Is there any relationship between ear training and our technique?

Is there any relationship between ear training and our technique?

Good people from this forum.

A couple of days ago, I listend to a pianist to say that he noticed a great improvement in his technique after training his ears. He said that our speed is related to the way how we listen to the notes. Paul Gilbert and Eric Johnson said that they used to learn to play new songs by ear, so there must be a kind of connection between our hand and our ears.

What do you think about this? Is it true? is there any relationship?

Moreover, do you recommend any online course, book, method etc, to develop our ears?

  • Yes, good ears help me to play faster.
  • No, my ears don’t have anything to do with my speed.

0 voters

There is always gonna be a relationship between hearing and playing.
For starters, you need to be mindful of how you sound while playing. By that I mean articulation and errors.
A beginner may simply not hear some issues in heas technique, like dead notes, fret buzz etc.
There is also an issue of an “inner ear” and hearing what you are going to play before you play it.
Smashing random notes is not an improvisation.

Good ears will also mean a clearer inner picture of what you are trying to play, which will become a guiding force for your nervous system as you play — that means finer unconscious adjustments as you play. Many great piano teachers stress inner hearing of a score before and during practice, and also taking time to reflect on the sounds you produce while playing. For some distorted elec guitar sounds your ear might not pick up issues, so a cleaner tone will help. And pausing to reflect gives you time to evaluate, organize, and prep for the next run. Listening critically is super important. Cheers! Z

I’ll vote no. TL DR: This would only be true if you play what you’re learning by ear with correct technique and not all of us are that intuitive.

Longer explanation:

I’ve had plenty of people (college music professors included) comment that they thought I had great ears. Nearly my whole life (from age ~5 to now, 38) I’ve played a lot by ear and done formal ear training (solfege) at college. In my formative years, nearly any piece of music I wanted to play that had no sheet music available (this was pre-internet) I had to transcribe myself. That all included songs by Petrucci, Eric Johnson, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Joe Pass, Yngwie, Al Di Meola, Brad Paisley and the list goes on. I could learn by ear and play their solos note for note ( …just not up to speed). I’m proud to say I developed really good ears. After all, people tend to get good at what they do an awful lot of, and for several decades I was training my ears for hours most days.

Now contrast that with my technique…that is another story. While I was formally trained as a classical guitarist in college, I never had any lessons before that. So all of my electric guitar playing, picking in particular, is self taught. I am a horribly non-intuitive individual. And even though work ethic is typically a good thing, it was the opposite for me in this situation. Anything that ever seemed difficult for me to play, I never thought of changing my approach or analyzing why it might be difficult. I just thought I needed to work on it more since “practice makes perfect” as the flawed proverb says. I eventually arrived at respectable speeds. On my best days I could play a couple measures of 16ths in the 170bmp range, just before I tensed up and it crumbled. I was pushing an inefficient technique to the max.

Once I found Cracking the Code, that of course changed. I was shown the error of my ways and learned what works, what doesn’t and how fast playing should feel so easy when you do it correctly.

This is my experience. I will say, if I were more intuitive, I’d have a different answer to this question. If my natural inclination when learning an Al Di Meola solo was to adopt a DSX motion since this is the best way to play his stuff, then learning his solos by ear would have had a great impact on my technique. If I then switched over to an Eric Johnson solo and noticed I’d do best with a USX motion, same thing. Now I know plenty will say “You can have just one escape motion and play pretty much everything by rearranging the notes or adding slurs etc. etc. etc.”. Well, yeah. But again, that works if you’re an intuitive person :slight_smile:


While I can’t provide an exact course, the turning point for me in ear training was developing good relative pitch and “Movable Do solfege” was the secret sauce in my endeavors. This will allow you to hear any piece of music and know the relationships between all the notes. Meaning, if you could identify the key of the piece, you could write down all the chords/notes without the aid of an instrument to check yourself. It’s a great skill to have.

Rick Beato has great info on this and he’s an excellent teacher. I have not paid for any of his courses but just watching his Youtube videos and seeing his knowledge of ear training/theory I’m sure his stuff would be a good investment.

Fixed do? Interesting! I’ve been using movable do with sargam syllables since forever and it’s quite useful. It works well with relative pitch training.

Would you say there are any advantages using fixed do as opposed to movable? It always seemed so cumbersome to learn all the intervals that way, it seemed I could just as well use the note names.

1 Like

Sincere apologies. I should really avoid posting while I’m in the middle of (i.e. resting my brain) working.

I meant movable, not fixed and I’ve edited my post accordingly so I don’t cause others confusion. I have never tried the fixed do and I’m sure I would be horrible at that. Even if I hum one of my favorite tunes in my head, then play the recording, I’ll often find I was hearing it a half step (or more) flat prior to hearing the recording.

1 Like

Could you recommend any book or method about movible Do?

1 Like

When I learned it, it was more presented as a concept. I don’t think we had a text. The application of it was to learn to sight sing with it. So you can probably just google it to get the definition of which solfege syllables map to scale degrees. From there, start using it to sight sing unfamiliar melodies. We did have a text for that but it was just a slew of simple melodies. You could easily get the same benefit from sight singing the meolodies in a level 1 book for any instrument.

Another idea is to try to do it with songs where you already know the melody, but sing them in solfege.Twinkle Twinkle would be “do do sol sol la la sol; fa fa mi mi re re do”. That helps cement the relative pitches in your mind’s ear.

1 Like

I’ll second this. I don’t know if there is a perceived connection between physically playing and having a good ear. I have excellent ears from decades of the same type of practice mentioned by Joe. If my technique were only as quick as my ears! I’ve taught beginning students who could sing beautifully in tune with any note or chord I played, but their natural technique and overall interest in the guitar was minimal. And on the flip side, there are kids at guitar center that can play faster and cleaner than me, yet I feel most confident they are learning everything by tabs or YouTube.

I will start by saying that I am not qualified to answer this question, but perhaps there is something about the following that is correct:

It seems to me that playing fast, in time, has (a) a physical component (hands that go fast), and (b) a mental component, where one can “chunk” and line up the appropriate notes so everything is in time with the metronome clicks, where the hands are not blocked by thinking or mental uncertainty/confusion. My ear/brain cannot count 16th notes at any high metronome setting, and I believe that my speed limitations are a mix of physical and mental issues. Indeed, I often cheat: For example, I know that if I hit an odd amount of notes my pick will exit on the other side, etc., and then I try to chain it up to the metronome, etc., but I suspect that somebody with a superior ear (not in terms of perfect pitch, etc., but the ability to really discern what is going on) can reduce the mental barrier and only really be left with one barrier, the physical barrier. I think that CtC is really good about reducing the physical barriers, and I think that people who have developed the ability to chunk really fast music don’t really realize that it is a little bit of a mental superpower that they take for granted! (Yes, I believe that the greats have both a mental and ergonomic superpowers!) :thinking:

Hal Galper has an entire video about this concept, which he calls the illusion of the instrument. You can see the video here: Hal Galper - The Illusion of an Instrument

You can find the book he talks about early in the video online, which I must admit I didn’t actually read.

I skimmed the responses but OMG YES! Music is an aural art. The ONLY aural art. You need to be able to hear things changing to be proficient. If that’s copping Coltrane licks or copying Lennon/Mcartney you need to be able to hear them. The ability to hear an recreate music is the cornerstone of musicianship.

Well the question wasn’t “does having good ears automatically mean having good technique?” but rather “is there any relationship between ear training and our technique?”

I believe general technique is aided by improved aural skills, for sure.
Similarly I also think aural skills can be improved indirectly through technique advancement.

In general I think folks should work on at least a bit of both, even if they’re just extremely casual hobbyists , but the balance between practice activities would vary by individual.