I’m a big fan of the contextual hearing method of ear training. It’s basically the tradition method of ear training. The idea is to hear notes in the context of a key. This is opposed to the more modern method which involves learning intervals out of context often using mnemonics to help remember the sounds (ex. using “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to remember what a perfect fifth interval sounds like). I think using mnemonics is a bad idea. But I do think it’s important to train both skills. In other words, it’s useful to be able to hear both what type of interval there is between two notes as well as what the function of those notes are in the current context (whether that be related to a key or a chord). While the basic concept is very old, I got the idea for these exercises via Bruce Arnold who has made quite a few CDs with a similar style. I do recommend checking those out as they are much higher quality. I wrote a python script to generate these lessons using MIDI. The sounds are cheesy, but they work. With the exception of the “Harmonic Intervals” exercise, I’ve been using them a lot over the past couple of years, so they should be trouble free. But if you run into problems, let me know. And of course, questions and comments are welcome.
Note: Feel free to distribute these with proper credit (i.e. leave MP3 tags in tact and include a link to this blog). I do not grant permission to use these exercises in any sort of commercial context without my permission. Thank you for respecting my rights on that.
All of these exercises contain 100 mp3s. They are all randomly generated. However, I still recommend listening in a shuffle mode to avoid memorizing the order. Each MP3 begins with a sequence of chords (a cadence) that establishes the key (which in all cases so far is either C Major or C Minor). The question portion then plays, which will vary for each exercise. Finally the answer is spoken by a computer generated voice. Either solfege syllables or chord names are used. The solfege syllables used are: do (root), di (m2), re (M2), me (m3), mi (M3), fa (4), fi (tritone), so (5), le (m6), la (6), te (m7), ti (M7). Depending on the context the accidentals could actually have different names, but I stuck with these for now.
One Note Major: One note is played. The context is Major and accidentals (non-diatonic notes) are included. You name the note.
One Diatonic Note Minor: One note is played. The context is Minor and only notes in the Natural Minor scale are played. You name the note.
Diatonic Major Chords: One triad is played in a closed root position voicing, you name that chord (ex. two minor, five major). Only the diatonic chords are used, namely I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii(dim)
Four Diatonic Notes Major: Four notes are played in a row followed by the root. All will be in the major scale. You name the notes.
Harmonic Intervals Major: This is the most recent exercise I made and has not been thoroughly tested. Two notes are played together. Both will be in the Major Scale. You name those two notes.
That’s all I have so far. Perhaps if there’s enough interest I’ll generate more. The possibilities are endless, but these cover a lot of ground. If you’re just starting out expect to put a lot of time in before you get the hang of the basic exercises. I’ve been doing it for years and I’m far from mastering this stuff. I’ve just started the harmonic interval exercise which is a pretty exciting one!