There are all kinds of opportunities to train your ear just walking down the street. I was out in Seattle a couple of weeks ago walking around when I heard the beep, beep, beep of a payloader backing up. C#


My text tone is a C natural, my email F#, my oven timer is an E, and on, and on you get the picture.


But it gets even more fun when you hear all of the different ringtones, social media notifications, and product logo jingles.


Don’t forget the church bells.


And then there’s nature, the almost perfect fourth of the Mourning Dove’s song and the Cardinal’s “birdie, birdie, birdie” (perfect fifth).


There are notes and there is rhythm too. The passing train and the sound of car tires on a bumpy road. The woodpecker, the tiny cricket, and the bullfrog serve as the rhythm section.


I use these sounds to make myself a better musician. I teach my students to do it too.


To listen…really listen!


Is that siren you hear ascending or descending?


Do you hear the clock ticking? That’s 60 bpm on the metronome.


Can you identify the rhythm of the roofer’s nail gun as he works? (Cur-chunka-cur-chunka)


What if the interval of the ding-dong doorbell? What are the notes?


How about your cat’s meow?


If you hear a song while shopping, can you sing it? Can you tell if it’s in a major or minor key? Can you hear the bassline or the chord progression?




I wasn’t blessed with perfect pitch, but after years of playing the violin in school, I can still hear the A 440 in my head. The director always had it blaring over a speaker as we came into the orchestra room. So, using that as a reference point I can usually identify a note. (Do I sound like a music geek or what?).


I tell my students if they hear a tone to sing it and then take a guess. They can see if they got the note right by using a phone app called Tiny Piano. If they hear a rhythm remember it or record it and try to write it down.


But that’s just the beginning. In the next post, I will write about how we use the sounds all around to create our own music.


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