Ear Training Help for EarTestonline

Go to EarTestonline.

Go to EarTest Technical Help.

What It's All About

EarTestonline is designed to put into effect one ear training exercise suggested by David L. Burge in his course for acquiring perfect pitch. Burge teaches the each note of the scale has a certain "pitch color". By learning the notes one by one, beginning with only two notes, C and D, and adding them one by one (E, F, G, A, B, etc.), the student can learn to distinguish the pitch colors of the various notes.

An important part of this process occurs when a mistake is made. Suppose you thought the note played was C, and it was in fact F. Then you should play C and F alternately, several times, carefully listening and comparing the pitch colors of the two notes. By doing so, the student will gradually learn to distinguish the pitch colors of the different notes.

Whether perfect pitch can be learned or taught is a controversial subject. Many musicians (Hindemith, for instance) believe that it can be taught; others hold just as firmly to the opinion that it cannot. My own opinion is that it is not true that perfect pitch ability is a binary sort of thing (ie, either you have it or you don't). Rather it is a continuum of abilities, ranging from tone deaf Uncle Clyde, who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, all the way to the incredible aural ability of a Mozart.

Those of us in the middle of the ear training ability continuum may never develop abilities the equal of Mozart. But we might edge away from Undle Clyde a little bit, and maybe even quite a little bit.

I myself have not developed perfect pitch using the Burge method. But my ear has improved significantly and I feel that the Burge exercises are responsible for much of this improvement.

If You Don't Believe in Perfect Pitch . . .

If you learn the notes in the order suggested, the first notes learned are those of the C major scale. Practicing with EarTestonline will strengthen your feeling for a tonal center and help you better understand the function of a relationship between the different notes of the scale. After the C major notes are learned, the black notes are added in circle of fifths order. This encourages you to hear them, as, for instance the leading tone of V (F#), the leading tone of II (C#) etc.

Thus, even if you don't feel you are learning perfect pitch, you are making some good advances in you relative pitch training. The EarTest exercise, is in fact designed to do both at once.

How to Practice

Start with C and D. Select all four octaves (this is the default). As soon as you can consistently get 95% accuracy (many streaks of 20 or more in a row correct), add E. When you can get 95% accuracy in C, D, and E, add F. Proceed in this way, adding the notes in the order suggested on the EarTestonline page.

You should use a sound on your synthesizer that you are used to hearing. If you are a pianist, use a piano sound. Organists, use organ sounds, etc. (The Technical Help Page suggests ways to change your synthesizer patch.) You have spent many hours listening to your primary instrument, and this will be extremely helpful in detecting pitch color, which is very subtle. The ideal situation is to practice using your own, live instrument. Next best is a sampled patched based on that instrument. Third best is a purely synthesized sound resembling your instrument.

Consistent practice is important. Fifteen minutes daily would be ideal.

You can order the Burge Perfect Pitch Course for somewhere around US$100-$200. It is full of tips and advice, and well worth the money if you are serious about developing your ear. The course is advertised often in music magazines.

Go to EarTestonline.

Go to EarTest Technical Help

The keeper of this page is Brent Hugh (BHugh@CSTP.UMKC.EDU ). Feel free to email him with any questions about, problems with, or complaints regarding the page.

More Info

Below is in the information and instruction file for the DOS version of EarTest. Some of the information duplicates that above. However, it is more detailed and might be helpful. As time goes on I will integrate this with the above information. For now, you get it raw. Hope it helps.

EarTest 1.2 General Information File

General background

EarTest is a computerized ear training program.  It is more or less
designed according to the principles of the David L. Burge Perfect Pitch
course (I emphasize "more or less" here--let's not have any copyright
infringement going on!). If you want the full scoop, you'll have to buy the
David L. Burge tapes, which are widely advertised in music publications. I
highly recommend purchasing the tapes if you are going to dive in and do
this.  Although the purchase price was rather high, I found the tapes to be
well worth their price. 

The basic idea presented by Burge (which, I hasten to add, can't be
copyrighted) is that each note has a certain "pitch color".  This simply
means that each pitch has a certain "sound" or "tone quality" that
distinguishes it from all other pitches. "Pitch colors" and regular colors
are similar in that both are difficult to describe but quite obvious once you
see them (or rather *hear* them, in the case of pitches). 

Once you have heard these "pitch colors" and realize that they really
exist, it is a matter of practice until you can recognize the "pitch
colors" of all the different notes in all registers and on all different
instruments.  The best way to practice is with a partner.  It can be
difficult to find a partner, though.  This is where EarTest comes in--it
is your computerized ear-training practice partner!

EarTest puts into practice two of the main exercises for
gaining perfect pitch: single notes (it plays a note and you must 
respond) and chords (it plays a major chord and you must play the 
lowest note of the chord). In both exercises, the notes at the 
beginning are selected from only a couple of notes in a 
restricted range.  Gradually you work towards learning all
twelve notes over the entire range used in music.

How to practice
Start EarTest.

When you first start, you will use the notes C and D.
Practice on the middle four octaves of the keyboard (octaves 3-6).  
Select the patch on your synthesizer that is most similar to the
instrument you most often play.  For instance, if you are a pianist, 
choose a patch for a piano sound; if you are a French Hornist, 
choose a patch for a French Horn sound.

Once you have chosen all the options, the computer will play you a note.  Respond
with the note you heard.  If you get the answer right,
the computer plays you another note and you continue.  If you get the answer
wrong, the computer will play you both notes--the note it played and the
incorrect answer you gave--several times so that you can compare the "pitch
colors" of the two notes.  This most important part of this ear training
exercise--listen carefully to the two notes and compare them, so that the next
time, you will more readily identify the pitch color and you will get the
right answer (or at least you will get it more often!).

So you continue with the exercise, getting some right and some wrong, always
listening for the "pitch color" but never getting too uptight if you're not
sure you hear it.

When you can consistently get 95% correct on two notes (C and D), select three
notes (C, D, and E).  When you can get 95% correct on three notes, select four
notes, and so on.

Don't worry too much about whether you're hearing the "pitch colors"; that is,
don't stay on a certain level just because you don't think you can hear the
"pitch colors".  Always be listening for the pitch colors, but when you can
get 95% on a certain level, go on to the next level regardless of hearing
"pitch colors" or not.

If you have had any experience with (relative pitch) ear training, you will
whiz right through the first several levels.  After a while, you will get
stuck and go much slower.  This is normal--just keep with it, and eventually
you will get unstuck.

You don't need to practice too long each day, but you should try to practice
*every* day without fail.  Fifteen minutes a day is an ample amount at first;
later on you can practice as much as a half hour a day if you want to, but
certainly no more!

After you have mastered all twelve notes on the middle four octaves of the
keyboard, you should expand the range.  The very high and very low notes are
more difficult, and it will take you a while to master them, even though you
can do those in the middle of the keyboard quite easily.  You can select
different ranges in the "Choose Octaves to Practice" menu.  Begin with "The
four middle octaves of the keyboard".  When you can do all twelve notes with
95% accuracy there, then choose "The middle six octaves of the keyboard".
When you achieve 95% accuracy there, choose "The full piano keyboard (seven

(Note: I am assuming you are working with a piano patch here.  If you are
working with a patch for different instrument, it may not sound good, or even
be recognizable, on the full range I have described above.  Nevertheless, the
principle remains the same: start with a smaller range, and gradually work up
to the full range of the instrument.  There are several choices on the "Choose
Octaves to Practice" menu that should allow you to do this.)

Once you have mastered the full range of your instrument, it is time to try
different instruments.  I would start out with an instrument
that is quite similar to your own, and then work out to more exotic ones.
When you first start working on a different instrument, you may find that you
have to restrict the range again, and the gradually work out to the full

Once you can recognize all notes in all ranges on all instruments, you have
perfect pitch!  Congratulations!

A few miscellaneous notes
When you are answering, *octave* is irrelevant.  The reason for this is that
the "pitch color" of all Cs--high, low, or middle--is very similar, and the
same goes for all Ds, Es, Fs, etc.  It is sort of like dark red, normal red, 
 and light red--each is slightly different, but all are basically the same.  

You will notice that the notes the computer plays are quite long. I did this on
purpose.  The most important time you spend using this program is the time you
spend *listening*.  Even if you instantly know the right answer--*especially*
if you instantly know the right answer!--spend the time to listen carefully to
the note the full time it is being played.  This is where you will learn
something from this program.  If you are just constantly in a rush to push the
right button, you probably won't learn anything!

EarTest was written because I looked all over the net to find something like
it and didn't!  Ear training is fundamental to the education of every music
student.  As musicians begin to make more use of computers, EarTest (and/or
another similar programs) should be used in every music studio by every music
student.  Computers can make it easy and fun to do the repetitive drill
necessary to develop a good ear.

EarTest is better than commercial programs that do the same thing, because it
is free!  Not only do you save a few bucks at the outset, but you can (legally
and lawfully) give students and friends a copy of EarTest so they can practice
at home on their own computer and MIDI keyboard.  Try doing *that* with a
commercial program!

 . . .