Ear Training – Getting A Handle On Pitch

Pitch is a fundamental aspect of music, and ‘hearing’ and anticipating pitch (ear training) is an important skill for an accomplished musician. Why is command of pitch so important? Here are a few of the many reasons:

  • Anticipating pitch is critical for vocalists, as they need to ‘hear’ the note that they will be singing before they actually sing the note.
  • Anticipating pitch is equally important for improvising, as it allows the soloist to improvise in a ‘musical’ manner, and not just ‘hit the correct notes’.
  • Knowing pitch will help you greatly when you attempt to figure out other artist’s songs (this is how experienced musicians can hear a song for the first time, and ‘just play it’).
  • Great pitch is an important asset when it comes to songwriting, and ‘finding the next chord’, or transcribing the ‘music you hear is in your head’.

    Ear Training

    Ear training is not just for vocalists; ALL musicians will benefit greatly!

Most new musicians don’t have very good command on pitch, but there are ways to practice and develop it. One of the ways we teach pitch is with scales. It doesn’t matter if the student is studying an instrument or voice; the technique we use is the same. To begin learning pitch, follow these steps:
  • Play the major scale (do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do) on the piano/guitar/ukulele. You want to be able to play the scale fluidly once forwards, and once backwards. If you are studying voice, your instructor will play the scale for you.
  • Once you’re able to play the scale cleanly, stop on each note and sing it after you play it. Work slowly, and make sure you correctly sing the pitch of each note before moving to the next (this is where our instructors can help you to insure you’re actually hitting the correct pitch).
Once you can competently play and sing the major scale, move to the next steps:
  • Play the first note of the scale, then sing the next note in the scale sequence before playing it. Make sure your voice matches the tone of each note as its played. For example, play ‘do’, then sing the pitch for ‘re’; then play ‘re’. If it matches, sing ‘mi’ and play ‘mi’; follow this through the entire scale.
  • Move the scale to different keys and do the above exercise. Make sure that, after you hear your starting note ‘do’, that you can sing the following notes correctly just before playing each note.
Once you can successfully ‘anticipate’ and match pitch in sequence, move on to harder pitch anticipation using scale phrases.
  • Use scale phrases of three or four notes and sing each note as it’s played. For example, play and sing ‘do-re-mi-re-mi’, or ‘do-re-do-re-mi-re-do’. Be sure you can sing and match the note pitch as you play.
  • Move to different keys and challenge yourself. Play the first note to give you the ‘key’, then jump right into phrasing & singing.
  • Build up speed so that you can quickly anticipate pitch. Shoot for a baseline of 120bpm.

These ear training exercises will help you to develop your command of pitch, and as such will be such a huge benefit to your overall musicianship. We hope that you find them helpful!

If you would like help getting started, or for more information on our voice or music lessons, please click HERE. Note that we offer in-studio and online music and voice lessons.
We have a great staff of experienced instructors at the studio; you can see our instructor bios HERE.
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