If you want to be a good musician, it’s not enough to be good in playing the guitar or bass. You may handle all the techniques but if you cannot recognize more complex musical sounds by ear alone you will never be really good. The ability to play by ear, to jam with other musicians and to learn new material depends on your ear training. If nobody told you what this means then you have probably never trained by the book. Serious ear training is a must in developing your ability to improve your musicianship, to recognize and correctly identify musical sounds such as pitches, intervals, chords, scales, melodies and rhythms. Having a good musical ear will make you a better singer, and you will not feel weakness when someone in the group suddenly starts throwing in chord substitutions. Thus, if you want to take this seriously, follow our ear training tips:
The most important step is to learn how to read notes.
The syllable system is based on a 8-note major scale like this: do re me fa sol la si do C D E F G A B C
Practice singing the syllables as you play the notes on a guitar are absolutely necessary, try skipping notes and finally try it all over again without playing, just singing.
Work with another musician; take turns in playing intervals, chords, rhythms, scales and melodies. The listener has to identify what has just been played in a blind test and try not to get bored easily. Once you have done those exercises, you are ready to move on to the next thing.
Use a software package that generates random sequences within specified parameters. This is the ideal way of ear training but it can be a little too expensive so you should search for free trial downloads that are simple to install and run and that are offering you the possibility to train your ear at any level you like.
Record yourself playing various random chords, scales, melodies etc. and when you have a true collection of them you can randomly play them back and attempt to identify what is being played.
Take a memory test combined with a test of identifying musical sounds by ear alone.
Do what Julie Andrews does in the Sound of Music: use solfeggio (like the song from the movie, “Do-Re-Mi” – “Doe, a deer, a female deer, ray, a drop of golden sun…”) and do not sing “nah, nah,” for each note because it’s tougher for your ear to distinguish the intervals.
Use personal mnemonic devices: for instance, a song may begin with the interval of a Major 3rd (1-3) and the first three notes are scale degrees 1-3-5 so find songs that you know very well and that start with the major and perfect intervals such as the already known M6 “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean” or P8 “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.