Guidance for Contextual Ear Training

Guidance for Contextual Ear Training

Guidance for Contextual Ear Training

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Guidance for Contextual Ear Training

Q: I’ve been working on Ear Training One Note Complete Beginner & Contextual Ear Training for about three months now. After using an interval approach for about three years, I thought I had gotten a good grounding on ear training, but after trying to apply it to real music (transcriptions, improvisations, etc) I found it very limiting and a little artificial. Searching for alternatives, I bought your 25 Ear Training Tips Video a couple of months ago; after viewing it a couple of times and reading the Ear Training Guided Tour. published in your website’s blog, everything seemed so logical that I decided this was the way to go. I purchased Ear Training One Note Complete & Contextual Ear Training, and began a new phase on my ear training studies.

As I said, I’ve been working for approximately three months on Ear Training One Note Complete Beginner & Contextual Ear Training. I’m doing both of them 4 or 5 times a day for about 5 minutes, plus 2 or 3 more long sessions rounding 15 minutes (sometimes more, like 20 or even 30 minutes, depending on my time schedule). I usually work a little more on Ear Training One Note Complete than on Ear Training One Note Complete, cause I’m finding Contextual Ear Training a little more challenging.

At this moment, it’s going like this:

  • Ear Training One Note Complete Beginner:
    • About 90/95% right.  Sometimes mixing A# and D, but that’s occurring less and less. I think it’s a  good time to move to One Note Intermediate.
  • Contextual Ear Training:
    • About 50% right, I suppose. The 1, b2, b3, 3, 5 & 7 are well-established; almost no problems on them.
    • The 4, b6 & 6 give me more trouble; sometimes I get them right, sometimes I don’t (I would say about 30/40% right with 6 & b6, and about 20/30% on 4).
    • The 2, b5 & b7, are very hard for me; I usually sing the 2 erroneously as a b2 (don’t know exactly why), and almost never got the b5 right guessing fast; the b7 is driving me nuts (I think I must be getting right only 5/10% of the times).

So basically that’s my situation now. I’d like to ask for some guidance, specially on the Contextual Ear Training. On this one I work almost all the time with all the mp3s, without subsets (sometimes I do one subset with one degree in all keys; for example, the b7, but I’m not improving on this one for now). In your Ear Training Guided Tour., you suggest doing two play lists for the Contextual Ear Training; one with all the degrees, and another one with only the 1 degree, adding notes in a particular order (3, 5, 7, 2, 4, 6 b2, b6, b3, b5, b7) when getting 80% right. I understand the point, but I’m not sure if I must work with both play lists simultaneously (and how to do it), or if I only have to work with the 1 degree list adding notes as I’m getting them right?

Please give me some guidance on these concepts,


A: Thanks for the update on your progress. It sounds like you are doing very well. First you should definitely move to Intermediate level on the Ear Training One Note Complete and I would add in some Direct Application work as well: Any or all of these would be good:

Contextual Ear Training Course is usually the hardest for people so I’m not surprised that it’s taking you longer. My list of the order to add notes is more based on making it easier to progress than tackling the harder notes like b2,#4 etc… right away. But have to admit that sometimes you can have a beginning student and they instantly can get #4 but have problems with the 5th. So unless you are studying with me via skype or in person it’s a little hard to give you guidance you except to say that you will get Contextual Ear Training and either doing all the notes or breaking them down into sub-lists is good. You just want to make sure that at least once a day you are listening to all the notes.

Just want to stress that you need to start doing the direct application work. Your mind learns contextually so it’s getting the context of a cadence then a note but that is totally different that the context of real music. Now that you have the right way to hear notes in you head you should start expanding into real music and these Direct Application Ear Training courses will help you do that.

Best Regards,


It is also recommended that you read Bruce Arnold’s Blog at his artist site. It contains more discussion of the musical topics found in these FAQs as well as other subjects of interest. You will also find the “Music Education Genealogy Chart” located here which shows you the historic significance of the music education products found on the Muse Eek Publishing Company Website.

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