Vocalist & Club
Free Newsletter

Enter Email

Search This Site or The Web

There have been several questions posted to the FAQ that are related to ear training including finding the pitch, singing the right notes and singing whilst playing an instrument so we decided it was time to extend this section to provide a few easily accessable answers. Diagram of the ear

So....... what is 'Pitch' and how can you identify it?

Notes on a piano produce a fixed sound when played which do not go up or down but gradually fade away. Many instruments including the human voice are capable of producing infinate numbers of fixed sounds between any two notes on a piano with only tiny differences between them. However, all instruments and singing voices normally only use the particluar notes of the piano.

When guitarists tune their guitars, they are trying to find exactly the one fixed sound they want - other notes in the music will be played in relation to this one note.

For instance playing the note A on a piano then a note to the left (G) - the second note is lower than the first. When playing the note to the right of A (B) the second note is higher. The word 'Pitch' refers to the height or depth of sound.

The term singing (or playing) 'off pitch' denotes that the note that is being sung is not 'in tune' with the recognised norm (the exact fixed note that a musical instrument is tuned to. Keyboard players use middle C which is the C nearest to the center of the keyboard/piano, guitarists use E as their base tuning and orchestral players use A above middle C).

Scroll down the page or click the links to browse the Q & A, use our Pitching Exercises and find Free Online Ear Training Sites & Applications. There are also further explainations of music theory in the Sight Reading & Singing and the Solfege page explores this system of shape note singing for learning melodies and a few books are listed below.

Ear Training & Pitch Q & A

Q. What is ear training
A. Ear Training or Pitch Exercises are the terms used to describe the method of teaching and learning how to identify a note and sing in tune with the note or chord that is played.

Q. Why do I need to learn how to pitch a note to the music?
If you want to learn to sing or play an instrument it is essential to be able to sing the correct notes in the right place (and at the right time!). Ideally a singer should be able to recognise the key being played and sing any one of the notes within the chord or scale without sounding sharp or flat (unless that is the effect you require for the song!!).

Q. My friend can do this and she hasn't had lessons - but I can't - why is this?
Some people are born with an excellent 'ear' for music and are naturally talented, but most singers need to learn and practice the art before it becomes second nature.

Q. How can I tell if I am on pitch or not?
Record yourself singing along to a song that you know well and listen back to your efforts - are the notes you sing melodic, are they exactly the same as the singers or do they sound harsh, sharp or flat? If the latter is the case then you are not singing 'on pitch'. You can also try recording yourself singing our online scales. If you are singing in key then the notes you sing will sound like the notes that are played.

Q. What is 'Perfect Pitch?'
This is the term used to describe someone who can sing (or play) the notes (or chords) along with the music without reading the sheet music. It is also used to describe the ability to sing any note on request without hearing the note played by an instrument. Some people are born with this ability - others need to learn and practise to become competant.

Q. I can't Pitch - am I Tone Deaf?
Unlikely - very few people are really 'Tone Deaf' which is the term used to describe someone who appears to lack the ability to differentiate between one note (or chord) from another - This is extremely rare! Most people who think they are 'Tone Deaf' just need to learn how to listen and practice their pitching skills. It takes some people longer than others but it CAN be learnt.

Q. How can I learn to pitch correctly?
The key to recognizing notes, chords and intervals is repeated listening and singing back. Ideally you need a teacher to help you identify how you are progressing but there are exercises provided below for you to practice although you need an instrument to do them. Alternatively you can try the online Ear Training programs or download pitch recognition software listed below.

Pitch related Q & A in the Frequently Asked Questions Section

I've been playing guitar for some time now and I'm have trouble coming up with the melody notes to sing while I play the harmony on the guitar - can you help?

When playing on an A-minor scale.....is it proper to just pick one of those notes on the scale and sing the verse to it?

Pitching Exercises

In this section we concentrate on learning how recognise and 'pitch' the notes by listening and singing back.

You will need a 'Cassette Tape Recorder' to record and review your progress and a musical instrument that is tuned to perfect pitch - preferably keyboard, piano although a guitar, violin or other stringed instrument or a good chromatic tuner like the Sabine 1100 will do. (If you don't have a piano or guitar use the Computer Keyboard at the Electric Blues Club, although there is a much better Virtual Piano at Piano World - Links open in a new window - (don't use a wind or brass instrument you need to concentrate on singing not playing).

Using a guitar or piano play the note 'C' (any octave within your vocal range is fine) - listen carefully as it sounds then play it again - this time singing the note as you play. If the note is too high or too low for your voice play the note in another octave and/or sing the note in the octave that is comfortable for you - even if the note played is higher or lower than the C note you sing - if you are pitching correctly both notes will 'gel' together. If, however your pitching is incorrect your voice will sound 'sharp' or 'flat' (or may be a completely different note!).

Repeat this exercise with each note going up and down the scale. Then do it again picking random notes.

Once you have mastered the exercise above and can pitch the notes you are singing to the ones that are played then move on to the following exercise.

Play the chord C (notes C, E, G) listen carefully to the notes that make up the chord. Play the C chord again, identify the middle note E and sing it. Repeat the exercises listening and singing each note within the chord until you can identify each note and sing it easily without being put off by the other notes being played. Repeat this exercise with the chords D, E, F, G then repeat again randomising the chords order of play. Then do it all over again using minor chords, 7th's etc., until you can sing any note from any chord in every scale that your voice is comfortable singing.

Now lets make it a little more difficult! Play a C chord an octave above or below your vocal range, but sing the notes in your range. This will help you recognise the chords regardless of where on the scale they are played and consistent practice should aid in improving your ability to pitch your notes regardless of how 'busy' the accompanying music.

There are a couple of fun software games by 'Happy Note' that teach ear training and music theory aimed at children and beginners (although fun & educational for any age!) - details and free downloads are available in the Freeware & Shareware Music Downloads section.).

A piece of equipment that all singers and teachers should have in their kit box is a good tuner. They can be invaluable for ear training and checking tuning during pitch exercises and lessons. There are dozens of tuners available from stores and online, some are only suitable for use with a musical instrument like a guitar or when used with a microphone so be careful what you purchase!

Sabine STX1100 Advanced Chromatic Auto Tuner Commercial products that we have tested and believe are worth investing in are Sabine STX1100 Advanced Chromatic Auto Tuner is not the smallest tuner on the market but it's visual display combined with its inbuilt microphone, instrument input and amplifier output is very easy to use. Sing & See software for students, teachers and professional users. The Pro version includes features such as a combined display offering integrated spectrographic, pitch views of the voice, and the ability to save and replay voice recordings.

We will get round to sticking some midi exercises to practice with at some point! Another option is to sing along to our vocal scales or use one of the online resources listed below.

Jake Mandell's Tone Deaf Test
Check out your aural musicianship with this online test!

Harmony How To tips and advice on staying in tune aimed at barbershop singers and directors from The Harmonizer Magazine the official publication of the Barbershop Harmony Society (US).

Measure Your Pitch Perception
Takes only 3 minutes to use this online test at Tonometric!

This web tutorial by Mark Huckvale of UCL Phonetics and Linguistics at University College London contains audio examples, aural exercises and diagrams.

Perfect Pitch
The vocalist.org webmaster writes about his search for perfect pitch.

What do you mean I'm out of Tune?
Article at the NZ Herald on Amusia sometimes referred to as tone deafness.

Ear Test
A shareware ear training program designed to improved perfect pitch AND relative pitch Click Here to visit the authors site and download.

Pitch Perfection
Simple program written in Qbasic4.5 that allows musicians to work on developing their ears for tuning and pitch selection. It uses simple numbered menus for selections. It contains two levels - level one for basic notes, and level 2 implements sharps and flats. Click Here to download pitch.zip 192K Freeware - Windows (all) The authors Clear Sight Designs website http://www.clearsight.cjb.net no longer available.

GNU Solfege
Train your ear to recognise chords, intervals & rhythms. "GNU Solfege is a FREE program that will help you to accomplish ear training. The program includes exercises to train chords, intervals and rhythms. The program can be extended by users using lesson files. Visit Solfege to download the latest freeware version.

Pitch Train
Pitch Train is a tool for developing perfect pitch (the ability to recognize musical notes by ear). The user chooses any or all notes to be included in the quiz. One by one, the user tries to identify the randomly chosen note upon hearing it. The program keeps score, and advises when to add more notes to the quiz. Pitch Train includes a full, customizable 88-key keyboard. Also, high scores are now kept. Click Here to download demo version for windows.

Free Online Ear Training

Here are some FREE online training programs, sites etc., to help you learn pitch, intervals & music theory. All the following sites have been checked and updated on 27/05/2017 and open in a new window.

Aural Comprehension Guide
from Western Michigan University provides comprehensive information including syllables, sightsinging, melodic perception, shape note singing, warm up exercises, error detection and more.

Big Ears Online Free Pitch & Ear Trainer
Online ear training applet which takes time to load but worth the wait. Contains instruction on use, options for normal to help mode with the user able to choose ascending, descending intervals or a combination of both. Choose the 'Help' mode and read through before starting then click the Big Ears in the upper left hand corner to start.

Can You Find The Highest Note
Not an ear training site but fun and educational - Three Digitally recreated auditory illusions found at the Exploratorium Science Museum in San Francisco, California include The Shepard Scale, The Tritone Paradox and The Risset Scale illustrated via interactive video presentations which require Shockwave to view.

Online ear training program - practice how to identify and compare intervals, scales, chords and chord inversions with more disciplines to be added as the site develops.

Provies online tools for teachers and students of basic music theory. Includes free online drills to practice your skills.

Ear Training - Intervals
Applet that teaches students of music to identify intervals of the chromatic scale. Displays a "hot area" (a small circle that lights up in yellow when the cursor is over it) for each of the 12 chromatic intervals of the octave provided by the Center for Computing and Information Systems (CCIS)

Ear Training Worksheets
Online printable ear training worksheets including 5 listening drills, lessons for triads, 7ths and rhythmic dictation in .pdf format which require Adobe Acrobat Reader (free), note recognition, worksheets, blank music paper and music tests at Sheetmusic1.com.  Click Here to see a list of all available free downloads & lessons.

Good Ear
Free online ear training on the internet is graded from beginner and contains simple intervals, major/minor, intervals, chords, scales, cadences, jazz chords, note location and perfect pitch tests with options for root, tempo, volume and various instruments including acoustic piano, electric piano, rhodes piano, guitar and violin - its also a fast clean site with no pop ups!!

Sing The Right Note
Free online java program to help beginners learn to sing notes in tune.

Vocal Software
Free online and downloadable Spectographs plus Software, Frequency & Harmonics Articles

Freeware & Shareware Downloads
Tuition programs and games are available FREE on our Downloads Pages!

Commercial Programs

The following are commercial products that have free trial versions available for download or free ear training tips/booklets - We haven't tried them, the site isn't affiliated to them and we have only included them for our site visitors information and research purposes.

Chord Wizard - Music Theory
Online music theory tutorial by Chord Wizard. The tutorial explains music theory as it applies to all musical instruments, with the latter section aimed specifically at stringed instruments like the guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass guitar and ukulele. Midi based with sections on fundimentals of music, the major scale, chords and harmony, scales and melody, related chords and scales plus stringed instruments with the scales section including non-western scales like Japanese, Arabic, Enigmatic, Neapolitan and Hungarian. There are plenty of free lessons online with midi examples and you can download a trial version of ChordWizard free which gives you 10 trials for evaluation purposes. After this you need to register it which costs approx $50 (Australian Dollars) or $27 (US Dollars) - estimates only as they also have ongoing discounts and you need to check the exchange rate before purchasing.

Earope Ear Training
Earope Computer Aided Ear Training Program created by musicians. Intervals, Scales, Chords, Inversions, Melody, Rhythm, Chord Progressions and an option to use the built in EarTutor which acts as your personal tutor and gradually increases the level of skill based on previous results and errors. Available in English or Dutch - this one isn't Free but does have a free trial version you can download and the registered version is quite reasonable at $67

EarMaster (TM)
is a commercial product which can help you with your aural skills. There are two versions, one for musicians and the other for teachers/schools in several languages including English, Portugues, Deutch, Espanol, Francais, Nederlands, Italiano, Svenska, Dansk, Norsk, Suomi and Magyar with Win XP, Win 2000, Win ME, Win 98 and Win 95 supported. and a free downloads for each version (about 2mb). Prices range from just under £50 for the pro version up to over £400 for the schools home user license (prices range for different licenses and countries - check on the site for costs).

provides ear training and music theory programs. Instructions are provided on the CDs which are graded from complete beginner to diploma with a few sample lessons available in mp3 format at the site.

Perfect Pitch Training Course
have a free Ear Training Book available by filling in a form on their site. At least it's free in the USA but they charge $7.00 for shipping to other countries. The course itself consists of a 24 master classes on 8 audio CD's plus easy Handbook costing $139.00 although there is an option to pay monthly - theres no demo online but there is a mini lesson.

Sing & See
Unique software available for Students, Teachers and Professional Users! The Pro version includes features such as a combined display offering integrated spectrographic, pitch views of the voice, and the ability to save and replay voice recordings.

Ear Training & Sight Singing Books
In association with Amazon.co.uk & Amazon.com

The following are a small selection from the many available in the Sight Reading & Ear Training Books page of our Books for Singers section which contains eductional, instructional, repertoire, diction, language and marketing books for singers and musicians.

The Perfect Pitch Supercourse by David L. Burge
6 Cassettes & Book
The #1 world best-selling ear training method for 20 years provides materials and course work for developing absolute pitch.  Course includes 24 Master Classes on 8 Audio cassettes plus easy handbook. For ALL musicians of ALL instruments, beginning and advanced. No music reading skills required.
Read More at Amazon USA

The AB Guide to Music Theory Vol 1The AB Guide to Music Theory Vol 1
By Eric Taylor
Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music
Click Here for more info & purchase from Amazon.co.uk

The AB Guide to Music Theory Vol 2
By Eric Taylor
Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music

Suitable for the complete beginner, easy to read and split into convenient sections packed with diagrams and pictures which illustrate the text and graduate in difficulty so that you can learn at your own pace or pick a chapter to brush up your knowledge.
Read More at Amazon.co.uk

Ear Training - One Note Beginning Level Ear Training: One Note Beginning Level by Bruce E. Arnold
Muse Eek Publishing Company
Book & Cd edition

This book and accompanying audio CD presents a new and exciting method of developing relative pitch ear training. It has been used with great success and is now finally availabe on CD. There are three levels available depending on the student's ability. This beginning level is recommended for students who have little or no music training. This book provides a solid basis for the development of good relative pitch and is the required text at both New York University and Princeton University.
Read More at Amazon USA

Fanatics Guide to Sight Singing A Fanatic's Guide to Ear Training & Sight Singing by Bruce E. Arnold
Muse Eek Publishing Company
Book & Cd edition

This book and CD present a method for developing good pitch recognition through sight singing. This method differs from the myriad of other sight singing books in that it develops the ability to identify and name all twelve pitches within a key center. Through this method a student gains the ability to identify sound based on it's relationship to a key and not the relationship of one note to another i.e. interval training as commonly taught in many texts. All note groupings from one to six notes are presented giving the student a thesaurus of basic note combinations which develops sight singing and note recognition to a level unattainable before this Guide's existence. Muse-eek also features a FAQ section where students can direct questions that may arise as they work to the author, and which are generally answered within two days. This book is a required text at the New York University and Princeton University Music departments.
Read More at Amazon USA

Sight Reading and Sight Singing Exercises Lines : Sight Reading and Sight Singing Exercises by Bruce E. Arnold
Paperback - 140 pages (April 2001)
Muse Eek Publishing Company

This is a new ear training and sight singing book which takes a different approach by utilizing single line and part singing; where one voice is played while another is sung. The student can also choose to download midifiles of these exercises, as an alternative to playing them. The relative pitch ear training presented in this text is based on a two-part approach involving singing and listening to an ear training tape. The midifiles are available on the internet for free at www.muse-eek.com A method for creating a personal ear-training tape is also explained, which takes a fresh approach to learning note recognition. This regimen of singing and listening to an ear-training audio tape has been used with great success, even for students with severe pitch recognition problems.
Read more at Amazon UK
Read More at Amazon USA

About the Author
Bruce Arnold is from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. His educational background started with 3 years of music study at the University of South Dakota; he then attended the Berklee College of Music where he received a Bachelor of Music degree in composition. During that time he also studied privately with Jerry Bergonzi and Charlie Banacos. Mr. Arnold has taught at some of the most prestigious music schools in America, including the New England Conservatory of Music, Dartmouth College, Berklee

We highly recommend you seek supervised tuition from a reliable source.
Please Read Our DISCLAIMER.