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How to Develop an "Ear" for Music

You don’t need perfect pitch to be a musician

If you’ve ever squirmed while listening to someone play an out-of-tune guitar or winced during an off-key American Idol audition, you already have an edge that many would-be musicians don’t: you recognize pitch. If you are unsure about your ability to recognize pitch, or you know you may be weak in this area, take heart! This is, indeed, something you can learn, if you desire. After some practice, you will be surprised how much you will improve. In this article, we’ll discuss some ways to turn on your ear and take your talent to the next step.

Writers read. Musicians listen.

If there is one thing a writer does more than write, it’s read. The more a writer reads, the better writer they become, mainly because they can more easily recognize good writing. When a Secret Service agent is learning how to identify counterfeit money, he does not study all the phony dough out there; he studies the real deal so that he may recognize instantly when something is “off.” This same principle applies to pitch. If you often listen to well-formed music of many genres, you will be more inclined to recognize when something is “off.”

Imitation the greatest form of flattery – it’s also a great growth tool

When you find that tough run or riff that inspires you, try it out! Keep working at it until you master it. The more you are inspired by others, the more you should try to mimic them. You will develop your own style along the way, so don’t worry about being influenced by others. (Besides, all musicians are influenced by other musicians.) Try out different pieces from genres you don’t normally listen to. This is an overlooked technique that can help you focus more on dynamics.

Begin with simply hitting the notes – don’t worry about any dynamics just yet. If you are singing, listen and match each tone until you feel confident that you are hitting the exact pitch. Really pay attention to what each note feels like in your throat and the rest of your body. A trained singer can hit the right pitch even when she can’t hear herself because she feels it.

Practice. A lot.

Whether playing the piano or guitar or warming up your singing voice, you most likely start by doing scales. The more you practice your scales, the more you will recognize what key a tune is in (or out of). You can never over practice. Mix it up by trying out odd keys (try A♭ or F#) and fun runs, like skipping every other note on the way up and hitting the rest on the way back down.

Learn from a pro

Every musician worth his or her salt has, at some point in their career, taken lessons. Most successful musicians still do. From voice coaches to guitar instructors, someone who will call you on your bad habits, teach you new techniques, and coax you to greater heights is invaluable in your journey from hack to hot.

Phone Glenn Sutton at: 619-306-3664.

Services include:

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