Before you work on more advanced skills like relative pitch (interval recognition etc.) spend some time honing your pure sense of pitch: how high or low a note is. This brings a range of benefits, including:
- Better ability to tune your instrument, pick up on any tuning problems, and fix them directly
- Improved ability to “blend” your voice when singing with others (e.g. in a choir or a cappella group)
- More sophisticated appreciation of, and control over pitch manipulations (such as bends, vibrato and pitch slides)
Improving your sense of pitch lets you build a very solid foundation for the important skills of relative pitch, and improves your overall musicianship by giving you a more accurate sense of tuning and pitch accuracy in all musical situations.
You can begin pitch ear training by learning to “match pitch”: meaning to sing back a note you hear. This is easy to practice with your instrument. If you have trouble hearing whether you are singing “in tune”, try recording your practice and listening back. You will probably find you can easily hear any mistakes or inaccuracies, and then practice correcting them. You can also use a digital tuner app which tells you immediately whether you’re singing too high or too low.
Note: It doesn’t matter if you’re a good singer! All musicians can use their voice to train their ear and learn to match pitch in this way.
From here you can move on to exercises designed to build your awareness of pitch accuracy and pitch manipulations, and learn to artfully use them in your own music making.
For a full explanation of how to do pitch ear training you can read “Training Your Ear for Pitch Perfection” by Easy Ear Training founder Christopher Sutton at MakingMusicMag.com or this excellent tutorial on matching pitch by Albert Frantz of key-notes.com.