Tons of Ear Training Exercises.
This blog is a continuation of the ear training blogs published in the past 2 weeks.
You can find past week’s ear training publications here:
With the following list: you have a nice collection of ear training drills that will catapult your hearing abilities from whatever level you’re at to mastery.
Here’s the list.
- Relative Pitch Exercise 1.
You hear 2 notes and you identify the intervallic distance between the notes. This is called “relative pitch ear training”.
You’re learning how the intervallic relationships between 2 notes sound like.
This is explained here: Relative Pitch Ear Training
Do this for 3 sessions a day, 4 minutes each session = 12 minute drill
- Relative Pitch Exercise 2
Play a random note on your guitar neck. Sing that pitch.
Then, without playing it, sing the note up a half step. After you sang the note up a half step, play it on your guitar to check your accuracy.
Repeat this drill for 2 minutes.
Then continue on for the next 2 minutes, but now with whole steps.
Here’s a pdf you can download with a more detailed description of the whole exercise.
Relative Pitch Ear training Exercise
- 3 note patterns: 1 minute each.
Practice 12 patterns a day = a 12-minute drill
This is the drill outlined in last week’s blog here: Ear Training: 3-Note Patterns
Do this for 3 sessions a day, 4 minutes (4 patterns per session) each session = 12 minute drill
- Perfect pitch.
Yes, perfect pitch CAN be trained.
It is not some god-given talent that only a few chosen ones possess.
You can get perfect pitch too.
The best way to train perfect pitch is to get the David L Burge Perfect Pitch Training package and do the drills.
- Song pitches.
Try to guess the key of songs you know.
Sing what you think is the keynote (the first note of the scale the song is written in) before hearing the song, then play the song to double-check if you guessed the right key.
If the song starts on the starting pitch you sang, then you guessed the right key.
This exercise will help you with the development of perfect pitch abilities.
Let’s say that you have a song that you somehow always hear in its right key without a point of reference and before even hearing the song.
If you know that that song is for example in the key of C, then you can use the ability to hear that song in its right pitch, as a point of reference to figure out the keys to other songs by ear.
For example, if you always hear Alanis Morissette’s “Thank U” accurately in the correct key/pitch, and you know the song is in C, you can then use this to recognize the key to a song that for example sounds a whole step higher than the starting pitch of “Thank U”. (This would require good relative pitch recognition of course)
Do this drill for 5 minutes.
- Song pitches exercise 2:
This is the previous exercise backward. Listen to random songs you don’t know, and try to guess/sing the key of the song.
After you took a guess and sang the note, hit that note you named on your guitar to see if you sang it correctly.
Do this drill for 5 minutes.
- Song pitches exercise 3:
Listen to random songs, and while the song is playing, sing the first note of the key. Then sing the 2nd note, then 3rd, then 4th, etc.
Really listen to how every scale note sounds like against the song.
When you can do this well: try to sing non-scale tones: b2, b3 (if it is a major song), 3 (if it is a minor song), b5, etc…
Double check if you sang the right note on your guitar.
Do this drill for 5 minutes.
- Sight reading:
Look at a melody you don’t know in a book with sheet music, then try to sing that melody reading the pitches without playing it.
This is called sight-singing.
Play it on your guitar afterwards to check your accuracy.
- Next level Sight reading: A tonal music.
Get books that have atonal sight-singing exercises transcribed and sight sing the transcribed music.
Play it afterwards on your guitar to check your pitch accuracy
- Performance ET
This is taken from an advanced ear training class I took during my time at Berklee College of Music.
This was called “Performance ET”.
You basically take a 4 note grouping, say for example the notes FGAB.
You sing these 4 notes and play them against let’s say a Cmaj7 chord.
Against the Cmaj7 chord, you are then singing the 4th (F), 5th (G), 6th (A), and 7th (B) note of the C scale.
But then… you change chord to for example a G chord, and you adapt your 4 notes to the G chord (singing them, NOT playing them), only moving the notes that don’t fit with the G chord to the closest note that fits the chord. So now you’re singing the notes F#GAB
If you would move to let’s say a Gm7 chord, now you’d be singing the notes FGABb.
Keep moving to random chords, singing your same 4 note grouping over and over against each chord, only moving the notes that need to move.
If you get tired of the 4 note grouping, pick another one.
The notes in your grouping don’t have to move by step, it could be intervallic like for example CEbFG or CDFG or any 4 note combination in a major scale.
Tough… but oh so very good for your improvisation skills.
- Steve Prosser ET.
I dedicate this to the wonderful and amazing Berklee teacher Steve Prosser, who sadly passed away last year.
You point at a random note anywhere on your guitar neck, and you play that note.
This is your starting point. You sing that one note you just played.
This is the easy part.
From there, you use that starting note as your reference point, and you point at another note, which you try to sing correctly without double-checking if you sing the correct pitch.
The system is to figure out, where that 2nd note you’re pointing at is located in relationship to the first note you chose. If it is up a 5th, you have to sing a 5th, if it is down a major 2nd, you need to sing a descending major 2nd, if it is up a major 3rd, you need to sing up a major 3rd.
You figure out what the interval is, and you then sing it.
From there on, you chose random note number 3 by pointing at it without sounding the note.
You figure out where that note is intervallically in relationship to the previous note you sang.
Meanwhile: you’re trying to retain the pitch of that 2nd note because you’re building further from there.
When you figured out the interval between the 2nd note you sang and the new note you just pointed at, sing the pitch of your 3rd note.
Keep going, singing long a-tonal lines of notes randomly chosen on the guitar neck, without playing one single note.
Then after a long series of notes: play whatever your last pitch was to double-check to see if you are still on.
In the beginning: you might want to start off just doing 5-6 note series, double-checking every 5-6 notes or so.
As you get better at this: make your series longer before double-checking.
sing notes from low to high in randomly played chords (triads first, later on in 7th chords, then later on in chords with tensions)
This is called “harmonic ear training”.
start off singing the roots first.
When this gets easy: try to ear the 3rds in chords and sing them.
Move on to 5ths, then 7ths.
Once you get the hang of all of this: try to sing 9ths, 11ths, 13ths against chords.
listen to a recording and try to write down (not play) the notes of the melody.
Also, figure out chords to songs by ear (without instrument).
There is no better way to mastery.
Not only do you practice your ear, but you’re building improv vocabulary, learning all the musical tricks and phrases from the masters, and so on.
- Scales 1:
sing notes in whole tone, diminished and chromatic scales
- Scales 2:
sing the major scale in all keys, and sing all the major scale modes.
- Scales 3:
sing the harmonic minor scale in all keys and sing all its modes
- Scales 4:
sing the melodic minor scale in all keys and sing all its modes
- Joe Satriani ET exercise.
This exercise comes from a book that Joe wrote. He calls this exercise “Atonal Scat Singing”.
Set your metronome for 60bpm.
Put your timer for 3-4 minutes.
Play downstrokes only, 8th notes only.
Non-stop, keep up… no pauses.
Play random notes, 8th notes only, with the metronome, singing each note you play out loud (singing “la la la la…”)
Don’t play familiar patterns, be random
When your timer goes off, you’re done.
- Ears One (Jon Damian).
These exercises described in Jon Damian’s book “The Guitarist’s Guide to Composing and Improvising”
Record a series of random major and minor triads. (Don’t write anything down).
Should be 10 minutes long and filled with surprises. Don’t stay in a key, totally random. Each chord lasts 2 bars, at 90Bpm.
Then: play the recording and sing scales against the chords in steady 8th notes.
Do the same as above with your guitar. Stay in one position. Play scales only. Start on the low E string. 8th notes only, steady. Don’t change direction; keep going up till you hit the high E string, then come back down to the low E string. Go back to singing if playing is too hard. If after some time this gets easy: start doing this way more advanced chords… and later on with chords with tensions.
- Ears One. (Jon Damian):
Same as above, but instead of in position… go up one string (single string) and down the next one… zigzagging over the strings.
- Ears 2 (Jon Damian):
choose a position, choose an interval and a direction of study (f.e. minor 3rds ascending), play a random note anywhere in that position, and harmonize that note singing the chosen interval up or down (depending on the direction you chose to practice). Then double-check to see if you sang (harmonized) the right note.
Besides the couple of Jon Damian ear training exercises listed here, there are tons more in his fantastic, highly recommended book.
Get the book here:
These ear training exercises will keep you busy for years to come.
Once you have all these mastered, you’ll have “SUPER EARS” 🙂
More importantly though: you will be so much closer to mad musicianship.
It is amazing how much ear training does to your overall skills as a guitarist.
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