Windup Music

Ear Training in Music Lessons – Part 2

In the previous post, I mentioned some introductory methods of beginning ear training in music lessons. The next step is to recognize and internalize patterns in rhythm and melodies.

Recognizing Melodic Patterns

Being able to sing or play a melody by ear is such an important skill. It helps you to improvise music as well as express internal melodies that you hear in your head and translate it onto your instrument. Every melody is made up of a movement from one note to another. If you’re able to recognize the sounds of each movement, you can put together the pieces. We call this interval recognition. I first get my students to recognize small leaps and large leaps between two notes. Then we get into more specific characteristics of each possible leap between two notes. What is the exact distance, is it a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th? Is is major or minor? An easy way to recognize these specific intervals is to relate a melody that they’re familiar with that uses that specific leap to then recognize the leap between those two notes. This helps students to quickly pick up on how each intervals has a different sound.

Another great melody training exercise is to play a recognizable melody or scale and leave out one note. Then get the student to sing or play that missing note. This helps them to hear music in their head before playing; they are anticipating in hearing the missing note which trains their ear to develop musical instincts. Students can have fun with this exercise too. They see and hear a melody written out with missing notes and try and fill in the blanks with the notes that they think will fit.

ear training in music lessons

Recognizing Rhythmic Patterns

Internalizing rhythms is also important for the musical ear. I play a game with my students called “Copy Cat”. I clap or play a rhythm on the piano and they listen and try to copy my rhythm. Once they get the pattern, I get them to come up with words that go with the rhythm. Once they are comfortable with it, we try and write down the rhythm in notation. This helps students to first hear and copy a pattern, and then create their own unique spin on it with adding lyrics.

The next step would be to incorporate both rhythm and melody and have them copy a pattern that I create. Then see what kinds of different patterns they can compose too.