Joe's Blog

Ear Training Part 3: Two people make up an ideally sized study group. How to proceed.

April 19, 2017


If you do not have access to a computer, or to a class being offered locally, Ear Training can be easily practiced with the help of just one friend.  It is advantageous, but not necessary, for both people to be on a similar level in terms of their prior ear training experience.

The best setup is if you have access to a room or space with two pianos.  But other than a minor loss of time for logistics, one piano is fine too.

One person plays for the other a “question”: a sound, or group of sounds, made up according to one of the “recipes” shown below.  The other ‘answers’ the question either by words or, sometimes by playing a sound or sounds at the other piano, if there are two pianos

Questions can go back and forth in groups of questions.  For example, one can pose to the other around 8 sound-questions, then the two can switch roles.


Here are examples of answers to sound-questions that made from the simplest recipes.

1) “I hear just one sound”, 2) “I hear two sounds”, 3) “I hear a low sound then a high sound”, 4) “I hear a series of three (or four) sounds”, 5) “I hear two sounds at the same time”, 6) “I hear two sounds in a row, the first having a shorter duration than the second.”

As things advance, and the recipes become very gradually more complex.  Here are examples of questions made from the slightly more complex recipes.

1) Which is the highest in pitch of three sounds heard one after the other?

2) Which is the longest in duration of three sounds heard one after the other.

3) How many notes do you hear in sequence?

4) How many notes do you hear sounding together (1, 2, 3 or 4)?

As a general rule, as the recipes become more complex, restrict, at first, the number of possible correct answers to just one of two choices.  After a while there can be three possibly correct choices.  Etc..   Here are two possible cases:

5) Can you match the note I am playing on my piano with the same note at the second piano  Start with a choice of 2 notes and gradually, as warranted, add in one more note at time.

6) Do the two chords consist of all the same sounds or are they different in some way {start with single sounds, then harmonic intervals, then triads, 4-note chords, etc.}?  At first make the two sound-groups very different, one from the other.  As progress continues, make sound-groups that sound more similar.

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