Berklee Music offers online ear training

They offer basic ear training and harmonic ear training courses, which can be taken as part of a full certificate programme, such as their “Theory, Harmony & Ear Training” Master course. Compared with most music schools their teaching is focused on modern music styles and studying the ear training material alongside performance courses will help you connect aural skills to your instrument and learn to play by ear.

If you’re looking for a more social learning experience, or want a respected qualification for your efforts, consider studying with Berklee. The only negatives here are that the courses are pricey and sadly there isn’t any free material available. You might like to get started with Berklee instructor Roberta Radley’s ear training book. (Despite the name, there’s no connection to us!)

Guitar courses by Lisa McCormick

We mentioned one of Lisa’s tutorials in a previous post, as her free YouTube videos are a great starting point for learning to play by ear. More than this though, Lisa offers a range of excellent guitar courses which can help you learn to play guitar by ear.

The Guitar-Ease play-by-ear system The Guitar Intuition ear training programme

Here’s a free play-by-ear lesson which you can follow up with the full course, “The Guitar-Ease Play By Ear System”. You might also be interested in the Guitar Intution ear training programme.

Bear in mind that many of the listening skills Lisa teaches are directly transferrable to other instruments! That’s the power of aural skills…

Those are our top picks for online playing-by-ear courses. Have we missed any great ones you’ve come across? Personally I’m a fan of Duane Shinn’s piano by ear courses.

You’ve probably heard enough from us on this subject for a while now… Time to get some fresh perspectives! Join us next week for some guest posts by leading music educators and find out what they think about learning to play by ear.

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