• Step 3 of 4
Once you know your destination and you know where you are, all that remains is to plan the route from A to B.
Easier said than done!
Chunk it down
The key is to ‘chunk’ the task down into well-defined, manageable, meaningful steps.
What does this mean? It means you can’t just jump from where you are now to the expertise you want. All learning is gradual, and so you need to build your skills piece-by-piece.
These stepping stones of learning should be:
- Well-defined: You need to be clear on what you’re trying to accomplish at each stage, so you can plan your training and know when you’ve completed this stage
- Manageable: Keep the steps fairly small so that you can regularly see clear progress and feel satisfied that you are improving. Otherwise you’re still just trying to jump from A to B in too large a leap!
- Meaningful: Try to find a musical meaning for every step – some musical task or ability you want to have which lies on the path from A to B. This will ensure your motivation remains strong and you regularly get rewarded in an emotionally satisfying way as you train.
An example plan
Here’s an example: Suppose you want to play chord progressions by ear. You’ve assessed your skill and decided that currently you can’t do it at all – so you’ve got a long journey ahead!
Using the resources discussed below you make your plan:
- Find out about the different types of triad chord using the Pitch & Harmony series.
- Learn to recognise major and minor triads using the Chordelia: Triad Tutor app.
- Practice recognising major and minor chords by ear using videos on YouTube.
- Learn about common chord progressions using the Progressions topic.
- Practice recognising I-IV-V chord progressions using YouTube videos or NowStartABand.com.
Notice that each of these steps is well-defined, manageable and meaningful.
Resources for planning
So how can you construct a plan like the above when you don’t yet know all about the topic?
Here at EasyEarTraining.com we publish a lot of articles and resources to try to help you with this. If you know you want to improve in a particular area, you can browse topics or use the search function to find relevant material. You might even find we already have a dedicated training series.
One of the reasons we love jazzadvice.com is that Eric and Forrest are particularly great at filling in the context around ear training, and making sure you always understand your musical surroundings. Why practice XYZ? Because it helps with ABC. If you’re interested in harmony and jazz ear training, it’s a fantastic resource for planning your route – and understanding how and why to get from A to B.
David Rees is producing some wonderful videos over at DaveConservatoire.org, mostly focusing on music theory but covering some aural skills topics too. Friendly and down-to-earth, these videos might be just what you need to wrap your head around a new topic.
Like them or not, music exams do serve a purpose: they provide a clear, well considered syllabus and structure for learning.
Even if you don’t plan to sit an exam, you can get great benefit from listening to the classical authorities on aural skills. Exam boards like ABRSM provide training materials and exams focused on your musical ears. Even just looking at their freely-available syllabus can give you a great picture of how skills progress from beginner to expert level.
Don’t be afraid to ask!
Finally, if you’ve looked at these resources and still aren’t sure how to reach your goals from where you are now – ask for help! Leave a comment below or come ask in our forums and we’ll help you develop your plan.
Got a route figured out? Continue planning your training…