Improving Ear Training and Sight Singing

Improving Ear Training and Sight Singing

Improving Ear Training and Sight Singing

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Improving Ear Training and Sight Singing

Q: Hi Mr. Arnold. I just bought the Fanatic’s Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing. I saw it online, and I did some research and was very very intrigued by it.

First, a little background. I am a guitarist who’s been playing for about 4 years. Never had a teacher, so progress was always slow. I also never used my ears. I always relied on tabs, and never really did much exploring, or ear training. I also couldn’t reproduce a note for the life of me (really, it was BAD. Also, I couldn’t really tell how wrong it was. I know now retroactively). I also couldn’t hear any notes in my head.

About a year and a half ago, I got into a music program at a local university and sight singing is one of the required courses. With some practice I managed to just barely scoot by with C’s. The courses are very much based on interval recognition.

I got kind of serious with my ear training about 6 months ago, and began doing, consistently, exercises involving singing notes back that I hear. Now, I can reproduce any note with my voice with a high level of confidence. I can also hear notes in my head and am still working on improving ear training.

I have a few questions.

1) Most of the time, when I sing a note, it’s a little out of tune (usually flat). I can tell, so I fix it. I’m pretty sure that this is only because I’ve had 0 vocal training, so my technique is probably horrendous, causing tuning problems. But is this something I should be concerned about? My aim is to be able to sing any note perfectly in tune at the very outset of my voice.

2) Sometimes (not very often) I just can’t hear the note in my head for the life of me! Is this something that goes away with practice?

3) Sometimes I hear a note in my head and I can sing it, but it’s not the note I meant to sing. This happens a lot with the Fanatic’s Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing exercises. I’ve been going through the “Singing the root notes of random key centers” exercise with the tracks on the CD. I find it very difficult to reliably hear the root notes quickly. The third, for some reason is a lot easier for me to hear, and reproduce. Sometimes I think I have the root, and I sing, and the third comes out. Is that ok?

4) One last question. How quickly can I expect to see progress. If I do the exercises 5 times a day for 10 minutes each, how long until there is a noticeable difference in my everyday musical life?

Thank you so much for your time. And sorry for the somewhat simple questions…

A: Nice to hear from you. First you should do any new purchases from our new website I’ve added your book to your member’s area on the new site too.
In your situation it is probably breath support that is causing you to sing flat. You should take a deep breath before singing and try to push the air from your diaphragm that will help.
When doing the Fanatic’s Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing exercise first try to hear the note in your head and then sing it. If you don’t hear the note in your head just sing anything and then repeat the same note exercise until you do hear it in your head. Always make sure to play the chord progression so you are hearing it within the context of a key center. Remember it’s OK if you make mistakes just repeat the exercise until you are singing the right note and then move to the next. You should notice a little improvement within a few weeks. Usually it takes about 6 weeks to really feel confident that you are improving ear training. If you don’t then you are probably doing something wrong and you should get in touch with me. Couple of other things. There are two sides to the ear training Fanatic’s Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing works on generating a pitch from inside and then singing it. This is good for helping with composition and improvisation. There is also hearing a note someone is playing and knowing what that note is. You will learn that with Ear Training One Note Complete. As you know you need to be around an instrument to check if you are singing the right note with Fanatic’s Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing. If you have times where you are commuting, walking or away from your instrument you could use Contextual Ear Training Course which gives you the correct answer after you sing a note. Think of the exercises you are doing in Fanatic’s Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing and Ear Training One Note Complete, Contextual Ear Training Course as clinical exercises to get your improving ear and singing the correct pitch and hearing correctly. The ability you gain from these books will slowly move into your everyday work with music. But once you are getting around 50% correct answers with any of these books you should start doing some of the Direct Application Courses because these will directly apply your ability to real music and greatly speed up your progress on making your ear training a natural process.

I would also consider starting the Scale Analysis book so that you begin to at least understand how all this ear training applies to hearing chord progressions. First I would work on one chord progression a week where you spend 10 minutes a day writing out which scales would work for the chord. You can check your answers in the back of the book. As you understand this better I would also start singing through the scales which will not only help your key retention but also help your understanding of how all this ear training that you are currently doing applies to real music.

Let me know if you have further questions.

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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