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Blog » Knowing The Sounds Of Music: "Training" The Ear
An important aspect of any music learning is training the ear to know the sounds of music, or what some call the "content" of music. The two basic content areas are tonal (the pitches or tones that we sing and play) and rhythm (the place in time that we place pitches and other sounds).
Although we often refer to "ear training" when we learn the sounds of music, what really is occurring is "brain training". We are teaching the brain to remember and recognize musical patterns that make up the songs and compositions we hear. Children are taught to listen to the patterns, move to them, sing them, play them on instruments, recognize them in music, remember them, and tell them apart from other patterns—all of which is training the ear, and, thus, training the brain.
Helping children to know the sounds of music is much like helping children know the sounds of language. Knowing the shapes and sounds of individual letters is useful in language learning, but little can be communicated with that knowledge alone. Brain training in language is achieved when it processes letters into meaningful patterns to form words and when it processes words into meaningful patterns to form phrases and sentences. Likewise, we don't know much about sounds in music when we encounter individual beats or pitches. But by "training the ear" to process individual sound events into patterns and groups of patterns, we lay the foundation for achievement in music and the associated benefits to intellectual growth.
For an extended discussion of musical patterns see:
Gordon, Edwin. Learning Sequences in Music: [Skill, Content, and Patterns:] A Contemporary Music Learning Theory, 2007 Edition. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2007.
Gordon, Edwin. Music Learning Theory for Newborn and Young Children, 2003 Edition. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2003.