Ear training can be a valuable skill to develop for music composers. Exactly what is meant by ear training? Ear training is the ability to recognize and identify the basic elements of music such as intervals, chords and rhythms upon hearing them. There is the phenomenon for the gifted few of being born with what is known as “perfect pitch”. This is the ability to recognize pitches without any external reference. For the rest of us mortals, we settle for the skill of relative pitch, the ability to recognize a pitch in reference to another. This luckily is a very useful skill one can develop with some practice.

Training the ears is essence comes down to training the ears to listen. The savvy composer develops the ability to listen to music in a focused manner. When a child learns to speak, they are listening intently and learning to pick out familiar words and phrases and begin using them. They build their vocabulary over time, expanding it as they go. Music as a language is similar, in that, one can begin by learning to recognize intervals, chords and melodic progressions by focused listening. In the beginning it can be difficult, but with perseverance, the composer can progress like learning a foreign language.

The training of the ears can contribute greatly by being able to hear and quickly dissect music, thus contributing to the process of musical composition. Most people can quickly learn to recognize chords and intervals which can help when putting together chord progressions and harmonic material of their own. When hearing a pleasing set of chords and being able to recognize it, the composer can quickly pick it out on a piano or keyboard, or write it down for further exploration and/or manipulation.

Ear training can be concentrated in several main areas.

  • Pitch recognition is the ability to recognize isolated pitches. For most this is easier when one knows the tonic key that a piece is in.
  • Interval recognition is the ability to hear and recognize intervals and is fairly easy to develop with a little practice and focus, greatly assisting in the recognition of melodic material.
  • Chord recognition is the skill of identifying chord changes and progressions as well as their inversions and is also a fairly easy skill to acquire with practice.
  • Rhythmic recognition is recognizing the basic rhythmic pulse of a passage and the subsequent timing and note values.
  • Timbre recognition is identifying the different instruments and combinations of instruments that make up a piece or a passage as they weave in and out.

Courses and software programs are available to assist in the process of developing the musical ears. If time permits, this can be invaluable time spent. Ear training needn’t be an ongoing thing, as once the ability is developed, through constant exposure and use, you will get better and better as time goes on. Devoting a period of time towards ear training is a great step towards becoming a better composer. Use what works for you, if you are a self learner, perhaps a software or audio based approach will work. There are even free ear training courses online if funds are short.

Spend some time developing your ears if you want to develop the ability to quickly translate what you hear into your own compositions as well as understanding the structure of the music you hear. Transcribing pieces of music from other musicians in your chosen genre can assist greatly in developing your ears through listening with intent and breaking music down into its component parts. The ability to recognize musical material and write it down or record it will greatly assist you in getting the music inside of you out into the world, with relative ease, which is the goal of any composer.

Source by Kenny L