When you embark on a new quest it’s important to have a team around you. People who can inspire, support and guide you, who’ll be there to make sure you reach your destination. Do you have people like that for your ear training journey?
They might be people you look up to, who’ve already achieved what it is you’re trying to. Or they might be at the same stage as you so you can share your experiences and progress as you face the challenges together.
You might find your team around you in your musical life. Band mates, class mates, friends you jam with. Or you might have to look further, like finding friends through online forums.
Perhaps you’re the solitary type and you don’t think you need a team. I can understand that – I’m an introvert myself. But I’ve discovered that even the most independent-minded and self-motivated musicians benefit from having peer support and expert guidance.
So who’s on your team right now? Who could you recruit to help you progress? Who would be on your “ear training dream team”?
Don’t go it alone
When we built Musical U, our dedicated online ear training website, we put a strong focus on community. Not because we want to waste time in idle chit-chat, but because if there’s one sure way to make ear training difficult, it’s trying to go it alone.
You can’t know everything yourself, especially when you’re just starting out. Modern access to all the information and resources on the internet can make us feel like we have everything we need – but even with all that, musicians who try to pursue ear training in isolation almost always fail.
It’s not a big dramatic failure; they just fizzle out. They get stuck, bored or frustrated, and if there’s nobody to turn to for support or guidance, it’s all too easy to just let ear training go.
The solution: having a team around you.
Your Ear Training Team
So if a team is so important, what exactly does it mean to have an “ear training team” around you?
If we look at the world of sports there’s a clear analogy: you have your team-mates and your coach. You also have a place to train together and opportunities to communicate about how things are going.
In the world of ear training, the same is true.
You need team-mates. Musicians like you, who are on a similar ear training journey. They might play the same instrument, they might be working on the same skills. Sometimes it’s great to have someone in exactly the same situation, for example you’re both intermediate-level guitarists working on interval recognition to help you improvise more creatively. Or you’re both beginner pianists making a start on playing chords by ear. You can work right beside each other, exchanging tips and tricks to help you both succeed. It’s a major benefit of having team mates, that you get to learn from everyone’s successes and failures, not just your own.
There’s also great value in having more varied team mates, playing different instruments, of different ability levels, maybe even working on different types of ear training. Sometimes there are useful tactical suggestions you can still exchange with each other despite the apparent differences. But actually this brings to light the other major benefit of having team-mates: accountability.
It’s a serious word but a simple concept: accountability means that when you say you’ll do something, somebody checks that you did it. With ear training team-mates this can be as simple as having a chat once a week and asking each other how the week went. Did you succeed with what you said last week you would work on? What new challenges did you encounter? The chat itself is a valuable opportunity to exchange ideas and advice – but just knowing that the chat is coming up is a powerful way to keep you on track.
Speaking of keeping you on track…
You can go a long way just learning from your friends and team-mates, but you can progress a lot faster with an expert to guide you. This can be somebody on the same path but further along, or it can be a trusted teacher or music mentor. They act as your coach.
Your coach is responsible for helping you to reach your full potential. This has two components:
- Keeping you on track
- Helping you improve faster
The first of these is mostly about motivation. We all need someone to lift us up on the down days, and although team-mates can help with this, it works better coming from someone whose experience and knowledge you particularly respect and trust. When you hit a barrier or you lose your momentum, your coach is there to help you pick yourself back up and get moving again. They do this by their expert knowledge (“Here’s how to get past that barrier.”) and by understanding the mindset required to succeed (“I know you can master this and you’ve been making great progress, let’s keep at it.”)
The second aspect of coaching is to provide you with the expert knowledge you need to progress as quickly as possible. Sometimes this is tactical: specific tips and tricks to master your ear training skills fast. Sometimes it’s strategic: knowing which topics and skills to work on in what order, to reach your true “big picture” goal.
With access to great training resources and supportive team-mates around you, your chances of succeeding with ear training are strong – but a coach can be the extra factor which ensures you really succeed. That’s why at Musical U we provide personal coaching to each of our members to make sure they stay on track to quickly reach their full potential.
A Place to Train
These days there are a wonderful range of ear training tools and resources available to you: books, CDs, online courses, mobile apps, and more. But do you have a place to use them all?
If you just have an assortment of these resources, it’s a bit like having a tennis racket, a ball and a pair of sneakers. In theory you have what you need to play tennis, but you’re missing the court to play on. The tennis club where you meet with your doubles partner and talk about your next game.
This lack of a dedicated “space” to train in is another factor which can cause ear training students to fizzle out. Their training is just too much of a jumble of ideas and tools and exercises.
That’s why last year we collected all the best Easy Ear Training resources and created Musical U, a single place to pursue your ear training. This provides you with a flexible structured system to train in so that you can see your progress clearly, along with discussion boards where you can communicate with your team-mates and coach. We provide a comprehensive set of training modules, but you’re also free to bring along whatever tools and resources you currently use, and treat Musical U as your ear training home. That way you always have a place to train with your team.
Start Building Your Team
At this point you might be thinking “Sounds great! But I don’t have all that…”
Here’s the good news: like musical “talent” an ear training team isn’t something you just have or don’t.
It’s something you build.
You can start small: have a friend be your accountability partner. Ask a musician you admire or a teacher to be your ear training coach. Find a dedicated “place” you can plan, organise and discuss your ear training journey.
Each piece you add builds a stronger and more resilient team to help you achieve your ear training goals in a more fast, fun and effective way than ever before. How do I know? Because we’ve seen this work again and again at Musical U, where we make it as easy as possible to assemble your ear training team.
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