Contextual Ear Training by Bruce Arnold for Muse Eek Publishing Company

Contextual Ear Training


Contextual Ear Training


Contextual Ear Training is one of our most popular Ear Training Singing Books.

If you are just getting started with the Bruce Arnold System of Ear Training, then Contextual Ear Training is an indispensable companion course that we cannot recommend highly enough. Contextual Ear Training is usually done with its sister course Ear Training One Note Complete.  The combination of both courses gives a student a listening and singing regimen of exercises that will totally transform your ability to hear music.  These two courses have been used by thousands of musicians to transform their ear training skills.  Both courses are not based on interval training or the distance between notes but upon the sound of each pitch within a key center.  Through the consist use of these exercises you will memorize the sound of all 12 pitches within a key center.  If you are having troubles along the way Mr. Arnold gives free and unlimited email support to customers that purchase his books.  There is also an extensive FAQ build into this website and well as multiple blogs where Mr. Arnold talks about many music subjects.  You are not out on your own once you start this ear training process and you are encouraged to check in and check in often to make sure you are not doing any of the exercises incorrectly.

Physical or Digital Download?

We are often asked which is better for doing the ear training exercises the physical book with CDs or the Digital Downloads. If you have a smart phone like an iPhone or a tablet that will play MP3s then the digital download should be your preferred choice. MP3s can be played on your desktop computer or any MP3 player like a cell phone. This allows you to do these exercises anywhere which is important. One of the first things Mr. Arnold recommends is doing these exercises multiple times a day and what better device to use that a portable phone. Got 5 minutes at the office as you wait for client. Listen to 5 or 6 examples. This type of approach will have you improving at a remarkable rate. Check in with Mr. Arnold after purchase and tell him about your everyday schedule and he will work with you to design the best approach. Digital downloads give you more options so that is what we highly recommend in most instances.

If you are just becoming aware of the this idea of “hearing within a key center” let’s look at a little history of ear training for musicians

The “Interval” method of Ear Training has been taught in music schools for literally hundreds of years and rarely been questioned. This method is based on singing the distance between each note with no regard to a key center. The problem with this approach is pretty simple. It just doesn’t work when you are trying to sing a melody. Some of the most common problems with singing by interval is:

  • You can sing an interval but are totally lost when you try to apply it to real music.
  • You have a tendency to sing sharp or flat
  • Not being able to find the first note of melody when you start singing a song.
  • You try to think the distance between each note as you try to sing or listen and get lost.
  • Inability to maintain your own part when singing with in groups or choirs

If you are experiencing any of these problems then you need to get Contextual Ear Training and start working towards hear music based by “key center.”

Why doesn’t interval training work?

If you are trying to sing each note as it flows by in music, there is no way that you can calculate the distance between each note even at a very slow tempo much less the usual speed that notes flow by in real time. The only way to instantly know what notes are being played is to ingrain in your mind the sound of each note within a key center so that you know the sounds you are singing in the same way that you see the color blue and know it’s blue. Read more about the pitfalls of interval training here.

Our minds can’t process interval relationships at the speed needed to sing notes accurately.

You can sit in a classroom and do sing a Major 6th when a teacher ask you to but if you are trying to do this in time as you are singing real music the problem gets worse and worse the more complicated the music becomes. In the real world, when music is being played in real time, as a musician, your mind just cannot calculate the intervals and analyze what you need to know in order to react properly right away. This isn’t about intellectual ability, it’s about the reality of TIME. So how do musician identify the sounds they are singing instantaneously?

Key Center is the “KEY”

Here’s how they do it: They use the “key center” of a song and internalize the sound of all 12 notes within that key center. Quite simply when they sing the 3rd they are not thinking that the note is four half steps above the root or in relation to any other note –they are recognizing the sound of a 3rd because they have memorized that sound within a “key center.”

Contextual Ear Training teaches you the “Key Center” process.

By working with the audio files in the Contextual Ear Training over time, you gain the ability to sing the sound of all 12 notes with a “key center.” For some students this will be a quick and painless rebooting of the way they hear sound; for others it can be a frustrating path with many possible pitfalls.

Ear Training is a two pronged process.

You need to work on singing notes and internalize what they sound like in a “key center” but you also need to identifying sound as you hear them from an external source.

With this in mind we have created a whole series of books that develop these two aspects of ear training. They basically boil down to listening exercises and singing exercises. For someone just starting our method we recommend: Contextual Ear Training and Ear Training One Note Complete. or Ear Training One Note Vocal Version

Contextual Ear Training and Ear Training One Note Complete together make a great ear training program.

Listening exercises found in Ear Training One Note Complete teach you to identify the sounds from external sources such as another band member or a song that you are hearing on your MP3 player. Singing exercises found in Contextual Ear Training help you identify the sounds you hear inside you when you are singing, improvising or composing. You need both sides of ear training to become a great musician. The good news is they complement each other so the more you work on one, the more it will the help the other.

Bruce Arnold is here to help you through the process.

Some students can fly through this ear training with no problem. But many musicians have problems and need personal help. Luckily Mr. Arnold offers email support for students as they work through this process. So rest assured as you enter this ear training method that you are not alone, and you can get expert help if you run into problems.

Helping musician for almost two decades!

This method has been helping musicians for almost 20 years now. It’s one of the best selling methods Ear Training systems on the market. Simply put: It is successful because it works! BUT the secret weapon is Bruce Arnold. He is only an email way to help you. If you are a beginning or an advanced student seeking to perfect their skills, you can call on Bruce to help you through this process.

The FAQs

Over the years we have developed a FAQ resource containing thousands of questions that students have asked over the years. It is recommended that you read these FAQs because they will give you:

  • A more complete understanding of the method.
  • An insight into the problems and solutions others have had with this ear training.
  • Encouragement and hope that you can do this, and that it just takes daily dedication.
  • The knowledge that EVERYONE that has really put their mind to it has mastered this ear training without exception.
  • The knowledge that dedicating a short amount of time each day: 5 to 10 minutes 5 to 10 times a day will be all it takes to master this ear training.

Where should you start?

First let’s talk about how you will be doing this ear training. We have found that the best way to do this ear training is with an MP3 player. It allows for many more ways to organize the audio files and is very portable. We do offer physical books and CDs with with some of our ear training products but we HIGHLY recommend you not take this path with our ear training method. Digital downloads is a much better way to study this ear training because MP3s are much less expensive, easier to organize and cost half as much as physical books with CDs. We also have many ear training products that are ONLY available as digital downloads so it just makes more sense to go the digital route. So unless you REALLY only can use a CD player we sincerely recommend that you buy digital downloads of our ear training products.

For singing we most commonly recommend students start with Contextual Ear Training.

We do recommend along with Contextual Ear Training. that you also work with Ear Training One Note Complete.

More Information about Contextual Ear Training

The exercises found in this course are similar to the 1st assignment in the Fanatic’s Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing. The main difference is you can do the exercises found in Contextual Ear Training anywhere that you can listen to an MP3 player, which is just about anywhere, whereas the exercises in the Fanatic’s Guide require you have your instrument on hand to check your answer. There are two versions of the Contextual Ear Training: The version found on this page uses a piano to play the key center and also to give the answer. Contextual Ear Training Voice Edition uses voices to form the key center and gives you the answer with either a Tenor, Alto or Soprano sung voice. For many students who struggle with ear training, the Voice Edition can be easier, particularly if you choose an edition that is close to your own vocal range, so keep that in mind.

The idea of singing sound based on a “key center” as opposed to an singing an “interval” really began a revolution in the way musicians perceive sound. When a seasoned musician sings a melody they are not thinking the distance between each note they are hearing that they are singing as pitches within a “key center.” Seasoned musicians sing this way naturally after years of playing and singing but with Contextual Ear Training a student can fast forward their learning so that they can experience 30 years of ear training experience in a fraction of the time.

A complete transformation of musical perception with this ear training concept.

You will see from reading the reviews that this system of ear training has changed many musicians’ careers. Even students that are just beginning with music have found that it completely transforms the way they hear and sing music. Additional Information:

  • Digital IBSN: 978-1-59489-790-0
  • 32 pages 4 CDs in audio MP3 format

What people are saying:

  • I’m a singer and I’ve struggled with pitch problems for years. At first I thought it was poor technique and just not breathing correctly but I’ve dealt with those issues and it lead me to the realization that I wasn’t hearing music correctly. I always thought that you gauge the distance between each note and go note to note to sing a melody. Mr. Arnold’s ear training completely changed the way I approached singing and from working with Contextual Ear Training and some of his other books I’ve very seldom sign off pitch now. I think I should also mention something that I had quite a few conversations in email with Mr. Arnold. Context is an extremely important aspect of learning and it’s especially true with ear training. Take Contextual Ear Training for instance. You can be getting 100& correct answers with this book but you may still have problems singing and hearing when you are playing music. Mr. Arnold explained that we learn in a very contextually based way. So obviously the singing exercises in Contextual Ear Training book aren’t a real music situation. In my case and I’m guessing in most people’s situations you need to get Contextual Ear Training together but then you need to apply it to real music situations. Muse-eek has created some great products for this that I’ve been using and I highly recommend you check them out as a follow up to Contextual Ear Training or start using them when you get somewhere above 50% with the exercises. I’ve been using: Singing the Blues Contextual Ear Training, Lines Choral Ear Training and the MetroDrone®: I use this to sing through songs that are all in one key center. This helps my timing too. I’d also strongly recommend you stay in contact with Mr. Arnold. He is very helpful and has saved me a bundle of money by recommending ways I could work on different aspects of my musicianship without spending a fortune of books. G. Gallagher
  • I started playing guitar a few months ago and contacted Bruce. He recommended 1st Steps for a Beginning Guitarist and two ear training books: Ear Training One Note Complete and Contextual Ear Training. I started off getting about 30% right on the Ear Training One Note Complete exercise but I was completely unable to do the exercises in Contextual Ear Training. Bruce gave me encouragement and told be that my situation wasn’t hopeless and that I should limit the Contextual Ear Training files that I used each day until I got my bearings. It took a couple of weeks but I started singing the notes rights. It’s as start but I have a long ways to go. I feel like the support I get from Mr. Arnold makes this process doable. I know if I run into problems I can contact him and this helps me not get too down on myself and understand that I don’t basically just suck but just need to work on music in the right way and I will improve. Thanks Bruce appreciate you being there! E. Hensley
  • My 7 year old son and I really enjoy these materials by Bruce Arnold. We have One Note Complete, Contextual Ear Training, and Fanatic’s Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing. We have been using One Note Intermediate and Contextual for just over one month. My son loves to do this ear training program, especially “name that note!” We home school, and we do Ear Training One Note and Contextual Ear Training as soon as we get out of bed, and then later in the school morning. I also do both programs later in the day, especially when I am working in the kitchen. My son almost always listens in, and sings along, or names the note, even when he is playing in the next room. After just one month, my son can accurately name all 7 diatonic notes, but none of the non-diatonic yet. I can accurately name C, D,G, and B. I can sometimes get A and F, and I hardly ever get E (yet!). For Contextual, both my son and I can sing Root (Do) for all the keys, although sometimes the minor keys do give us a bit of trouble. We can both sing 3 (Me) most of the time, but 3 still needs work. My son was able to sing 3 much sooner than me. I asked him how, and he said he “just knows what 3 sounds like.” As for me, I got every single 3 wrong for over two weeks, and I was doing them at least 5 to 7 times per day! Then one day, I started getting a few of them correct! Then within a few more days, I was getting most of them correct. This system really does work. After listening to the cadence, the sound of the 3 would just form in my mind. We have been singing 5 (So) for about a week. 5 is coming along much faster than 3. Both of us could sing some 5’s right away. We also continue to review Root and 3. This system is really fun to use and its working for us!

F. Campbell

  • Bruce Arnold’s series of books are designed to achieve one and only one purpose: to teach…and to teach each subject the right way and in the most rational manner. He makes mention in different books and interviews to the fact that most music books or methods are designed for students to get good grades in school (I can’t see how this method could be easily grade-able) or to offer the consumer a quick fix of success to feel that the book has worked and they haven’t wasted their money, while in fact they will not really retain much of the information at all in the long run and the whole experience will have been a waste of time and money. I personally in my quest for good books on the subject of music have found this to be true, and I think that most of these books are made solely for the purpose of generating money (as most things are these days) and not really achieving their true purpose…the ones that seem to try to go past this I have found to be filled with half baked ideas and hazy methods. I am a professional jazz/classical saxophonist and a composer. I have a degree in music composition and performance and studied with some of the greatest teachers that I believe that are out there. For me, disappointment with music study books, whether they be for improvisation, ear training, composition, has been a normal experience and I have been mainly writing and inventing my own exercises,techniques, and practice routines for lack of finding anything that made any more sense from any “educational book”. This ended when I found Bruce Arnold’s series of books. I am in awe of the infallible logic behind every method in every book. I have been working out of many different books of his: the ear training books, the sight singing books, the Rhythm series, Big Metronome and Time Transformation, and they all WORK. I mean they really, REALLY work, as long as you follow the instructions and have patience and make up your mind before you start that you are going to stick with it. When I first found the books I instantly knew that I finally stumbled across something finally that made sense…but have refrained from writing a review anywhere until I thoroughly tested the products out. I believe that many of the more negative or indifferent reviews you will find here or on other sites are from recent buyers who have not yet started to see the results or are from people who have not made the decision to follow the directions and truly have the patience to follow through. I have been working with the Ear Training Method for some time now and am in the Two Note Series now, and my ears are at a level that I never thought possible. The concept of relative pitch as opposed to interval training is dead-on and if you study the method diligently you will see why it makes so much more sense. I have been working from THE BIG METRONOME every day and going through the rhythm books…and I am feeling rhythm in a way that is so effortless. When I play or compose music now it becomes more of a joy every day rather than a strenuous effort. If you want to learn music the right way, so that every aspect of music from theory to transcription to rhythm is like a second nature, then I recommend Bruce Arnold’s books. As an added plus, you can (and are encouraged) to email him about any problems you are having or just even on your progress and he is very prompt and thorough in his responses. This is clearly a person who truly cares about what he is teaching and who has limitless integrity in his methods. If you ask me, the series of Bruce Arnold’s Books and CD’s are a goldmine, priceless treasures that can be bought for an incredibly low price considering the immense benefit that can be reaped from them. J. Mescia
  • I’m currently working on Two Note Ear Training and singing jazz standards with close directions from Mr. Arnold. This has taken me 3 years of work but I’ve gone from not having a clue what I was hearing when I played music to sitting in a movie and knowing large swathes of notes and exactly what their relationship is to the key center. My composing skills have been transformed. I don’t even need an instrument to compose I just hear sounds in my head and write them down. My improvisation skills have also made huge advances. I only wish I would have found earlier. I’m 32 years old wish I would have found this site when I was 15. Get with this program you won’t be sorry. M. Hendricks

Buy Contextual Ear Training and then contact Mr. Arnold with a detailed explanation of your level and goals.

Ear Training is very specialized to a students goals and abilities. It makes a lot more sense to use the contact information at the bottom of this page to contact Bruce after you have purchased these books to see what other products you might consider and how to organize your practice.

The Fanatic’s Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing and Contextual Ear Training differences.

Contextual Ear Training and The Fanatic’s Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing are two closely related books. The 1st exercise and arguably the most important exercise for a beginning is the The Fanatic’s Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing is the “One Note” exercise. This “One Note” exercise develops the ability to instantly sing any of the 12 pitches over a “key center.” Fanatic’s Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing requires you to work with a CD and check answers with an instrument to do this exercise. Contextual Ear Training allows you to do this exercise anywhere because the answer is supplied in the audio files. Therefore you will improve quicker if you use the Contextual Ear Training “One Note” exercise because you can do it anywhere that you can use an MP3 player.

Which book should I get or should I get both?

We do occasional recommend both Contextual Ear Training and The Fanatic’s Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing to students that are working in a choir or other places where they are reading music. Contextual Ear Training you are not singing notes from a page. It will help you to sing notes from a page once you gain the ability to hear all 12 notes of a “key center.” but it isn’t building your sight reading skills. The Fanatic’s Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing does work with many exercises where you are singing notes from a musical staff. So if you are a singer where you need to work on both aspects of your musicianship we recommend both books.

Where do I go after I finish Contextual Ear Training?

After you are getting 80% correct answers with the Contextual Ear Training Book you actually have a few different courses that you could work on.

  • The main course to consider after Contextual Ear Training is the Scale Analysis book. This will teach you how this type of ear training works with chord progressions. This is a mega course but will really help you to see the bigger picture of how this ear training method can revolutionize your understanding of playing over chord changes.
  • The Fanatic’s Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing contains many useful singing exercises. Especially “The Blues” singing exercise which will help with your key retention and apply your Contextual Ear Training skills to a common song form.
  • Contextual Ear Training Volume Two has you sing two notes rather than one. This course usually brings up students inability to stay within a key center. i.e. weak key retention which is covered in the Key Retention Builder Course.
  • There are many Practice Perfect Applied Ear Training Courses that have both a listening and a singing component. These are great because you are applying your ear training skills directly to real music. Practice Perfect Applied Jazz Ear Training is a good example but there are many more!
  • There are actually many other singing courses in the Muse Eek Publishing Catalog. You are best to contact Mr. Arnold to see what he recommends based on your interests but a couple of our best sellers are: Lines: Choral Ear Training Studies, Hearing Chord Progressions, Hearing Bass Lines and Guide Tones.

The FAQs

Over the years we have developed a FAQs resource containing thousands of questions that students have asked over the years. These FAQs are searchable by key word and we recommend that you read these FAQs because they will give you:

  • A more complete understanding of the method.
  • An insight into the problems and solutions others have had with this ear training.
  • Encouragement and determination that you can do this, and that it just takes daily dedication.
  • The proof that EVERYONE that has really put their mind to it has mastered this ear training without exception.
  • The reason why dedicating a short amount of time each day: 5 to 10 minutes 5 to 10 times a day will be all it takes to master this ear training.

Muse Eek and Bruce Arnold’s Blog

Muse Eek has multiple blogs that deal with ear training and other subjects. Along with the FAQs you should find answers to your questions or useful information. Mr. Arnold also has a Blog on ear training and other musical topics on his artist site. This Blog can be very useful to learn about ear training and other topics related to music and guitar playing.

Some of the topics covers are linked below.

Helpful Links to other products:

Please find links to other ear training products associated with the “One Note Series” below:

  • MetroDrone is single most important addition to the Contextual Ear Training course. This multi-practice tool can be used to develop your sense of key with most everything you practice. It also will develop many aspects of your time and feel. You can read more about this here. You can purchase the MetroDrone® course as an iphone app or as downloadable MP3s.
  • 25 Ear Training Tips. This course contains 25 videos that talk about ear training, how to practice it, clears up many misunderstandings and generally makes sure you are doing the right thing when you practice ear training
  • Practice Perfect Applied Ear Training This series of 10 courses is recommended when you are getting 50% correct notes on any level of the Ear Training One Note Complete.
  • Direct Application “One Note” method recommended when you are getting 50% correct answers on any “One Note” level. Similar courses to the Practice Perfect Applied Ear Training
  • Melodic “Two Note” Method recommended when you are getting 50% correct answers on any “One Note” level.
  • Instrumental Color Series recommended when you are getting 50% correct answers on any “One Note” level. It is recommended that you go to this page and test your one note ear training ability with the MP3s that are found on this page. Many times students have difficulty hearing “one note ear training” when other instruments are used. Usually you won’t need to work with all instruments found on this page but please check.