Now that we understand what pitch is and why it is so important, we can explore more on the ways to actually perfect pitch and use it to our advantage.
Pitch ear training is about refining your sense of pitch through specific exercises. Just like you practice scales and fingering drills to master the fundamentals and become a better instrument player, pitch ear training exercises improve your ear’s ability to detect the subtleties of pitch, which in turn allows you to make use of them freely to enhance your own playing.
The most powerful tool you can use for pitch ear training is your voice. If singing terrifies you, don’t worry: you needn’t perform perfectly or sing in front of people. You can still use your voice to learn pitch sensitivity.
There are two aspects to being able to sing in tune:
1. Your sense of pitch: How well can you hear differences in pitch and identify them as too high or too low?
2. Control over your voice: Can you reproduce the note you hear in your head out loud using your voice?
It doesn’t matter if you have a nice tone or strong voice, all we’re interested in is matching pitch: Can you sing back a note you hear?
In the past this first step was actually quite difficult to practice, and in fact many music teachers wouldn’t bother with it. If you could naturally match pitch you were “musical” and could join the choir. If not… Well, maybe music wasn’t for you.
The determined student might sit at a piano, playing notes and practicing trying to sing them back. They typically struggle though, as without any kind of feedback you can’t tell if you’re making progress. If you have a good ear for pitch you can master the voice control with this method, but if you struggle on both points then you can never really get started!
Fortunately, these days there’s a tool which makes it easy to develop both your sense of pitch and your voice control all in one. And again, it’s a tool you probably already have. If not, you can get one for a dollar, or free online.
A digital tuner is intended for making sure an instrument is tuned correctly. But what’s interesting for pitch ear training is that modern tuners normally give you a helping hand in two ways: they show you not just whether you’re in tune but also how sharp or flat you are, and they let you play an example of the target note so you know what you’re aiming for.
This makes a digital tuner the perfect tool for beginning pitch ear training! Here’s how it works:
1. Set a target note on the tuner (e.g. A).
Note: Most tuners will work if you sing in a different octave than the target note but it’s easiest if you can choose a note that’s in your comfortable singing range.
2. Have the tuner play the note.
3. Try to hear the note in your head. This is called “auralising” and it’s a useful bridge from hearing music to performing it: hear, imagine, play.
4. Sing the note. Watch the tuner and see if you’re too high or low, and then gradually adjust your pitch until you hit the target note.
The first few times you try this exercise it will take some experimentation. You’ll need to find notes which are in a comfortable range for you to sing back. If you haven’t done much active listening or auralising before, you may not yet have a very “vivid” ability to imagine hearing notes. If you don’t consider yourself a singer, the final step of gradually adjusting your pitch will take some practice and you may find you need to slide your pitch quite considerably before you get close enough to the target note for the tuner to show helpful feedback.
Persist through these initial barriers and practice this exercise for 5 minutes each day as part of your regular music practice and you will quickly see a surprising improvement in your ability to match pitch with your voice.
Once you have this core ability, your voice becomes a powerful tool for exploring pitch.
[Reprinted From: http://makingmusicmag.com]