Learning how to differentiate one note from another becomes one of the most important goals to achieve for learners who start developing a genuine interest in music.
Learning musical notes by ear helps develop our relative pitch, and if you’re lucky, you may even end up training your ears to recognize absolute pitch—a rare ability that some people have to identify a musical note without any reference note or the need to see where and how the note was played.1 Both these skills can be developed and here’s how you can approach these skills as a beginner.
How to Develop Relative Pitch?
To learn music by ear, most musicians train themselves to use their ears to identify notes using relative pitch. It is a skill that is almost a prerequisite if you want to pursue a career in music. Developing relative pitch will allow a person to identify a note when they have a fixed reference point of another note.1 Ear training exercises to recognize intervals, chords, chord progressions, triads, and scales will help you develop this ability.2
Once you get familiar with all these different chords and scales, you will be able to recognize them in songs as some of the notes and intervals of these music systems will be registered in your memory. This will allow you to learn music by ear and recognize these musical elements in songs.
How to Develop Absolute Pitch?
Absolute pitch, as mentioned earlier, is an ability that can help pinpoint the exact note of a sound without needing any fixed musical note as a point of reference. The best way to develop absolute pitch is to listen to a musical note repeatedly so that you can memorize it well enough to be able to clearly reproduce the sound of the note in your mind.
To do this, pick a note that you are comfortable with on a piano or a particular sound frequency on a tuning fork and keep playing it until the sound registers in your aural memory and you can hear the sound in your head.3
After you feel confident that you have the pitch memorized, try recalling it and then singing the pitch before playing the note to test if you have registered the note precisely in your mind. Once you have achieved this step, you can use this note with your relative pitch and learn music notes by ear.
Both these abilities help in learning musical notes by ear, the only difference being that relative pitch can probably be acquired faster than absolute pitch. It may be best to begin developing both these skills simultaneously to achieve your goal of learning music by ear faster.
1. What Is Perfect Pitch? (n.d.). Retrieved July 15, 2022, from https://www.3d-varius.com/what-is-perfect-pitch/
2. Ear Training – Musical U. (n.d.). Retrieved July 15, 2022, from https://www.musical-u.com/learn/topic/ear-training/
3. How can I get perfect pitch? – Musical U. (n.d.). Retrieved July 15, 2022, from https://www.musical-u.com/learn/how-can-i-get-perfect-pitch/