How to develop your musical ear

How to develop your musical ear
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Hello, dear all. I’m here again to bring to light some facts about music and helpful techniques. These will stand by your studying process if you are now training how to play sax - and ‘simply’ broaden your horizons if not or just planning to start.

If you cashed in my previous post, you positively remember that I have bust one popular myth that sounds like, ‘I have no musical ear’.

Now that you have finally understood YOU DO HAVE EAR FOR MUSIC, it’s high time to switch to a more practical side.

In this read, you’ll learn to tell one ‘ear disorder’ from another - to end up a in a practical set of exercises for developing your precious ear.


What could be wrong but your ear

Let’s start with a small review of what musical ear is and what it’s not.

As you may remember from the last week, musical ear is solely our ability to perceive sounds - those of music, as well. And also distinguish separate sounds and their combinations from each other.

A quick reminder: there exist a range of types of musical ear including absolute and relative, active and passive, timbre, and many more. Eager to learn more about those types? Welcome back - When there is no ear for music.

Most of us have at least normal passive ear, which enables us to hear sounds and music.. But apart from that, there exists coordination between voice and ear. The reproduction of these sounds is called active ear. When it’s lacking, a person can hear notes and define their pitch but cannot sing them properly - simply because they don’t have an idea how to do it.  However, people often think that this problem is a major obstacle in learning music.

The core thing is to study regularly and with a goal in mind. And it is not just general terms. Training and working on your reproducing abilities cannot but improve your perception and develop your general musical sense.

How to develop your tuneful ear

Now, I think you’re all ready for a couple of recommendations on how to better distinguish between various pitches. If you’re still reading this article, I guess you will need a bit more exercise to enhance your inborn abilities.

So, to turn your music ear from 'tin' to truly 'golden', you can:

      1. Explore singing.

Develop coordination between voice and auditory sense. For instance, start a piano. You can train coordination by simply playing different tones on the piano - and then singing it out loud. If you’ve reached unison, that is what you need. To make it easier, start by singing it in your head. When lucky, move on to the next note - and likewise work over the whole current range of your voice.

And this is just the beginning. When ready, you can proceed to playing and singing scales, intervals and even tunes. I advise you to start with some uncomplicated children’s songs. And change your repertoire as far as you progress.

In fact, your ability to sound on the expected pitch is nothing but a simple task in muscular coordination. Many people get this skill subconsciously in their childhood. If you’re not among these luckies, it’ll take a tad more effort.

If not for a piano, you can definitely go for any other musical instrument (in case you’re not playing any at the moment). In a broad sense, it will open your mind and gift with better understanding of music - just like it happens with polyglots in the sphere of foreign languages.


      2. Play in a band (or at least in a duet)

From where I stand, this method is likely to deliver the fastest and most pleasing results in musical development. It is similar to getting into a real language environment in case of you learning a foreign language.

So, even if you’re still a music newbie, do look for musicians and try to make a collab. I’d rather you sought the ones with more experience than you have.

As for my saxophone classes in New York City, I always try to play in a duo with students since the baseline.

      3. Learn to really hear music

This process takes by far more than it seems as you’ll need to sink into the musical piece.

You’ll certainly benefit from trying to tell one musical instrument from another. To succeed in that, firstly you’ll need clear understanding of how live instruments sound. When ready, you can go on to distinguish these timbres in the mix with others.

      4. Don’t forget about the rhythm

You can either exercise with a metronome or listen to music, which is more complicated. In the latter case, it’s advisable to start with music with a clear drum part.

Good news for dance lovers: dancing is another great way to improve your sense of rhythm. Of course, when it’s not contact improvisation.

      5. Pay attention to voices.

You can upgrade your voice perception through:

  • listening carefully to your talk partner’s voice as well as their unique style of speech and timbre.

You can also try to memorize it so as to reconstruct it later in your head (while recalling the entire conversation).

  • hanging upon actors’ voices during film watching.

Once the film is over, you can carry on with rewatching separate extracts, trying to guess the characters’ name solely by their voice.

      6. Get in from the psychological side.

It could be:

  • some unsophisticated meditation when you walk around town with your earplugs out - admiring and examining all the wealth of natural and urban sounds;
  • listening to indoor sounds such as water dripping, street noise and neighbors’ chat.


Phew, time to exhale! That’s all for now - go practise.

A lot more is there to come.


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