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Why Train Your Ear (and How!)

By Bennett Sullivan on May 31, 2018


Why should you train your ear right off the bat when you're learning a musical instrument? Can't you just get started learning with tab and things will magically just fall into place? Keep reading to learn why it's essential (and fun) to train your ear from the very beginning.

This post is intended for beginners although if you're an intermediate this could give you some helpful tips or inspiration as well.

While Tunefox is a 'tab-based' learning tool, we want you to practice ear training as much as you can in your routine. The reason for this is simple - the ability to hear something in your head and put it on your instrument (even if it's not immediate) will lead to a ton of useful skills, including improvisation, picking up tunes at jam sessions, writing your own material, learning tunes faster by ear, stronger memorization skills, and learning tunes more quickly using tab.

When you engage your ears, you're training your mind to associate the pitch you hear with a location on the fretboard of your instrument. Do this every day and you are guaranteed to improve your instrument-to-ear connection and eventually you'll be able to achieve the skills listed above.

So, how do you practice ear training as a beginner?

  1. Sing along with what you play, no matter how rudimentary it may feel. This reinforces that you are actually hearing the notes your playing and not just mindlessly playing your instrument. It forces you to focus on the music.
  2. Figure out melodies that you already know. We all are familiar with "Mary Had a Little Lamb," "Happy Birthday," and "The Itsy, Bitsy Spider." These nursery rhymes are simple and catchy enough for you to take a stab at learning them on your instrument.
  3. Listen to lots of music. Make yourself a playlist of songs you enjoy/want to learn and listen to it daily. Try to do it without distractions and sing a long to get those melodies ingrained in your head. This will be helpful later when you want to actually sit down to learn the songs.
  4. Freely Improvise. This is a key part to becoming creative and figuring out your voice as a picker. You don't really need to know anything about music to do this and it can be as slow, fast, soft, or loud as you want. Treat it as a time for you to explore your instrument and the different sounds it creates.
  5. Play along with backing tracks. This is a really important part to practicing because it gives you a simulation of actually playing with other people. But with backing tracks, there's a bit less pressure and it gives you an opportunity to practicing improvising without worrying about messing up. Messing up is a good thing! It's a sign that you're taking chances and getting outside of your comfort zone.

Here's your challenge - take one or two of these tips and add it to your practice routine for 4 days. That's it! After those 4 days, notice if anything feels different about your playing and share it in the comment section. We'd love to hear it! Also, if you have any tips for practicing ear-training as a beginner, please share those as well!

Want to take your banjo, mandolin, guitar or bass playing to the next level? Get started with Tunefox for free today.


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