Blitz your aural skills with these 3 tricks

Good aural skills are a powerful tool for a musician. It was aural skills (and a freakishly good memory) that allowed Mozart to write out a 13 minute song for two choirs after hearing it once. And he was 14.
If you develop your aural skills, you’ll be able to recognise the notes you hear and reproduce them on your instrument. So really, it’s one of the most essential skills to teaching yourself new songs by ear. Want to be able to do that? I’ll tell you how.
Aural Guitar Skills
When I was studying music at uni, I was already pretty good at reading music. And so I tried to find sheet music to learn new songs. Unfortunately, all that google gave me was tablature (or tab) which was slow to read, usually wrong, and I needed to listen to the song to work out the rhythm anyway.
So I tried doing what my teacher had suggested (weird, right?!). I listened to the music! It was slow to start with. But I ended up with a much better feel for the music and played it much better.
Here’s how to start developing the kind of aural skills that will help you do the same…
Start small and easy
Keen is good. But it can hurt too. Imagine dropping in to a half pipe the first time you ride a skateboard. Or if by some miracle you didn’t stack it, trying a 360 coming out the other side. Not good! You’ll want to just ride the thing first. Get familiar with the board. Try to master an ollie.
So, same with aural: start small and easy. Learning to recognise intervals (the difference between two notes) is a good place to start. And if you haven’t done something like this before, I recommend starting with a ‘Major 2nd’ and an ‘Octave’. This way you only have 2 things to think about, and they’re very different from each other.
Example: What’s a Major 2nd and an Octave? Without going into detail, a major 2nd is the interval between the first 2 notes of a major scale[link to And an octave (think like octopus 8 legs/octagon 8 sides) is the interval between the first 8 notes of a major scale.
Make it memorable 
Ok, so you’ve got your 2 intervals to start with. But how do you know or remember what the interval sounds like? Rather than thinking about theory, it’s a good idea to associate the interval with the beginning of a song you know really well.
And it doesn’t have to be all that exciting either. I tell my students, “the 2nd sounds like the beginning of Happy Birthday” and “the octave sounds like the beginning of Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. You can find other tunes, but those two generally do the job.
Make it regular
Alright, so now you can listen to a major 2nd or an octave and work out which is which. But if this is going to be a useful skill in hearing a tune and being able to replicate it on your instrument, it’ll need to be so well known that it’s almost subconscious. And there’s really only one way to do that (unless you’ve worked out how to download knowledge and ability into your brain like they do in the movie The Matrix – I’ve always wanted to be able to do that!). Practice it a lot!
Yup, that’s really what it comes down to. Repetition. And lots of it. And often.
A recommended tool
Now, if you have a teacher, they can play you these intervals during a lesson and you can practice identifying them. But that’s not going to help with regular repetition. What happens at home?
Well there’s a great little online tool to help with that called I have no association with this website, but I’ve just found it to be really useful and customisable.
So, here’s what you do:
  1. Go to
  2. Click on the middle icon in the top right hand corner
  3. Click on “Intervals”
  4. Unselect all the options except the ones you want to work on (Major 2nd and Octave if you’re new to aural skills)
  5. Save it as a bookmark and it will remember your selected intervals each time you come back.
  6. Make this the first thing you do each time you get on the computer, instead of Facebook. You could even make it your browsers home page.
What next?
Well, this is really just the beginning of developing your aural skills. To make the most of these skills, particularly in teaching yourself songs on guitar, you’ll want a good teacher to guide you. If you’d like to make some real progress on guitar, I’d love to hear from you. I have a full, no questions asked, money back guarantee on intro lessons.
Question: What song would you be really excited if you could teach yourself, just by listening to it? What steps are you taking to be able to do that?
Blog author: Aaron Reefman – G4 GUITAR SCHOOL Dee Why NSW Australia.

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