There are many confusions which arise when musicians begin ear training. Let’s clear up some of the most common misconceptions and bust some of those myths…

1. Ear training is boring

Ear training sometimes gets a bad rap because it gets lumped in with music theory and taught in an old-fashioned dry way: full of jargon, and far removed from actual enjoyment of music.

This is the tradition—but it is by no means necessary! There are plenty of ways to make ear training fun and interesting such as:

  • Use ear training games to make practice exciting and varied
  • Practice with a friend, challenging each other and enjoying learning together
  • Use your normal music practice as the basis for your ear training so that all your practice helps you directly with your musical life

2. Ear training is hard

If ear training is hard you’re doing it wrong. Simple as that.

Some challenge is necessary, because we only learn and improve when we are challenged somewhat. But it need never be so hard you get disheartened or too frustrated to continue.

If you are struggling, there are many ways to overcome or avoid the barriers you have encountered. Learn more in “Why is ear training so hard?”

3. Musical listening skills are a gift

Many musicians are put off ear training because they feel they lack a natural ability which other musicians seem to have, and so they think ear training will be difficult and perhaps even pointless.

This is nonsense.

While some musicians do start out with a stronger natural ability in musical listening skills, everybody is capable of developing their musical ear to a significant degree. All that is required is careful planning and consistent dedicated practice.

If musicians had to be born with a “gift” of musicality, there would be no such thing as a beginners ear training course!

4. Ear training is for advanced musicians only

Some music teachers and students will treat ear training as an advanced or specialist skill, which only the highest-achieving musicians need concern themselves with.

In fact, ear training should be a part of music learning from the very beginning. It is, arguably, the most fundamental musical skill: to listen and understand. Before ever putting your fingers on an instrument, you can benefit from ear training, and every musician at every level can improve their musicality with dedicated ear training practice.

5. Ear training is just for exams

Although many musicians first encounter ear training as part of their “aural skills” preparation for instrument exams, the fact is that ear training should be a part of your lifelong music learning. You can and should continue to work on your listening skills throughout your music career.

6. Ear training is for classical music only

The listening skills developed through ear training are relevant across every genre and era of music.

While a lot of the traditional methods and material for ear training are rooted in the world of classical music, this is something that’s true of every aspect of music!

Just as you can study music theory in a way which is connected to modern pop and rock music, so too can you train your ears using the kind of music you actually listen to.

7. Ear training is something you do in a classroom

These days education is moving more and more towards self-guided study, learning online, and peer-to-peer learning. You can improve your ears without ever setting foot in a classroom, using the wide world of resources and courses available online.

Ear training is no longer confined to a quiet, formal setting. Musicians are using ear training exercises and apps to train whenever and wherever is convenient to them. In fact, the added challenge of practising in a noisy or distracting environment can actually help you develop robust and reliable musical skills!

Similar questions answered on this page:

  • Which ear training myths are true?
  • What are common misunderstandings about ear training?
  • What’s the truth about ear training?

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