What is Ear Training for Piano and How to Do It?

Ear training music is the process of developing the ability to connect the sounds you hear with the musical concepts they represent. 

Ear training helps to develop and refine one’s ability to recognize and reproduce musical elements such as pitches, intervals, chords, melodies, and rhythms by ear, without the aid of written notation.

What is Ear Training for Piano?

It involves honing your listening skills to accurately identify and interpret sounds, enabling you to play music more fluently, improvise, and understand musical concepts more deeply.

What ear training helps you do?

Identify notes and intervals

Learn to recognize individual notes just by hearing them, as well as the distance between two notes (intervals), which are the building blocks of melodies.

Recognize chords

Distinguish between different types of chords (major, minor, diminished, etc.) and their qualities by sound alone.

Transcribe music

Write down the notes and chords you hear, allowing you to learn songs by ear.


Create melodies and chord progressions on the spot, as you can imagine the sounds in your head before playing them.

Play by ear

Play songs you know without needing written sheet music.

How to Practice Ear Training

Ear training usually involves exercises like:

  • Interval recognition: Listening to two notes and identifying the interval between them (e.g., major third, perfect fifth).
  • Chord identification: Listening to a chord and naming its type and root note.
  • Melodic dictation: Hearing a melody and writing it down in musical notation.
  • Singing/playing back intervals and melodies: Using your voice or the piano to internalize the sounds of musical elements.

Here are some effective ways to practice ear training:

Interval Recognition

Start by practicing interval recognition. Play pairs of notes on the piano and try to identify the interval between them (e.g., major second, perfect fifth). Use mnemonic devices or familiar melodies to help you remember the sound of each interval.

Chord Recognition

Practice recognizing different types of chords by ear. Play chords on the piano and try to identify whether they are major, minor, augmented, or diminished. Pay attention to the quality of the chords (e.g., happy, sad, tense) to help you distinguish between them.

Melodic Dictation

Listen to short melodies or musical phrases and try to transcribe them onto paper or play them back on the piano. Start with simple melodies and gradually increase the complexity as you improve. Focus on listening for the direction of the melody, the rhythm, and the intervals between the notes.

Harmonic Dictation

Practice identifying chord progressions and harmonic sequences by ear. Listen to chord progressions and try to identify the chords being played. Pay attention to the root movement and the overall sound of the progression.

Sight Singing

Singing is a valuable tool for ear training. Practice singing scales, intervals, and melodies by ear. Use solfege syllables (do, re, mi) or numbers to help you internalize the pitch relationships.


Transcribe music by ear from recordings. Choose songs or solos that challenge you but are still within your ability level. Use slow-down software or repeat small sections of the music to help you pick out individual notes and phrases.

Playing by Ear

Practice playing songs or melodies on the piano by ear, without using sheet music. Start with simple songs and gradually work your way up to more complex pieces. Use trial and error to figure out the notes and chords, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different voicings and variations.

Regular Practice

Consistency is key when it comes to ear training. Set aside dedicated time each day to practice ear training exercises. Even just 10-15 minutes of focused practice can yield significant results over time.

Why is Ear Training Important for Pianists?

  • Deeper musical understanding: You gain a stronger grasp of musical theory and how it translates into the sounds you create.
  • Improvisation and composition: Allows you to be more creative and spontaneously express musical ideas.
  • Learning music faster: You can pick up songs more easily by ear, without heavily relying on sheet music.
  • Better sight-reading: Recognizes musical patterns more readily, helping you read sheet music faster.

Remember to be patient and persistent in your ear training practice. Improving your ear takes time and effort, but with regular practice, you’ll gradually develop a stronger musical ear and become a more confident and expressive pianist.

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