Written By: James Tulloch
Being a musician is always such a huge struggle because of how much of your life it takes up. Between, practice, performing, theory training, composing, producing, and just jamming with great friends, we may tend to forget to learn with our most important instruments: our very own ears! But how does one train their ears for music? Let me give you some tips for training the ears on the go that can keep up with the hectic music lifestyle.
Name That Chord
Picture this: you are on a crowded bus heading to school (or wherever), jamming to some tunes. Why not be productive as well? Get those ears in gear and try to name some of those chords in the chord progression; it can be a great way to improve your skills in picking up chord tones, which can be used in any musical situation. This gets even better if you listen to multiple genres of music. The more genres you work with, the better you get at grouping and building chord/scale relationships for those genres; ultimately, a win-win!
Gettin’ Down at Funky “Tone”
This one is mainly for vocalists of all kinds! We all know we can’t really sing a whole chord at one time (unless you’re Lalah Hathway), so our best bet is to get better at finding our respected range notes in a chord. Simply play music that doesn’t have any vocals or leading solos and listen for the chords. While listening, try to sing out notes in that chord until you can arpeggiate the whole progression. Improving at this will not only help you hear chords more effectively, but it will even help you work on your sight singing which itself is a whole other challenge.
Test your might by trying to place two rhythms together. This can be done on your own or with a partner. Play some music on your own (preferably instrumental or something with an irregular beat pattern), and see if you can apply an entirely separate rhythm within a 2 or 4 bar loop of the main rhythm. With a friend, compete against each other to see who can outlast whom by placing random rhythms within each other until one falters. This is an EXCELLENT way to resolve arguments, if you ask me.
I hope these tips help you out as you become a more well-rounded musician! If you have any other tips your fellow musicians could learn from, go ahead and drop them in the comments; the more we learn, the better we get!