Exercise for Ear Training and Agility for Singers
Being on pitch is something that most singers focus much of their time and attention on. One of the things that impedes your ability to not go sharp or flat can be a lack of musicianship – or an ear that can use some extra training. That’s why having a good ear is very important as a singer. But there are other important factors at play. For example, how well you can negotiate your vocal registers is another BIG factor in a singer’s ability to be on pitch. If you’re not able to bounce across your range and seamlessly go from chest voice to head voice, or mix voice, or even stay in chest voice as you go higher without struggling, your pitch will be affected. The good news is, you can strengthen both at the same time! And, I created an exercise to do just that. Before we dive in, make sure to grab the press-and-play practice track for this exercise HERE.
Why Ear Training Matters
There are a million things you can do to improve your ear and increase your musicianship as a singer. Doing so will help improve your intonation (not going flat or sharp). It will also help you be a more musical singer. Finally, this expertise will help you learn to trust that you can execute what you’re envisioning. So, taking the time to work on exercises that strengthen your ear helps to eliminate some of this stress as a performer. While there’s a lot of other factors at play, being able to take away this one stressor will allow you to relax and more fully trust your body and your voice as a singer.
For these reasons (and a few more), I created an ear training exercise! It’s super straightforward and helps you to not only train your ear but allow you to move across and between your vocal registers. First when you do this exercise you’ll be in a lower range of your voice. There, you will be able to focus on the ear training benefit of it. But as you ascend and go higher, you’re going to be working on strength, balance, control, and coordination across different registers. I love when an exercise addresses more than one important skill!
The Ear Training Exercise
This exercises covers five notes: do, re, mi, fa, and sol (or the first five notes on the diatonic major scale). Again, this can be in any key or any range of your voice. All you’re going to go is to go from scale degree 1-2, then follow it up with these intervals: 1-3, 1-4, 1-5, and then back to 1. Your first aim is to get the pattern. (If you’d like another way to get familiar with this pattern, you can play it on an instrument as well.) If you’re in the key of C for example you’d play: C-D, C-E, C-F, C-G, C. That’s it! As you do this exercise faster or go higher up in your range, it becomes more difficult!
Once you’ve got the pattern down, you’re ready to choose a sound or syllable to sing on. “Go” and “goo” are two of my favorites. After you’ve got the exercise down, sing it across your entire range. Doing so will require you to negotiate your voice registers. As you do the exercise, be mindful to keep your volume the same. Having to go louder or quieter is a clue that you don’t have much strength in your voice. Finally, make sure that you’re focusing on what the exercise actually is. Many singers are used to hearing the triad (1-3-5-8-5-3-1). Instead, this exercise is going up a scale degree at a time. So make sure that the second note you hit is not an interval of a major third which is what you may be used to.
This exercise can be deceptively hard if you do it by the book. It may take time to get used to this scale, but it’s helpful and so important as you build up your ear. Being able to hear something inside and then match that with your singing is critical as a singer! So it’s definitely worth taking the time to learn these trickier skills!