You’re interested in ear training because you want to improve your playing right?

As you may have noticed, there’s a lot of information here on Ear Training HQ…

Ear training is a big area and there are more than a few nuances to it, so there’s a lot to cover!

But if you want to improve your playing and you want to do it fast there’s one thing that I’m sure you’d like to know more than anything else:

How do I get started?

Well you’re in luck, because that’s exactly what I’m going to tell you in this lesson.

If you’ve read through Ear Training Made Easy, you’ll know that the best way to develop relative pitch is using a tonality based approach. That means you’ll learn to identify the tonic (the key centre) and then recognise any other note using the interval that separates it from the tonic.

If you haven’t checked out Ear Training Made Easy yet, click the link below for instant access to catch up on the fundamentals of effective ear training!


Once you understand that foundation, there’s one tool that’s more helpful for ear training than anything else: singing. To find out why you can take a look at my lesson series: Singing: The number one tool for becoming a great musician.

Now that you understand both the foundation of effective ear training and the tool that you can use to progress quickly and easily, the first step in ear training should make a lot of sense.

Learn to sing the tonic

When you hear music, if you can confidently sing the tonic, it shows that you’re able to hear and recognise it. You may not be able to instantly recognise it whenever you hear it played – this requires instant recognition which takes time to develop – but you are able to find it. This is the essential first step in developing relative pitch.

Whenever you listen to any music that you’d like to be able to play by ear you need to be able to sing the tonic before you can go any further.

You can work on this by doing the following:

  • Play a track – choose one that doesn’t change key, and to begin with try to choose one that has a simple chord progression as well.
  • Try to sing the tonic – your goal is to sing it confidently and know (with 100% certainty) that the note you’re singing is the tonic.

The challenges you’ll face when doing this are:

  • Finding the tonic – if you can’t already do this, it can be difficult to find the tonic in the first place. If you need to, use sheet music or any other means to work out what the tonic is so you can play it first as a guide.
  • Chord progressions & melodies confusing you – when you’re starting out any chord progressions, rhythms and melodies can be confusing.

A simpler way to sing the tonic

As you may have noticed, my approach to ear training is all about breaking the process down into easy steps. In 80/20 Ear Training I’ve simplified this process by creating exercises that remove the challenges I’ve just mentioned.

In the mp3 below you will hear a short chord progression. This chord progression creates a sense of tonality so there is a clear tonic. You may recognise this chord progression (it’s one of the most common in all music) but if you don’t, there’s no need to work out what it is. You can simply listen to it and allow it to create that sense of tonality in preparation for the exercise.

After the chord progression, there’s a pause. During this pause try to sing the tonic.

After the pause the tonic is played. It’s played in 3 octaves to make it easier to recognise that you’ve sung it correctly, regardless of how high or low your voice is. Check that the note you have sung is the same as the note that is played.

This exercise simplifies things by clearly creating the sense of tonality you need, then settling on the tonic chord so you don't have anything distracting you while you try to find and sing the tonic. It's a perfect way to start learning to sing the tonic!

There is still one problem: how will you learn to identify the sound of the tonic if you don't already know it?

In 80/20 Ear Training I've broken the process down even further. The exercise above is actually the second exercise in 80/20 Ear Training. It's called the tonic test.

Before you tackle this test there is an exercise that is designed to make it as easy as possible for you to learn exactly how the tonic sounds. I call this process internalisation: internalising the sound so you can memorise it and recognise it when you hear it.

This exercise is quite simply the fastest way to internalise the tonic. Click the link below to find out exactly what that exercise is and how it works so you can internalise the tonic as quickly and easily as possible.

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