This month I wanted to have a little chat about ear training. A lot of you will have good ears already, especially if you are self-taught and can’t read music: this is how most of us have learned. However, I have found that having a good ear can be different to actually having a trained ear. Learning chords and intervals by ear is not only great for learning, but also for transcribing, soloing and composing.
We will start off with basic melodic intervals. These can be tricky if you have never encountered them before, and the best way I’ve found to remember them is by using well known songs. Here are some songs that I use to relate to intervals: you can come up with your own or find some online. Just make sure that they are songs that are ingrained in your memory, so you can hear the interval at different pitches.
Min 2 Jaws Theme
Maj 2 Happy Birthday
Min 3 Smoke On The Water
Maj 3 Oh When The Saints Go Marching In
Perfect 4 Amazing Grace
Tritone The Simpsons Theme
Perfect 5 Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Min 6 She’s A Woman (Beatles)
Maj 6 It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
Min 7 The Winner Takes It All (ABBA)
Maj 7 Take On Me (A-Ha)
Octave Somewhere Over The Rainbow
Play these on your bass, see where they fall under your fingers, and try and find different positions for these so they make their way into your vocabulary. This will allow you greater freedom when soloing and improvising, and what you hear in your head will be more likely to come out naturally through your fingers.
Some great cheap or free ear training apps exist. I test my skills on Music Theory Pro, which offers simple ear training exercises for intervals, chords, tempo and scales.
This should give your plenty to work on, but if you’re a sucker for punishment, start trying to transpose some of your favourite lines by ear! Till next time! Life’s better at the bottom