Some musicians are gifted with perfect pitch and have a natural ear for music. However, most musicians must acquire their ear for music through practice, repetition, and exercises. Don’t worry if you struggle with pitch, whether it be in singing or improvising guitar riffs. Everyone can improve their ear for music even if it doesn’t come as easy for some as it does for others.
In this article, I will discuss what an “ear for music” is and go over some of the best ear training exercises to make you a better musician.
What does having a good “ear for music” mean?
Your musical “ear” is defined by how good you are at singing or playing by simply using your musical ear to guide you. This means picking out a melody by only listening to it first. A musician with a good ear for music might be able to play a song they have never practiced before because of the connection between their musical ear and their instrument.
Human embryos start to hear sound at around 18 weeks. And at around two years, a child can sing songs and recreate melodies. When you play a middle C on the piano, the vibrations or sound waves created from the hammer hitting the string resonate through the air, and make their way through your ear canal. The ear translates this sound into an electrical signal and sends the signal to the brain. The brain then processes this sound and determines the note, rhythm, and pitch.
Why is having a good ear important?
Many guitarists, bassists, and drummers may think that a natural ear for music is only something a lead singer should be concerned about. While lead singers must have a good ear to navigate pitch, every musician can benefit from having a good ear for music. For example, an instrumentalist with a good ear can improvise and play progressions or melodies on demand without memorizing the score first. Tuning without an electric tuner, composing songs, and singing backup harmonies are also skills that require musicality.
5 best ear training exercises
Here are the top 5 ear training exercises that will make you a better musician.
If you have ever taken a music theory class, you will have likely experienced sight singing. This is an excellent exercise for your musical brain that forces you to approach a piece of music differently.
To sight sing, take a piece of music you have never heard before, play the tonic (key note) and attempt to sing the melody without playing any instrument. Generally, when sight singing, you will use solfege (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do) to depict the notes.
Signing along as you play
Another great exercise is to sing along as you play piano, guitar, or bass. Try to match the pitch of your instrument and sing along correctly. Start by singing along as you play scales and arpeggios. Then you can move on to more complex songs and melodies.
Doing this exercise helps bridge the gap between your voice and your instrument, making it much easier later to play by ear.
Transcribing can be tedious, but it is a great brain exercise to improve your ear and understanding of music theory. Try listening to a piece of music or a song and writing down the melody, chord progression, and harmonies. It can be challenging to start because you need to find the root note and identify the key, but transcribing will get easier and easier with practice. Learning to transcribe by ear is a great musical skill that will definitely come in handy as you compose new music, teach, or learn new songs.
Recording yourself as you sing or play is another great practice that can help you determine how to approach your musical ear improvement. Make a recording as you sing a song, improvise, or try to play by ear, and then listen back to the recording, noting any mistakes you made, and work out what you could have done differently.
This may seem obvious, but it is arguably the most important exercise. Practicing correctly and mindfully is very important for building a good ear. Listen as you play, and don’t gloss over mistakes. Be patient with yourself as you practice scales and new progressions. It is always better to drill in good habits and techniques than to rush things.
Improving your ear for music is no walk in the park. It takes practice and repetition and can be a long process for some people. However, while training your ear is difficult, doing so will open up a new world of connections between your brain and your instrument. As a result, you can become a better musician and improve your ear. Follow the five easy exercises I discussed in this article to train your ear, and you will be composing new music in no time!