Ear Training

How to develop accurate relative pitch

This was the first lesson in my advanced ear training course at Berklee College of Music (taught by Steve Prosser).

Sit at a tuned piano or keyboard and play a note (C). Pause, then (with no piano) match the note perfectly with your voice (use any syllable). Be sure to make it a clean sound with no slides up or down. If you do slide, repeat until you can sing the note perfectly without the slide. Sustain the note. Breathe, sing it again. Allow the tonality to fill you up. Check your pitch with the piano. Then play a note a whole step or half step above or below and do the same thing. Really internalize the interval. Try not to use a diatonic scale (or any scale) as this should be completely atonal. Move randomly using only whole and half steps. If your voice is off slightly, do it slower. Just play a note and match your voice. The trick is having the muscle memory so that you know what position your vocal cords should be in before they make a sound.

Do this every morning until your brain hurts. (5-60 minutes depending on your tolerance). Once you've got it down pat, start using major and minor thirds mixed in with the seconds. The next week fourths. Then fifths. Then tritones.

Remember--there is no such thing as going too slow. It's not a race. You are going for ACCURACY, not speed.


If you want to check to see how well you are doing, write out some random notes (going by the rules of week 1), give yourself the starting pitch, the sing them SLOWLY with no piano. Then check your last note to see if you were on.

You can also try to get ahold of some atonal vocal sheet music. There's some really great stuff out there. After taking this class, I started writing more complicated melodies because I felt more confident that I could sing them. If you can sing atonally, you can sing anything.

Good luck and let me know how it goes or if you have questions!