I have practiced ear training for many years and I can recognize notes, tonal degrees, rhythms and chords very accurately, but there is one caveat, I have to slow down music, a lot.

If I listen to music at normal speed, I am not able to follow what's going on, can't tell what chords are in the progression or what's the rhythm, so I was wondering if that is a limitation of the ear, or it's just me that haven't fully developed my ears despite all the time I have practiced.

It's possible to identify what you are hearing in real time? If so, can you provide any advice on how to advance to that point?

  • It's going to fairly dependent on what sort of music you use.
    – Tim
    Feb 21, 2017 at 16:29

1 Answer 1


Although the "music as a language" metaphor is overdone and often inaccurately used, I think it applies here. Basically, it seems that you have the information and understanding, it's now just a question of fluency and getting quicker at identifying the information.

As such---just like learning a foreign language---you want to reach the point where you don't have to think about every little detail, but instead you just instantly recognize materials.

At your stage, you might stop and think "well, I know that chord is some type of predominant, it sounded like there was chromaticism, scale-degree 4 was in the bass, and oh, that was the lowered second scale degree, so that was a Neapolitan chord!" By the time you've gone through the thought process, the music is already in the next phrase.

You understandably want that process to go more quickly. For me, this instant recognition came with score study. By looking at pieces and recognizing where the Neapolitans were, where the applied chords were, where the mode mixture was, what various large melodic leaps were, etc., I was able to build an inventory in my mind of what these concepts sounded like. Now when I hear them, I can recognize them in real time.

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