Note to Students

Welcome to this text! We hope you find it a creative, fun, and empowering approach to acquiring aural skills.

As you embark on your formal education in aural skills, there’s one thing we’ve learned from our years of teaching that we’d like you to know: Everyone is different and hears music differently. People with absolute pitch are often mystified when they learn that not everyone can identify pitch names without context. People who play a lot of music by ear on the guitar are often surprised to hear that others struggle to hear chord progressions. Be respectful and curious about the different ways your peers hear music. And be kind to yourself, too: you will inevitably encounter activities where you feel less successful than your peers, but remember that everyone is different and everyone experiences this feeling at some point. We’re all learning together.

You come to this class with strengths. Many strengths can also lead to weaknesses. For example, if you have absolute pitch, you may have avoided situations that would require you to learn to hear relationships among pitches. If you are really good at picking up music by ear, you may have avoided learning to read notation. If you are an excellent sight reader, you may be very uncomfortable with improvisation without the security of knowing what you’re “supposed” to do. If you listen to music in the background every minute of every day, you may have difficulty listening to music with focus and intention.

Take a moment and review: what are your musical strengths? What are your weaknesses?

Then remind yourself: your current strengths and weaknesses are not facts about you that will never change. Instead, your strengths are your toolbox: the things you know how to use. Your weaknesses are your education plan: we engage in education in order to learn and improve, not in order to pat ourselves on the back for things we can already do. (At least, that should be our goal. Easier said than done.) Set an intention now to explore your areas of weakness with curiosity and dedication, and be alert to the temptation to try to avoid them.

It’s a common misperception that people simply have a “good” or “bad” ear and there’s nothing we can do to change that. This is not true. Students do come to their formal education with different experiences and abilities. But aural skills acquisition is about building knowledge structures and practicing helpful habits. These are things absolutely everyone can do.

Welcome to the journey!


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Foundations of Aural Skills Copyright © 2022 by Timothy Chenette is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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