It seems a daunting task to restart ear training practice after an extended time off.

And yes, in some respects, it is.

There are so many topics to consider scales, intervals, chord qualities, progressions, dictation, transcriptions etc.

Simply your approach. Start with a single topic and promise yourself to work with that for a week. Let’s say your topic choice is ‘Triad qualities’.

But, when you think about it, triads are composed of stacked 3rds, right? So, as a preliminary step, take a step back to practice intervals, specifically 3rds.

Yeah, but how do you get into it?

Gradually.

WEEK 1

Practicing Intervals

Go straight to your keyboard, set a timer for 15-20 minutes.

Choose to either sustain a low DO on the keyboard or play a drone recording as you perform.

In the key of C Major, practice the classic stair-step exercise of singing 3rds up and down on the major scale.

You know, do mi re fa mi sol fa la sol ti la do ti re do, and work it in four ways:

  • SCALE ASCENDING/INTERVAL ASCENDING
  • SCALE DESCENDING/INTERVAL DESCENDING
  • SCALE ASCENDING/INTERVAL DESCENDING
  • SCALE DESCENDING/INTERVAL ASCENDING

Work straight through until the timer buzzes. Make sure you are progressing slowly, using the Sing Then Play Study Concept and sounding a low DO the entire time you’re singing. Don’t worry if you didn’t get through it all.

If you don’t know the Sing Then Play Study Concept, go to https://performanceeartraining.com/matching-pitch/.

  • Now stop, and go on to enjoy your day.
  • Allow your mind to revisit the exercise anytime it wants.
  • Make another appointment with yourself to set aside another 15-20 minutes that same day to pick up where you left off with the exercise or to simply repeat it. If you’re repeating, work with another key if possible, say…F Major. If you’re not familiar enough with changing keys. That’s fine, stick with C Major. Most importantly, work from memory as soon as you can.

Rinse and Repeat everyday for a week. Again, work in different keys if possible. If you know only C, F, and perhaps G Major, that’s fine, work with those. Just be sure you are NOT playing each note of the exercise along with your voice. You want to reach for each note without help from the keyboard. Following up as is done with the Sing-Then-Play (STP) Study Concept serves to reinforce your intonation helping you to understand which notes in the scale are hardest for you to nail.

WEEK 2

In the 2nd week, set your timer for 20 minutes and warm up with a single third exercise in any key. For the warmup, choose to either sustain a low DO on the keyboard or play a drone recording as you perform.

Now, without the drone OR a low DO sounding, perform all four interval exercises while singing the low DO in between each interval.

For practice, you can use Sing Then Play after each note, but then you will work to perform this exercise straight through using the keyboard only to check notes here and there.

Start with the first pair, (do mi & re fa). After singing that successfully, continue in that way adding one or two intervals at a time, until you can sing all of it from memory without stopping.

Try singing DO, in between each interval pair. (Perform this without sustaining DO on the keyboard.)

  • SCALE ASCENDING/INTERVAL ASCENDING
    do mi, DOre fa, DO, mi sol, DO, fa la, DO, sol ti, DO, la do, DO, ti re, DO, do mi, DO
  • SCALE DESCENDING/INTERVAL DESCENDING
    do la, DO, ti sol, DO, la fa, DO, sol mi, DO, fa re, DO, mi do, DO, re ti, do la, DO
  • SCALE ASCENDING/INTERVAL DESCENDING
    do la, DO, re ti, DO, mi do, DO, fa re, DO, sol mi, DO, la fa, DO, ti sol, DO, do la, DO
  • SCALE DESCENDING/INTERVAL ASCENDING
    do mi, DO, ti re, DO, la do, DO, sol ti, DO, fa la, DO, mi sol, DO, re fa, DO, do mi, DO

Do this with as many of the exercises you can until the buzzer sounds. Then as before, stop, and go do something else. Throughout the day, allow your mind to revisit the exercise anytime it wants.

Make another appointment with yourself to set aside another 20 minutes that same day to repeat the exercise, perhaps working in C Major and then F Major.

Along with your instrument practice, this is probably all you need to do with ear training for a couple weeks if you’ve been away awhile. You’ll find that your mind will want to return to the exercises on its own. When it does, put yourself in a quiet place and see if you can sing the exercises slowly and deliberately (pausing slightly after each interval) with a loose sense of time. You can do this anytime during the day, such as those times of waiting: making coffee, washing the dishes, waiting for your kids after school etc…

However, these ‘informal’ sessions should not replace your actual 20mins practices.

 Also…I strongly suggest to NOT practice  these while driving!

Unsurprisingly…Consistency is key.

Stay tuned for triad practice.