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?/h2>

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.

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.


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?

Once you are getting 80% correct answers with the Contextual Ear Training Book we recommend you move on to The Fanatic’s Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing. This book will offer you many other exercises to apply your skills

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.


Bruce Arnold’s Blog

Mr. Arnold’s Blog on ear training and other musical topics can be very useful to learn about our ear training products.

Some of the topics covers are linked below.

Helpful Links to other products:

Our ear training books are available worldwide at different on-line stores. It is important to realize that there are physical versions of our books available that don’t include the CDs. The book will plainly state in the description that it doesn’t include a CD(s). In those cases you can either purchase a CD from or digitally download it from our website or itunes. If you have lost a CD or it’s become damaged you can also order or download replacements.

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

Please follow and like us:
Visit Us
Follow Me
This entry was posted in Ear Training and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , by Muse Eek. Bookmark the permalink.

About Muse Eek

Muse-Eek Publishing Company is a publishing house with a broad focus on music education. Muse-Eek also publishes fine art and poetry books, and has its own record label, Muse-Eek Records. Our online presence, specializes in the publication of music workbooks, video courses and sound and video recordings that teach the foundation of good musicianship through groundbreaking and innovative methods along with traditional methods that have been taught for centuries. These historic methods date back through centuries of great musicians and educators. To see these interesting relationship please see Bruce Arnold's Music Education Genealogy Chart which tells you a lot about the where many of his educational ideas took root and some of the educational pillars that are evident throughout the books you find on this website. The Muse-Eek Records catalogue contains a diverse selection of music much of it by Bruce Arnold in collaboration with some of today's best players in classical, jazz, rock and avant-garde music. These are available in CD, DVD and mp3 formats. We believe in a working relationship with our music education customers; they are free to interact with the author after purchasing a book to help them through any material they don’t understand or which they need further clarification. We also have a member's area which contains a wealth of free information to help a student understand music at a deeper level and access additional files for our books. Many of our books offer cutting edge ideas regarding ear training, guitar technique, rhythm and time. These methods have a proven track record. Our main author Bruce Arnold has taught at some of the most prestigious music schools in the world, including Princeton, Dartmouth, Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory, The New School and NYU. Along with Mr. Arnold's publications on the website he has also written books and appeared in educational DVDs for MelBay and Truefire. Over the years Mr Arnold has used his experiences with his students to develop a program that can elevate a musician's ability to world class caliber. If you have questions about any of our books or recordings please send us an email. Along with general questions about either our record label or our publishing company we also welcome questions to help a student choose the proper materials to reach their goals. We have over 300 products to help you learn any style of music and to develop your musicianship to its peak. We also make recommendations for practice schedules for students who use our methods to get the most out of their study time. This, along with personal interaction with Bruce through email, nurtures the student's ability through a closely monitored situation, ensuring there is no wasted time or misunderstanding.