I am an amateur musician, not good at ear training. But I want to improve, unfortunately my time is limited as music is just a hobby. So in this post the author suggests doing ear training in your daily schedule, simply by listening to the music that is around you and figuring melody and harmony out.

But how to implement that if you are still at the beginning? I mean when I hear something I can make a guess, and sometimes I am right, sometimes not, I don't know. For example if I am at the gym on the rowing machine as the author suggests, how to know that I am right? When I try to figuring out songs with my instrument I can match my guesses with the instrument and try to play around. So without feedback how to implement this learning strategy?

Do you have any suggestions on how to incorporate ear training in your daily schedule, apart from dedicated practice time, especially if you are at the beginning?

3 Answers 3


I don't think that you can do ear training solely from the music around you without first having done some theory study and more formal ear training. You don't stand a chance of recognizing the chord sequence (for example) of a song if you don't know what common chord sequences sound like already.

I do ear training (the more formal kind) in my car while I am driving. What you need are ear training recordings that are not interactive. These are recordings you play on your phone or car stereo and then just drive. Since they are not interactive, you don't have to look at or touch anything--it's all just listening and singing.

Here are a few ear training recordings I know that are non-interactive (don't require you to interact with your phone or read a book):

And an app with a non-interactive mode:

  • Functional Ear Trainer - PC, Android, iPhone. - You can start an exercise in a looping, non-interactive mode and then just listen to it while you drive.

These are the ear training courses I am aware of that you can listen to while driving. There are, I am sure, many others.

Once you've got some basic theory and formal ear training, then you will start to hear things in the music around you, and can practice that kind of ear training.

  • Hey, thanks the app you suggest seems to be perfect for non-interactive training. Unfortunately it does not seem to be available in the Google Play Store anymore, do you have similar other apps you can suggest?
    – StefanH
    Sep 19, 2018 at 10:27
  • @StefanH It's a shame it's not available anymore. I don't know of any other hands-free ear training app, but there are many I have not looked at so you may find one. Sep 19, 2018 at 14:02
  • Yes, I looked as some, but they are all interactive, have not found one with such a non-interactive training-mode like your mentioned app offers.
    – StefanH
    Sep 19, 2018 at 14:04
  • @StefanH I've just started listening to the Ear Training HQ recordings while driving, but so far it seems good (although expensive). You might give those a try if you can afford them. Sep 19, 2018 at 14:08
  • I found this set of mp3's for download: reddit.com/r/guitarlessons/comments/4hz83r/…
    – StefanH
    Oct 4, 2018 at 8:39

Unless you have perfect pitch you'd need at a minimum an app that has a piano keyboard so you can match the note with the sound you're hearing.

An important thing to do is listen for the key of the song. This is also called the tonic of the scale. Once you find the key, you will essentially know the 7 diatonic notes that belong to that scale. With that you can derive both the melody and harmony of what you're listening to.

The key is usually the last note the song resolves to. So say you're going about your day and you listen to Shape of You. If you go to the very last note in the song, the key that it resolves to, is "YOU" at 3:56. The you that he sings, if you had a trusty piano app to compare it with, is in C#. His voice is the melody here. Another way, without going to the end of the song, is the root note of the first chord of the song also can indicate the key. And yet another way, is just by hearing it throughout the song, all notes want to resolve to it. You get better at identifying the key with experience.

In the beginning of the song you'll notice that there's a few notes. It starts off with: C# E C# C# E... This is a minor third interval. The note E is not in the C# major scale. So the song is in C# minor. The four chords it uses are C#m F#m A B. which are the i iv VI VII diatonic chords of the scale.

Take a look at this link it breaks down how the chords of the scale (harmony) relate to the notes of the scale (melody): https://www.hooktheory.com/theorytab/view/ed-sheeran/shape-of-you This is just a single example but alot of songs work this way. Most songs you'll find to be in a major key though.

So as you see, in order to figure out the song we had to use a bit of theory and we had to figure out what the key was.

The link that you posted is that of an advanced musician, he actually has a cool channel on youtube called Jazz Tutorial that I watch. It takes years of practicing your instrument, understanding scales, chords, theory, and ear training to be able to transcribe by ear throughout the day as was mentioned in that article.

  • +1 for mentioning that the link is by an advanced musician. It's not always easy to tell whether a particular technique or method is suitable for one's level of learning. Sep 19, 2018 at 16:22

I'd consider "ear training" to be a very wide set of skills. OP said they were "not good at ear training". But surely OP can recognise some things, right? I mean, you don't have to be a musician to recognise certain songs when you hear them, so the idea would be start from the easy things to recognise by ear, like say:

  • What song it is (if you know it already)
  • Whether the song is in minor or major (usually pretty doable)
  • What time signature the song is written in

Once you can recognise simple things like that (or more likely, you already can, depending on how serious this hobby is), then move on to harder things, like:

  • What the tonic of the song is (knowing what it sounds like when you hear it, not what note name it is, this will be very important)
  • What the tonic chord, subdominant chord, and dominant chord is (again, sound, not name)
  • Hearing some intervals
  • Chord qualities

This is where the stuff starts to get useful. When you do happen to have the instrument with you, you can verify to see whether you were right, or just work on it without the instrument. Eventually, one's goal should be to:

  • Recognise scale degrees
  • Recognise most chords
  • Be able to put together the harmony from this information

And now you can basically play by ear. Note that this will be much easier depending on one's knowledge of theory, and these skills will take time to develop. Simply by exposing oneself to music can one manifest ability over time.

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