My students have struggled to identify intervals by ear. I think some of the games I’ve designed have helped some, but my younger students are still really having a hard time. Do you have any ideas?
Every year a handful of my students participate in our local Music Progressions evaluation program. One component of the evaluation is a listening test. Some of my students do really well or ace the interval drill portion of the test every year. Some of my students bomb that portion of the test every year. We almost never work on interval drills during lessons. The main reason is because I’m just not convinced that it’s that important. One of the primary factors in student interest, motivation, and practice is relevance. We do lots of playing by ear – picking out familiar tunes, adding harmony, composing original arrangements, etc., because many students love to be able to sit down and play songs without having to focus on printed music. Thus, learning to play songs by ear is highly relevant to them. Being able to accurately identify isolated intervals…not so much.
There is probably a correlation between how accurately a pianist can identify an interval and how easily they can pick out an entire tune by ear at the keyboard, but frankly I would much rather spend lesson time learning to play the songs than doing mundane interval drills.
If, however, you do think it’s really important for students to master this skill (and please feel free to share your reasoning in the comments – I’m open to being convinced!), there are an increasing number of resources available to assist with this. The key (as in most things!) is quantity and consistency. Do lots of ear training exercises and do them every day. This means that the student obviously has to be committed to developing this skill, too. Here are a few resources I’m aware of that are focused on ear training:
Easy Ear Training Apps – I’m hoping to get an iTouch soon, but I don’t have one yet, so I haven’t been able to try these out. But if the caliber of material on the rest of the site is any indication, these apps would be a fabulous way to provide students with a tool to develop their interval recognition skills.
Teoria has a wide variety of specific ear-training exercises, including one for “Intervals Ear Training.”
Big Ears – specifically an interval trainer.
Progressive Ear Training – Wendy, of the Compose Create website, has put together an 8-level (plus a level A) Web Rewards program that walks students through a series of theory and ear-training drills. It’s designed to correlate to our Music Progressions evaluations, but would be beneficial for students anywhere!
Please feel free to share any other resources you’ve come across that have worked well for you and your 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!