If you’ve ever taken an ear training class, struggled in an ear training exam, or failed the “aural skills” section of your ABRSM instrument exam, you may be left wondering:
“Why is ear training so hard?”

There are several solid answers to this question:

  1. You’re doing it wrong
  2. You are training the wrong skills
  3. Your ear training goals are unsuitable or too vague
  4. You haven’t connected ear training with the rest of your musical life
  5. You are expecting results too soon

Let’s look at each of these in more detail and see how you can fix them if they’re the root of your ear training problems.

1. You’re doing it wrong

If you find yourself getting bored of ear training – or it feels like a big burden to practice every time – you are doing it wrong.

This tends to happen if you are using the traditional (i.e. bash away at a keyboard) methods, or don’t spend any time planning your training (e.g. just continually testing yourself and hoping to improve).

In the 21st Century, there is no need for ear training exercises to be boring, repetitive, or frustrating.

If you plan your training, set appropriate (and personal) goals, and use the latest tools and resources, every ear training session can be enjoyable and you can see results quickly.

2. You are training the wrong skills

If you have started ear training according to a syllabus which somebody else has defined, the chances are small that it truly suits your musical aspirations.

For example, music degree students often find themselves learning intervals solely because they have been told to learn intervals, and studying obscure classical cadences with no relation to their own love of music. This means that even if they study hard and pass their test they are left frustrated and disappointed because there is little benefit to their mus