Treated as something unnecessary to learn, ear training is too often neglected by musicians. However it seems that many musicians do not realise all the benefits of being able to listen critically to music. Here are just 5 reasons why having a good ear will be your most powerful asset.
You will be able to quickly analyse music
As a musician and songwriter, it is essential that you are critical of other songs. If not, how would you know what it is you like and what it is you dislike about music, and how will this be able to show through your own creativity?
Having a well trained ear will allow you to easily and accurately identify what it is about certain songs/solos/phrases that you like. Perhaps the screaming wide vibrato playing the minor 3rd over the harmony makes you feel a certain emotion. And would you be able to spot that without a good ear? Possibly, but it would take a lot longer.
Your songwriting efficiency will double. At least.
As musicians, we often have ideas for new songs floating about in our minds. Perhaps it's a catchy melody or an infectious drum beat. But it's somewhat of a chore to have to sit down at your instrument and "work out" how it goes. Imagine if you could hear how the harmony moves in numbers (check out the Nashville Number System). Then you can simply play these "numbers" on your instrument, first time through, before your ideas become contaminated with mistakes.
Your instrumental phrasing will drastically improve
It's not unusual to be able to hear how we want our solos to sound before we actually play them. But more often than not, it is a struggle to get that desired sound through our fingers and onto our instrument. With a well-trained ear, you will be able to identify the different intervallic movements within your idea. Then, providing you know all the intervals on your instrument, all you must do is play these intervals as you heard them.
You'll get booked again
Ear training isn't just about identifying intervals and harmonic progressions. It includes being able to know when you're playing too loud or too quiet. It may seem like common sense, but it's not rare to go to a gig and the lead guitarist is just drowning out the entire band. If you don't have a sound engineer, learn to do it yourself. You'll get booked again.
You will become a team player rather than a soloist
Possibly the most beneficial aspect of having a good ear, is being able to hear everything that's going on at once. It's easy to just stand there and play your part, but if someone is playing something wrong, they need to be made aware of it. And if you're only focusing on your own playing, you're not going to notice. Moreover, couple this skill with your interval and harmony knowledge and you will be able to suggest ideas to your bandmates. Perhaps you can't play the bass, but can you hear how a major 7th arpeggio would sound under your solo? A good ear will allow you to become a team player and suggest ideas to your band.
These are just 5 (of many) reasons why ear training should be a priority within your practice routine. Let me know your own reasons in the comments section below!
About the Author:Sam Dawson is a singer/songwriter who specializes in fingerstyle and percussive guitar. For more songwriting tips, sign up to his free songwriting email course.