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