Review of Ear Master Pro

I have yet to review a product I liked better or found more musically resourceful than Ear Master Pro, an ear training & sight-singing software! This program is loaded with exercises to help improve students’-even teachers’-ear and sight skills, and I found it to be very nicely laid out, as well as user-friendly and effective.

Upon opening the program, you can first choose a mode and activity from the options pictured below. (Yes, there is even a “Jazz” mode! I’m not super familiar with the jazz style and I didn’t delve into that mode extensively, but I do find it pretty neat they have that as a feature.)

Within each activity, there are different modules you can choose from (some activities have over 20 modules while others have 1), and then you can choose what lesson of the module you’d like to start with. Once you do all that, you are set to begin your activity!

I found the interactive interface of Ear Master Pro to be pretty straight forward and easy to navigate which was really nice considering how many features it has. To be quite honest, I really enjoyed some of the activities myself. Naturally, I have a poor sense of rhythm and am definitely a “by sight” pianist, but I thought I’d give a rhythm dictation activity a try and…I ended up liking it. I believe some contributing factors to me liking this training program so much is 1) the good selection of activities, 2) how much you can customize the activities to fit your needs, 3) it has a fun, educational and techy feel, and 4) the fact that it utilizes so many different aspects on the computer: onscreen piano keyboard and staff, computer keys, the ability to use built-in audio functions or hook up a midi keyboard.

One thing I think is huge about this program is the clear sound quality it has. So often ear training games, sites, or CDs have very tinny or muffled sound, and that can really affect the listener’s ability to distinguish what they hear-especially if they are doing melodic dictation. I can see having Ear Master Pro in your studio as a teaching/training tool for your students being incredibly instrumental in helping them improve in areas from simple rhythmic dictation to chord identification.

Even if you’re not convinced yet to go buy your own downloadable copy, you should definitely download the trial version of Ear Master Pro and try it for yourself! There is also a Teacher Edition you can take a look at on the site.



Easy Ear Training Music Teachers Program

The creative folks over at have recently launched a Music Teachers Program to provide “special discounts and exclusive offers” on their ear training apps, albums, and ebooks. I always love seeing what they come up with next, and appreciate their devotion to helping all musicians develop a more musical ear in innovative and practical ways!

Interval Ear Training Without an App!

Those of you who have been around here for a while know that I probably couldn’t function as a teacher anymore without my amazing little iPod Touch. However, I realize that there are still holdouts among us who prefer to dwell in the Dark Ages. 🙂 It’s getting harder to find non-app resources these days, but the folks at have a soft spot in their heart for the afore-mentioned teachers, and have put together a Free Interval Ear Training Pack that contains mp3 files.

According to their post, “The downloadable pack includes 5 MP3 files, each of which is about 3 minutes long. Each focuses on a different interval. Once you’ve downloaded the tracks and added them to your favourite music player, listen to them regularly. Ear training is a skill which you want to practise every day to see real improvement…”

Even though this is a great resource for any musician, I can especially see my highly aural learning students getting into something like this!

Happy Anniversary to and Giveaway of Chordelia App! is celebrating their second anniversary this week, so it seemed like a great time to run a giveaway for them! They kindly offered to give a copy of their new Chordelia: Triad Tutor app to one Music Matters Blog reader in honor of the new blog design earlier this year, so I am thrilled to take them up on the offer! says, “It has always been our goal to be a valuable online resource that meets the needs of musicians, audio professionals and anybody who is passionate about music.” Their website is choc-full of great articles and resources pertaining to ear-training and many other music topics. Be sure to check out their special free Valentine’s Day rhythm activities that you can download and use with your students!

I am really excited to use this app with my students and even sneak some time in on my own to help improve my recognition of chords by ear! And…if you’d like the chance to win this app for use in your studio, just leave a comment below. A winner will be selected using a random number generator at noon (CST) on Thursday, February 23, 2012.


Monday Mailbag – Listening to Great Pianists

And now…back to your regularly scheduled programming! After several weeks of neglecting the Monday Mailbag posting, here’s hoping the rest of the summer will go better as far as keeping up with it! I have a slew of questions to post, so I may even stick some in on other days, too. 🙂

As a piano student, I was never introduced to recordings of professional pianist and rarely encouraged to attend live recitals.  My question for you is: do you have a running list of great pianists that you encourage your students to listen to on CD or watch videos of their performances?  If so, are there ones that are most interesting to the younger beginners (age 7-9)?  I would appreciate any help you could give with this as I think it might be motivating for students to hear someone other than myself play – and of course much more convenient than trying to attend a live performance.

This question is especially relevant in our day of YouTube videos where anyone can stick a camera on the end of the piano and record themselves pounding out the notes of Claire de Lune with a television in the background and a toddler improvising in the lower register. Okay, so maybe that’s a bit extreme, but I think it is helpful to guide our students to excellent performers and performances, which can provide real inspiration (rather than perpetuate unskilled, unmusical playing). You can also download the free YouTube Performance Evaluation to use as a tool to encourage your students to listen critically and assess the quality of a performance.

This especially hit home for me a couple weeks ago as I was planning out each day of our Kick-it-up-a-Notch! piano camp and discovered just how atrociously some of the beloved great piano works can be performed. But I digress. 🙂 I don’t have a formal list of pianists that I recommend to my students, but I think it’s a great idea! Maybe we can all work together to compile such a list! I do, however, have some pianists that I turn to repeatedly when looking for a performance of a particular piece. Every performance is so nuanced, though; it’s not always guaranteed that I’ll like a particular pianist’s interpretation of a piece.

A couple favorites for younger students are:

Here are a few of my personal favorite pianists:

  • Van Cliburn
  • Valentina Lisitsa
  • Murray Perahia
  • Rafal Blechacz
  • Jon Kimura Parker

There are so many other great pianists out there, too! I’d love to know what some of your favorites are. When looking up a performance, what pianists do you automatically turn to for recordings? Do you have a list of favorite performers and/or performances that you recommend to students?

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

Fun Ear Training Song for Young Students

Even though I don’t have a super good ear when it comes to music, I do know that quite a few years of being in choirs and taking voice lessons has helped develop a better ear than I would have had otherwise. I’m always interested in incorporating singing elements into our lessons, but sometimes it’s difficult to know the best approach. When I came across a couple of fun Children’s Ear Training Songs on the Easy Ear Training website, I knew I had to give them a try!

I decided to start with the Froggy Interval Hop. I love trying to incorporate as many different learning styles as possible into each activity, so I dusted off my large foam board keyboard that I made years ago and pulled a little stuffed monkey from my collection of mini stuffed animals. I didn’t have a frog, so the activity became Monkey Interval Hop for us! I also found a cute little monkey graphic on-line and printed off an octave’s worth of little monkey cards. After putting a little bit of sticky tack on the back of each monkey card, we were ready to go!

I sat at the piano and played the song while singing along and placing the monkey cards on the corresponding number of notes to represent the interval. My little student got to hold the stuffed monkey and sing along while hopping on the first and last monkey to represent the interval we were singing. For example, when we sang, “Hop, hop, hop, hop, three little monkeys hop,” she hopped like this: C-E-C-E-C-E-C-E.

We’ve only done it a couple weeks so far, but there are a ton of possibilities for using this simple, but creative song to help young students train their ears. Here are a few that I’ve thought of:

  • Include intervals all the way up to an octave.
  • Instead of always going in order, place the monkey cards on random notes to have the student develop an even better awareness of the different intervals.
  • Transpose to other major keys to develop familiarity with different scales.
  • Try using minor keys to develop tonal awareness.
  • The teacher plays and sings the first interval and the student tries to correctly identify it by placing the monkey card on the correct piano keys.
  • Use all sorts of different animals just for fun!

In addition to using this during private lessons, I think it would be a really great activity for a small group of young students – perhaps a perfect addition to a pre-piano camp! 🙂 Those are a few of my ideas thus far. Can you think of other creative ways to use this activity to help students develop a well-trained ear?