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Ear Training For String Players

For some string players, ear training is the least favorite part of their music education. However, there are many reasons why ear training is so important. Ear training can connect music theory with the basic elements of music, and provide a foundation for mastering difficult techniques. Whether you play violin, viola, cello, or bass, ear training is an essential skill, and by practicing it in a consistent and intentional way, you can improve your aural skills.

Play What You Hear

Ear training for string players is often taught at an advanced level, making it difficult to learn. Instead, a good way to begin might be by identifying notes and simple chord progressions. You can practice pitch recognition by playing the same note repeatedly, and learning to associate the sound with the name of the note. Next, sing the notes you have been listening to, and use a digital tuner to see just how close to exact pitch you are. Singing the names of the notes (“A,” “C#,” etc.) will help connect the pitches to the names in your mind.

Once comfortable naming and reproducing individual notes, you can tackle intervals, chords, and scales – all of which are essential parts of any music composition. And when it comes to putting all these pieces together in a way that makes sense, understanding the circle of 5ths is incredibly helpful. Simply put, it’s a method which lays out – in a logical fashion – how keys relate to each other, as well as a useful way to remember how many sharps or flats each key has.

It’s also important to learn how to play things by ear. Pick your favorite songs and try to play what you hear, both melodies and chords. If you then transcribe the music you’ve learned, the act of writing it down will help you associate the pitches you hear with the notes on the page.

Becoming a Better Musician

Ear training is a key part of practicing your instrument. Many people find ear training and music theory to be tedious, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Simply start with the basics, work your way up to more complex techniques, and practice frequently in short sessions. Over time, this approach is likely to produce meaningful results.

Additional Resources

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Johnson String Project

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