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Beginner Singing Technique - Aural Skills, What and Why

an ear used for listening to music and aural skills

Learning aural skills, or ear training, is learning to identify pitch changes, harmony, tuning, and any other musical elements entirely by ear. This is an incredibly important and useful tool for any musician, but especially for singers.


Think of a professional artist, if you showed the artist two different shades of blue and the artist told you they couldn't see the difference, you might squint at them a bit and doubt their abilities. Similarly, if you gave a professional chef a dish with too much salt and the chef said there was too much of something but they weren't sure what you might wonder why they can't identify salt in a dish. In the same way, a good musician should be able to identify anything musical by ear. If I play two different pitches on a piano, a singer should know not only which is higher, but also how much higher. While a pianist can push a key and make a sound accurately, the singer can rely only on their ear and the feelings in their body to be accurate.


sheet music

How does one train their ear? Many people may not realize that the senses can be trained, but they can. My go to ways to practice aural skills are interval training, chord identification, and melodic dictation. I use sites like tonedear.com to practice these. Lets start with interval training. While some theory knowledge may be required to understand what the website is asking, the easy version is that the higher the number the farther apart the notes are. A 3rd is closer together than a 5th. With chord identification there are options of "major" and "minor" as well as some lesser known chord types like "augmented" and "diminished." The easy version of this is "major" sound happy and "minor" sound sad followed by "diminished" being 3 notes quite close together and "augmented" being 3 notes farther apart. Finally, melodic dictation is the hardest and involves writing down a song by ear with both rhythmic and melodic elements correctly. If you need help practicing, or some extra strategies, consider signing up for singing lessons here or leave a comment and I can write some more hints in a future post.



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