So, you want to play by ear? Here are our top tools for practising and improving your play-by-ear skills!
Just joining us? Read this series on learning to play by ear from the start to find out:
- what playing by ear means
- how to learn to play by ear
- what you can already play by ear and
- what you want to improve on
IWasDoingAllRight.com’s Online Ear Trainer
This online ear training app will automatically create and play short melodies for you. It’s full of configuration options so you might need to do a bit of experimenting to find the best settings for your ability.
But spend a bit of time playing call-and-response games with this app and your melody playing-by-ear skills are sure to improve.
See also our full profile of IWasDoingAllRight.com, previously.
Step and a Half iOS app
We designed our “Step and a Half” app for iOS (iPhone and iPod) to help you move from recognising single intervals to figuring out whole melodies by ear. You can also use it as a complete beginner though, learning each interval as you go.
It’s a fun race-against-the-clock game of choosing blocks to recreate the melody you heard. When you’re out and about or want to develop your skills but can’t play your instrument, the Step and a Half game can help you progress.
Online chord games from Theta Music Trainer
|If you’ve enjoyed this game, we recommend the full Theta Music Trainer.|
Chordelia apps for iOS
If you’re just beginning to understand the different types of chord (major, minor, augmented, diminished, seventh chords, etc.) then Chordelia: Triad Tutor is a great tool for training with your iPhone. It teaches and tests the core types of ‘triad’ chord you’ll want to start out with. Once you’ve mastered your triads you’ll be ready for a serious challenge from Chordelia: Seventh Heaven.
YouTube Genre Practice
One of the best tools for practising rhythm skills is one we mentioned last time: Music videos of different genres on YouTube.
Here’s a suggested approach:
- Start from this big genre list (or if you’re feeling extra brave try this one!)
- Type different genres into YouTube (e.g. “death metal song”, “slow waltz music”)
- Try to mimic on your instrument the rhythmic styles used in the videos you find.
- Start from genres you know, and move on to ones you don’t.
Flash Rhythm Games
It’s important to learn to recreate rhythmic styles and connect what you hear to the written notation. But as important as those skills is honing your sense of timing, which underlies all rhythmic skills.
Top Tool #1… Your instrument!
Last, but certainly not least: Your own musical instrument! Whether it’s a saxophone, a piano, a drum kit or your own voice, learning to perform by ear, transcribe music, compose and improvise… all of these benefit enormously from time spent simply playing and experimenting.
As we talked about before, the key to learning to play by ear is: Do it!
The tools above will help you accelerate your progress, and in particular can be useful when your instrument isn’t handy (training on the bus, anyone?!) but they should be seen as accelerators for the core practice routine of actually trying to play by ear.
There are lots more tools we could mention… Don’t forget that iAction is an excellent app for planning your training and making sure you reach your goals. Our Downloads page has some handy training packs for your MP3 player. Many of the sites in our ear training site profiles series provide useful tools for playing by ear. And of course, the grand-daddy of them all, YouTube, has all the music you could need to test your playing by ear skills, from simple nursery rhymes to the latest pop hit.