3 Reasons You'll Be Stoked If You Do Some Ear Training

3 main reasons every guitarist will be stoked if they include some ear training in their practice.

Ultimate Guitar
My first lesson for Ultimate Guitar was Ear Training 101: Tonality Based Ear Training. In it I shared some basic information about ear training: the best approach to use and some basic exercises to get started.

I've devoted a lot of time to ear training and as far as my playing goes it's probably been the best decision I've ever made. So in this second lesson I'd like to take it back a step and explain what ear training can do for you, in the hope that it will encourage you to give some of the ideas I suggested last time a shot!

So here are 3 reasons you'll be stoked if you do some ear training:

1. It builds confidence

Have you ever been travelling in a country where you don't speak the language before? It can be a nerve wracking experience.

It can be stressful every time you need to talk to someone, go to the store or even take a train because you can't communicate easily with the local people.

Playing music without ear training is a little like that. You learn to read the notes and play your instrument but you're never really sure of yourself. You're never quite sure if what you're playing sounds great or average, you can't work out what others are doing and you can't stray at all from the notes written in front of you without risking an obvious mistake.

Training your ears solves this problem completely.

It leads to a newfound sense of confidence whenever you pick up your instrument. You'll know whether you sound good or not. You'll understand what others are playing. You'll be relaxed, safe in the knowledge that your ears will understand what they hear and guide your fingers. You'll experience a level of enjoyment with music that you simply can't achieve without it.

2. It creates freedom

The end goal of ear training is the ability to play by ear: to recognise the notes in music when you hear them and play them straight back on your guitar. It takes some time to achieve this but the rewards are worth it (and then some).

When you develop this skill you'll experience a level of freedom when you play that you can't get without it. You'll be able to play whatever you like, however you would like to. It's an amazing feeling and if you really love playing it's well and truly worth every minute you put into ear training to achieve it!

3. It's not as hard as you think

A lot of musicians leave ear training alone because the word on the street is that it's hard and it doesn't work for most of us. As I mentioned in my last lesson, I think this belief continues because a lot of musicians go about it in the wrong way so they don't see much success. If you follow the instructions from that lesson you'll make solid progress and you'll soon see that success is attainable. It will take some time and work (just like improving in any area of music) but you can get there!

So those are my 3 big reasons to spend some time on ear training.

About the Author:
By Scott Edwards. If I've inspired you to add it to your practice routine, swing by EarTrainingHQ.com for more detailed lessons.

20 comments sorted by best / new / date

    you sounds like a Jedi master learning someone the force xD
    I can't believe so many people stay away from ear training. It's simple and the improvement it brings is probably the biggest you can get in your instrument.
    Chris Zoupa
    Hey Scott. People are always blown away when I tell them I learn everything by ear. You do get confident and start backing your own abilities. It's important to be able to operate as a musician without even needing an instrument in your hand. Cool article. Glad you could be the catalyst for such an important but regularly disregarded topic.
    All he wrote is only the common sense. So guys, don't be affraid to step into new world of sounds!
    I have recently started doing ear training and in terms of confidence it really does improve over the entire spectrum - hear chord progressions etc. Apart from transcribing I use Ear Master Pro 6. THe cool thing for me is with that program I'm able to sing the intervals and later on start singing melodies etc. You don't really train your ears till you actually SING what you hear.
    It's nice to see all this positivity regarding ear training. I agree that too many musicians stay away from ear training, or don't practice it enough. For me ear training abilities is what seperates great musicians from average musicians. Besides my studies i actually work a bit for a company that makes ear training software. You should check it out if you are interested in practicing ear training more. Go to www.earmaster.com if you'd like. (i am sorry if this ended up sounding as an ad, that is definitely not the intention. I just wanted to share my thoughts, and let you guys know about this software).
    Yabba Who
    Is this a lesson or an advertisement? 3 reasons why you should click the link at the bottom of the article and pay $50 to start the course.
    Great man,i myself learned guitar through ear training,and ive recorded more than 5 artists now in my music career
    This pretty much came natural to me anyway as I learned the guitar, not sure why anyone else shouldn't be ear-trained unless they're either lazy or tone deaf.
    Ear...this damn ear I'm a self learning guitarist who has been messing around with guitar for about 3 years! my biggest problem is this ear training! I can't jam on tracks or write my own songs because of this I seem to have hearing problems. for instance when I wanted to learn the sound of the notes I started with the A note! I focused only on the A notes on the FB! after practicing for two weeks on the A note! I tested myself and I couldn't even remember any of them this thing makes me lose my motivation day by day
    I suggest learning the sound of intervals rather than individual notes. Relative pitch, not perfect pitch.
    If I remember correctly, you can't develop perfect pitch unless you started ear training before you reached 10-12 years old. As the user above said, relative pitch is an equally great ability. You may not be able to guess a pitch off the top of your head, but, with instrument in hand, you can usually find the note in one or two tries.
    Scott Edwards
    Hey Lord Lucifer, Myshadow and imspazzen are both spot on. Go for relative pitch instead of perfect pitch, it's the form of ear training that actually works after childhood. But rather than focusing on intervals, use a tonality based approach. Check out my lesson on it for more info, it's much more effective than working on intervals individually (which is also really difficult to have success with!)
    It wouldn't be a good idea to exclude pitch discrimination in ear training because relative pitch becomes incomplete or useless if you can't nail the roots. Both relative pitch and absolute pitch are valuable.