Ear Training

Ear Training is the development of the active and passive capability to relate to music aurally.

PUBLISHED: Jan 2, 2005 • UPDATED: Oct 21, 2017 • LESSON CODE: ML-basic-03 • VISITS: 110

ukulele ANY music bass banjo harmonica guitar drums lapsteel piano Subjects: beginnerintermediateadvancedsongwritingtheory

Ear Training

Ear Training is the development of the active and passive capability to relate to music aurally. This includes the ability to recognize melodic and harmonic intervals, chords, chords progressions, rhythm, melody and harmony.

Functional Pitch Recognition

Functional pitch recognition involves identifying the function or role of a single pitch in the context of an established tonic. Once a tonic has been established, each subsequent pitch may be classified without direct reference to accompanying pitches. For example, once the tonic G has been established, listeners may recognize that the pitch D plays the role of the dominant in the key of G. No reference to any other pitch is required to establish this fact.

Many musicians use functional pitch recognition in order to identify, understand, and appreciate the roles and meanings of pitches within a key. To this end, scale-degree numbers or Solmization can be used for this purpose.

solfège (do, re, mi, etc.) can be quite helpful. Using such systems, pitches with identical functions (the key note or tonic, for example) are associated with identical labels (1 or do, for example).

Solmization / solfège The seven syllables normally used for this practice in English-speaking countries are: do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and ti (with sharpened notes of di, ri, fi, si, li and flattened notes of te, le, se, me, ra).

Ear Training is the development of the active and passive capability to relate to music aurally. This includes the ability to recognize melodic and harmonic intervals, chords, chords progressions, rhythm, melody and harmony. This is a skill by which musicians learn to identify, solely by hearing, pitches, intervals, melody, chords, rhythms, and other basic elements of music. The application of this skill is analogous to taking dictation in written/spoken language. Ear training may be contrasted with sight-singing, which is analogous to reading aloud in language. Ear-training is typically a component of formal musical training.

Relative Pitch - The term relative pitch may denote:

  1. the distance of a musical note from a set point of reference, e.g. "three octaves above middle C"
  2. a musician's ability to identify the intervals between given tones, regardless of their relation to concert pitch (A = 440Hz)
  3. the skill used by singers to correctly sing a melody, following musical notation, by pitching each note in the melody according to its distance from the previous note. Alternatively, the same skill which allows someone to hear a melody for the first time and name the notes relative to some known starting pitch.

WidipediA Ear Training

Playing by Ear

Before talking about playing by ear, one needs to understand what is commonly called ear training. As the WikipediA definition for Ear Training mentioned, ear training has an active and passive roll.

Passive Ear Training

PASSIVE EAR TRAINING is the ability to recognize and name intervals, chords, chord progressions, melodic sequences, rhythm, etc... An example of passive ear training would be if someone played the first two notes of the song "Here Comes the Bride" and you can recognize them as an interval of a perfect fourth. You might not know the actual pitches, that would be perfect pitch, the ability to identify or re-create a given musical note without the benefit of an external reference.


  • Unison: ( Do - Do* )

    Happy Birthday To You

  • Minor second:

    Theme from Jaws (movie), Pink Panther

  • Major Second: ( Do - Re )

    Frere Jacques
    Do A Dear
    Silent Night

  • Minor Third:

    Smoke on the Water
    Brahms' Lullaby
    First two notes of a Blues scale

  • Major Third: ( Do - Mi )

    Michael Row Your Boat Ashore
    When the Saints Go Marching In
    Kum By Ya
    Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

  • Perfect Fourth: ( Do - Fa )

    Here Comes the Bride
    The Look of Love
    Auld Lang Syne ("Should Auld...")

  • Tritone (♯4 or ♭5):

    The Simp - sons
    Ma ri a, from West Side Story

  • Perfect Fifth: ( Do - Sol )

    Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
    My Favorite Things
    Theme from Star Wars
    Hey There Georgie Girl

  • Minor Sixth:

    Black Orpheus
    Theme From Love Story
    Scott Joplin's The Entertainer (Main theme after the intro)
    In My Life (guitar intro)

  • Major Sixth: ( Do - La )

    My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean
    the N B C theme
    I Heard the Bells
    Take the A Train

  • Major Seventh: ( Do - Ti )

    Theme from Fantasy Island

  • Minor Seventh:

    Theme from Star Trek
    Somewhere (from West Side Story)

  • Octave: ( Do - Do )

    Hi Ho Hi Ho
    Some where Over the Rainbow (then descends a minor second to the major seventh of the scale
    Let It Snow
    The Christmas Song

* Fixed do solfège

Fixed do solfège - In the fixed do system, accidentals do not affect the syllables used. For example, C, C♯, and C♭, as well as C double sharp and C double flat are all sung with the syllable "do", For more information, history and visit the Wikipedia page for Solfège


  • Minor second:

    Joy to the World
    Jingle Bell Rock
    Stella by Starlight

  • Major Second:

    Three Blind Mice
    Mary Had a Little Lamb
    Satin Doll

  • Minor Third:

    Camptown Races
    This Old Man
    Misty, Start Spangled Banner

  • Major Third:

    Beethoven's 5th (G G G Eb)

  • Perfect Fourth:

    Old MacDonald
    Frere Jacques ("Ding Dang Dong...")
    When Johnny Comes Marching Home
    I've Been Working on the Railroad

  • Tritone:

    The Simp - sons
    Ma ri a, from West Side Story

  • Perfect Fifth:

    Have You Meet Miss Jones
    Seven Steps to Heaven
    Flintstones Theme (Flint stones meet the ...

  • Minor Sixth:

    Your Everything

  • Major Sixth:


  • Minor Seventh:

    Watermelon Man

  • Major Seventh:

    I love you (Cole Porter)

  • Octave:

    Hi Ho Hi Ho
    Some where Over the Rainbow
    Crazy (2nd line "I'm crazy..."
    Willow Weep For Me


  • Major Pentatonic:

    My Girl guitar lick, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus


  • Major Scale:

    Joy to the World


  • Major 7th chord:

    Jingle, Jingle, Jingle ( the first four notes a major seventh chord, the 1 3 5 7 of the major scale of key of the song. )

Active Ear Training

ACTIVE EAR TRAINING is the ability to reproduce intervals, chords, chord progressions, melodic sequences, rhythm, etc... An example of active ear training would be to play the first two notes of the song "Here Comes the Bride" anywhere on your instrument or sing that interval (in tune).

NOTE: Getting your fingers and or voice to follow you ear is one of the harder things to do. This is technique and takes a lot of work. All, well worth the effort.

Where the Ear Fits In - (Ear, Hands, Mind)

The hands are the weakest link in the Ear to Hands to Mind combination that is used to play music (by ear) and the hands need to be trained to follow the ear. It is the hands training that takes the longest.

The ear can remember stuff after ONE time hearing it. The Mind two or three and the hands to develop the muscle memory take about a few hundred times. How else can we recognize melodies after hear it once?

When practicing you should be doing stuff to train the hands to follow the ear. That is the sequence for developing this connection:

Mind to Hands to Ear

The Mind tells the Hands what to play and the Ear listens. DON'T practice by ear. Have a plan and organization of the material you would like to cover.

Practicing your scales in intervals of 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths, etc... Some more common than other for melodies. Practice both ascending and descending. I would go with 2nds, 3rds, and 6ths first.

Ear to Hands to Mind

The Ear tells the Hands what play and you can involve the Mind if needed or wanted after the fact.

The hands will not do anything they have not done before.

So to be able to play by ear you either:

1) Hunt and Peck enough to train your fingers to follow the ear – or –

2) Have a plan to train the ear and hands to work together, thus making the hands to the ear connection quicker. Creating a plan is where a teacher can really help. And, if you've had bad experiences with teachers don't give up on them just try another teacher, good teachers are out there. Typically jazz musicians will be the best teachers in the playing by ear department. Remember playing by ear does not mean practicing by ear. Practicing and learning are different then performing.

Here is an example of learning a specific interval. The first two notes of "Here Comes the Bride" are a perfect fourth. Try putting any finger on any note of the ukulele and then play the second, "Here Comes..." correctly the first time. If you can't the fingers haven't been trained enough to "Play by Ear", to obey the hands for the particular sound of that interval. This is then where the mind comes in and intellectually knows where the interval of a perfect fourth is and trains the hands to follow the ear.

Same goes for chords, chord progressions, melodies, rhythms. The process starts with the mind telling hands what to do and the ear taking it all in.

View the complete lessons on this topic: The Learning Process - The Mind, Hands and Ears

End of Lesson - Thanks, Hope You Enjoyed It!

Related Lessons

Related Lessons for Ear Training at this time.


Remembering Songs • Updated: Mar 19, 2019

The Learning Process - The Mind, Hands and Ears • Updated: Jan 22, 2020

Making the connection between the Mind, the Hands and the Ear.

Understanding Diatonic Intervals • Updated: Dec 9, 2011

Understanding Chromatic Intervals • Updated: Dec 14, 2018

Drived from diatonic intervals these are he in-between notes.

Understanding Interval Inversion • Updated: Jul 2, 2015

Inverting intervals using the Rule of Nine.

Related Books

Related Books for Ear Training at this time.


Daily Practice Material for the Contemporary Ukulele
Updated: Nov 20, 2019

An organized collection of daily practice and reference material for the contemporary ukulele player.

Daily Practice Material for the Contemporary Musician
Updated: Jul 12, 2007

Scales, Intervals and Sequences for Daily Practice for Musicians

Related Lesson Series

Related Lessons Series for Ear Training at this time.


Playing by Ear
Updated: Jan 1, 2003

Learning to play by ear is the ultimate goal when learning any musicial instrument. This series of lessons is designed to get you to that goal. Whether it's melodies or chords, it can be done.

Understanding Intervals
Updated: Jan 1, 2003

An interval is the distance between two notes. An interval has a name and a type. Intervals can be played one note (melodic) or two notes (harmonic) at a time, ascending or descending.

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