In the previous post, I discussed the various ear training approaches and their benefits and faults.  Now, I’d like to elaborate a bit about some of the criteria I used to evaluate them.  By the way, the criteria below is not just applicable to ear training.  I’ll use math as an analogy, but the same ideas apply to almost any subject at all.

  • Guidance:  A good training method is expected to teach the concepts before you begin to practice skills. When you begin learning math, you don’t start right away by immediately solving equations.  You must first learn the foundation.  The same applies to ear training; it is maybe possible to get some intuitive understanding by just doing drills, failing, seeing the correct answer and slowly trying to get a feel for what the correct answer should be.  For many, this approach is discouraging and not an effective way to learn.
  • Structure:  You can’t do fractions before you learn basic arithmetic.  A good method will be structured in such a way where both the learning material and the exercises follow a natural progression.  Ideally the progression should be such that the student feels challenged, but not overwhelmed while transitioning to more and more challenging concepts and exercises.
  • Variety:  Imagine that you are learning addition and you only have 2 questions to practice with: 2+2 and 7+10.  Even if you answer those two questions a million times, you will not get any better at adding.  The same applies to 10 questions or even 20.  To get really good at something, you have to practice often, and for that practice to be effective the exercises have to be diverse and not repetitive.
  • Feedback: What good is to answer a bunch of homework questions if nobody checks your answers?  This problem is much bigger in music than it is in math.  When studying math, you can at least write down your answers when you study and then have somebody check them later.  With ear training, you really do need somebody or something to give you instant feedback so that you can quickly determine your weak spots and work on them.
  • Progress Tracking:  To get better at something, you have to have a clear understanding of where you are.  You will need to identify your weaknesses and set goals. A good ear training method should help you with this by having periodic skill tests and grades.

In our opinion, these are only a few, but not all, of the most important attributes of a good ear training method.  All music teachers and students we talked to seem to agree with our assessment.  In a future post, I will explain how we applied these concepts to our ear training software, Ear Teacher.

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