Ear training is an essential skill for artists of all kinds. It helps you with everything from sight-reading to identifying a song’s chords, notes, and keys.
Despite its importance, there isn’t much online discussion about the role ear training should play in a music producer’s education.
If you want to be a great producer, working on developing your ear is worth the effort. In this post, we’ll look at what ear training is, describe how it can help you become a better producer, and show you resources to get started.
What is ear training?
Ear training is the practice of learning how to hear and recognize sounds in music.
Have you ever met somebody who can listen to a song and instantly tell if it’s in C major or A minor? Or have you encountered artists who can sit at a piano and play any song you request without sheet music or guidance?
These people have trained ears. Through practice, they’ve learned to identify and reproduce the elements that make up a song, like its chords and keys.
While it may seem like a gift, ear training is a skill anyone can develop. It’s never too late to get started, even if you’ve been led to believe that a “perfect ear” is reserved only for those who have been playing instruments since they were kids.
How can ear training benefit producers?
Music producers must be able to do many things well:
- Have a solid artistic vision.
- Understand basic music theory.
- Develop technical skills with their digital audio workstation (DAW).
…and much more.
So why should producers specifically focus on ear training?
As a producer, it’s essential to understand the relationships between chords, how they sound together, and how they work in different contexts.
When you’re working on a new track, it’s up to you to figure out what chords fit best with the melody and chords you’ve already chosen, all within the context of the key you’re writing in.
Ear training can also help you overcome creative blocks. One of the most effective ways to generate new ideas is to analyze the elements that make songs captivating to you. With a solid foundation in ear training, you can easily recognize the chords and melodies in existing songs, unlocking a whole new world of inspiration.
So if you’re looking to take your production skills to the next level, consider investing time in ear training — you’ll be amazed at the difference it can make in your ability to craft original and compelling tracks.
Online ear training resources for producers
As you start browsing, you’ll find that there are lots of ways to train your ear online, but the quality of ear training programs and their approaches varies significantly.
We recommend finding practical tools and focusing on what matters to producers: hearing a song and knowing how it goes.
We’ve developed Chord Crush, an ear training app that addresses this idea. We wanted to create something fresh, exciting, and relevant — not something too academic or boring.
Our ear training exercises are infused with examples from actual songs because, as a producer, you’ll be putting your ears to the test with real music (not old academic examples) throughout your career.
How producers can succeed at ear training
Like any skill you set out to develop, ear training requires patience, consistency, and sustainability. Here are some tips to help you succeed:
- Find a routine that you can maintain. Ear training isn’t a skill that you’ll develop overnight. It will take consistency and practice (even when you aren’t motivated). Set out to find a training tool that makes it simple to return to regularly.
- Keep the momentum going. Even a few minutes of daily ear training can lead to substantial progress. Take it one step at a time, and remember that the only thing trickier than keeping up the habit of consistent ear training is having to start over again.
- Practice in the context of real music. Chord Crush makes it simple to train your ear using modern music examples. But if you’re using resources that rely on “traditional” audio, be sure to challenge your ear often by testing yourself with real song examples. You can always reference the songs in our TheoryTab database to study their keys, chords, and melodies.
Consistency is at the heart of ear training, so finding something you can return to and keep up drills with is essential. Keep up the momentum, train every day, and progress will come.
The bottom line: all producers would benefit from ear training
Ear training isn’t just an impressive party trick — it’s a skill you will use throughout your entire career, often daily.
You don’t have to be a prodigy or spend years in school learning music theory before you can get started. Through online tools and a commitment to learning, you can hone your ear training skills in just minutes each day!