Many people wonder when they start learning music (or even before deciding to try learning an instrument): “Do I have a musical ear?”

Some will worry “Do I have the ‘gift’ of music?” and seek out an online test for musicality, to confirm they have it in them to become a musician.

These concerns are understandable. When you see pro musicians play seemingly effortlessly, and particularly when you see people playing by ear or improvising, it’s easy to think that music is a ‘gift’ you must be born with. That it takes a natural talent to be musical. TV shows like X-Factor reinforce this idea that there are a small number of “born musicians” who deserve success and recognition, and the rest of us can only watch.

This is a very widespread idea – but it’s nonsense.

We are all born with ears capable of understanding music on a deep level, and we can all become that “natural” musician through practice and training.

What is a musical ear?

The phrase “musical ear” is used to mean “ears which can appreciate and understand music deeply”. Some people find this comes to them instinctively early in life, and we might refer to them as having naturally musical ears. However, for the vast majority of musicians, musical ears are something they must work on and actively develop. They are continually making their ears more musical as they study and play music.

This means it’s not useful to wonder if you have a musical ear. You do.

Exactly how musical you ears are comes down a little bit to your nature – but mostly to how much you have trained your ears for music.

Am I tone deaf?

We have a whole FAQ dedicated to this fundamental question: What if I’m tone deaf? You can read the details there, but the short answer is: no, you’re not. You simply haven’t trained your ears for reliable pitch recognition yet. This is easy to fix!

Am I musical?

It’s true: some people take to music more easily than others. You can see this in young children, that some will naturally instinctively express themselves musically while others don’t show the same interest or inclination.

However, just because you weren’t musical when you were younger, this certainly doesn’t mean you can’t learn to be now.

It’s not only the pros who enjoy playing and improving

In some ways music is comparable to sports. You might find you have a natural ease with certain sporting activities, and some people will get better than others with the same amount of training. However, training helps everybody to improve their abilities, and the top-level athletes certainly didn’t get there without a lot of dedicated training over the years.

Stop hesitating and worrying that you don’t have the musical “gift”.

You already have more than enough musicality to learn the rest.

Maybe at the moment you struggle with rhythm. Perhaps you have difficulty singing in tune. Or maybe you’re progressing well in music but you can’t yet play by ear or improvise.

All of these are skills you can learn.

Take the time you spending on worrying “Am I musical?” and instead start asking yourself “How can I become more musical?”.

The key lies in developing your musical ear, and this is achieved through ear training.

Similar questions answered on this page:

  • How do you know if you have a musical ear?
  • Am I musical?
  • Do you need to be born gifted to be a great musician?

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