The Realm of Duke

ET - The Ear Trainer

About 6 months ago I made this weird app to play random notes so I could practice my ear training by myself. I know there are probably a million ear training apps out there but most of the ones I found were either too easy or tried to make it into some kind of game, which really kills the practicing efficiency by having to hit buttons or answer questions. So I made my app for musicians who are just looking to practice ear training without having to worry about working the computer.

I thought I would post it up here for people to test it out. It doesn't come with any directions and at first glance it's hard to figure out what exactly it does. It's basically like a practice buddy that plays random notes from the Major or Chromatic scale on the piano so you can practice guessing them. It just keeps going until you tell it to stop. Thats pretty much it. It's meant to be super efficient, no need to babysit the computer or press buttons. Plus it's nice to have your hands free so you can stay focused on your playing rather than going back and forth to the computer.

Heres a link to download the app. OS X only.

Heres a screenshot of the interface:


Operating the app is pretty straight forward. Click the On button and the app will start playing. The app will display the note on the staff or output the letter name in the box below in case you can't figure it out. The up and down arrows will move the register up or down by an octave. The on/off buttons at the bottom will turn on additional voices for more challenging exercises.... Identifying the notes becoming too easy? Try turning on an additional voice. If that gets too easy, change the register of one of the voices so you're listening in a two octave range. When that becomes trivial, move on to the three voices, or turn up the tempo. Lastly, there is button that will play the root of the key to help get your ears grounded to the key.

The whole purpose I made it was to really work on my relative pitch. I think that is where this app shines. You're not necessarily trying to hear the notes as "A","C","D#" or whatever... What should be happening is you're identifying if that was the 1st note of the key, or the 3rd note, and so on. By numbering the tones of the scale, it allows you to identify the tones without needing a reference pitch. The main idea is to be able to know how all the notes of scale fit and work together. If you have a firm grasp of that, then all you need to know is the scale or key on your instrument to play by ear. Here's a brief example of how it all works.


Here we are in the key C Major, no sharps or flats... all white keys. You can see the notes in the scale are C D E F G A B C. Only 7 tones if you don't count the higher octave repeat of C. Note the numbered tones below the letter names. These are the relative representation of the notes. The "I" is always the first note of the scale, the "II" is the second and so on.


Ok, now shift keys to say... Gb Major. Now we have 6 flats, and our scale goes like this Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F Gb. Notice how different the letter name representation of the scale is compared to C Major, but if you choose to think in numbers, it's still going to be "I" through "VII". Thats relative pitch in a nutshell.

So the main idea behind practicing with this is app is to really get to know those seven tones. Listen for a few minutes and get your ear grounded in the key. Hit the PLAY ROOT button to hear what the "I" sounds like or play it on your instrument, then keep listening and try to identify the "I" without looking at the answer... it should be the most stable and familiar sounding note once your ears have adjusted to the key. The "VII" should be the next easiest because it leaves you hanging.... it really wants to resolve back to "I". Go through all the tones of the scale and try and memorize what each one sounds like in the key. After you have practiced this a lot, you shouldn't need an instrument at all. You ears will have learned all seven notes that you can start naming them after thinking about it for a second. With enough practice, you should be able to just automatically identify it without thinking at all.

The app isn't designed to teach or guide you through any musical concepts. It assumes you know all the theory and concepts already. It's basically a practice buddy. As it stands, this is the very first build of the app. There are many more features planned but I'm a little swamped with other business to really make a push for the next few months or so. So the app is stuck to just the chromatic and major scales, and the note speller will only do sharps for some reason(this is a limitation of MAX/MSP's nslider).