Play By Ear – Ear Training on YOUR Instrument

Ear training is a part of my practice most days. I use many different apps for this since I think using the same one all the time can make you “learn” the app and lessen the challenge for your ears.

I like this app quite a bit. You can practice using your main instrument to do the ear training. It feels much more organic to practice ear training this way rather than just naming a note or clicking a button in a program, you get to use “real life” skills. Granted, improvisation isn’t something that happens often in an orchestra but it helps to be able to hear and understand what’s going on around you. Plus, the more playing skills that you can develop, the better musician you’ll be.

Play By Ear was developed by an amateur jazz trumpeter and professional programmer. His blog on practicing and jazz is definitely worth a visit.
Rick’s Jazz Blog, I Was Doing All Right

The app is easy to use and very straight forward.

Choose what to work on.

You can get a starting pitch for each excercise or can try to practice your perfect pitch if you’d prefer. You also have the option of hearing the intervals and chords as arpeggiated or simultaneous. You also have the choice of hearing the pitches go up or down. I practice this in all ways.

Play By Ear: Interval Settings

For the melodies, you can choose random notes, scale patterns or jazz licks.

Play By Ear: Melody Settings

Some things that I really like: That you have a choice as to whether to play the exact note or have the app match any octave. Also, that if you are not in tune, the note you play will not be seen as correct even if you “fingered” the right note…keeps you honest!

Two minor quibbles with the app: The staff is only in treble clef and this might be an issue for a student that usually plays in a different clef. The screen only shows up one way so you cannot turn your phone or iPod Touch over to get the mic closer to your instrument.

These are indeed minor since it is such a useful app and…it is completely free. It is for iPod Touch and iPhone though of course, you can still run it on your iPad.

Play By Ear on iTunes

As a way to support the developers, I am giving an app store rating to the apps that I really like. I suggest that you try to do the same. This will help the apps and developers get a little more attention and hopefully more downloads and support.

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