Training Your Musical Ear

Ear training has come up in several of my lessons in that last couple weeks. Sharpening our ears to better hear intervals, chords and scales is so important. When learning new music it helps sight-reading go so much easier and shows strong musicianship. So, how do we sharpen are ears for listening? We must become familiar with each of the intervals and how they sound harmonically and melodically. Learning how each of the different kinds of scales sound is also essential for strong listening skills and music making whether singing or playing an instrument. Repetition is the key to building and keeping those skills fresh.

Let's start with what's an interval? An interval is the distance between two notes either sung or played on the keyboard. Each interval is given a number, 2nd - 8th or Octave. During music theory class in high school I received a great handout that I continue to reference today about all the intervals in music. Did you know that you can memorize all of the intervals by using famous songs? Check out this list and see how many you know.

Songs for Teaching Intervals




minor 2nd

“Stormy Weather”


“Button Up Your Overcoat”

from Follow Through

(Deslya, Brown, Henderson)

Major 2nd

from The Sound of Music

"Mary Had a Little Lamb"


Minor 3rd

"So Long, Farewell”
from the Sound of Music

"The Star Spangled Banner"


Perfect 4th

"Bridal Chorus"

from Lohengrin


(Folk Song)

Augmented 4th/

Diminished 5th

from West Side Story


4th Theme from The Incredible Flutist


Perfect 5th

"Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"



minor 6th

"Go Down, Moses"


Theme from Love Story

Major 6th

"My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean"

"Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen"

minor 7th


from West Side Story

"How Am I to Know?"


Major 7th/

Diminished Octave

“I Love You"


"Back in Your Own Backyard"
(Jolson, Rose, Dreyer)


“Over the Rainbow”

from The Wizard of Oz


“It's D'Lovely

from Red Hot and Blue


I will admit that I didn't know all of these songs at first but they were a good starting point for memorization. Later, I added a few that were more familiar to me and you should do that, too. Personalize the list to include your favorite songs for even easier memorization.

My new favorite way to practice all aspects of ear training is with the many free online ear training websites out there. Here are a few of my favorites.

Web Resources for Ear Training

EarToner EarToner is a program to download that helps you learn all the aspects of ear training. I currently use this one and find it pretty easy to use. Let me know what you think.

Perfect Pitch I wish I had perfect pitch but I don't. Perfect Pitch is a website game for those wanting to test their sense of pitch. There are three levels, easy, medium and hard. Give this one a try for fun!

Ear Plane With the Olympics in full swing I thought we could get in the competitive spirit with ear training. Check out Ear Plane to compete with other musicians around the world in ear training exercises. there is nothing to download. Comment here and tell me how you do.

Good Ear I love the simplicity of this website. The ear trainer on Good Ear is similar to many of the other trainers out there but the site is clear of clutter and easy to move around. I like having choices and a change of pace every now and then so I don't get bored. This is a good one for that.

GNU Solfege GNU Solfege is another one that you have to download but I would highly recommend it especially if you are a singer. It has more bells and whistles than EarToner and includes reading intervals on the staff and gives you time to sing them before the answer is played. I will be downloading this soon.

This list is by no means complete but will get you started practicing ear training at home. Add 5-10 minutes a day of ear training along with your regular practice and I can guarantee you will see results. Happy ear training!


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