Ear Training 101

Chromatic scale starting on CImage by Ethan Hein via Flickr
There are 3 qualities that every good jazz musician must possess:

- a great ear, a strong sense of time, and a unique sound.

While there are many different ways to approach these skills, the first two always require a certain amount of drilling. The ear can be thought of as a muscle and to a certain degree must be trained like one. Improved ears will lead to better intonation, improvisation, ensemble playing and transcription skills. With that in mind, here are three great ways of dramatically improving your students' ears and, hopefully, their overall playing.

Are you familiar with the underlying scales and moveable "Do" solfege?

It's essential that you learn to sing a chromatic scale. As chromaticism is prevalent throughout modern jazz, this exercise will improve both intonation and students' understanding of the genre. When singing through the chromatic scale, remember to use sharps when ascending and flats when descending.


Chromatic Scale Ascending:

C,  C#,  D,   D#,  E,  F,   F#, G,  G#, A, A#, B, C
Do, Di,  Re, Ri,  Mi, Fa, Fi, Sol, Si, La, U, Ti, Do


Chromatic Scale Descending

C,   B,  Bb, A,  Ab, G,  Gb, F,  E,   Eb,  D,   Db, C
Do, Ti, Te, La, Le, Sol, Se, Fa, Mi, Me, Re, Ra, Do

Target Tones

Target tones are an essential part of any ear training regimen. They force students to hear not only chordd tones, but surrounding tones as well. Now, many students can correctly sing a major scale but they have some difficulty picking out specific intervals at random.

With respect to the scales and scale degrees, the best way to practice this is through the use of target tones. Here are a few exercises:

C, // C, D, C // E, D, C // F, E, D // C, G, A // B, C, A // B, C, B // C

"Improved ears will lead to better intonation, improvisation, ensemble playing and transcription skills."
-- Chaim Burstein

You might be interested in these resources:

Jazz101

Jazz201

Pitch Ear Training Software

Pitch By Ear





"Jazz washes away the dust of every day life." -- Art Blakey
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