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Step 1 Aural

Daniel June 29, 2021


One of the Five Fundamental Techniques is Aural. This is simply the ability to identify what you hear.

Have you ever noticed that some people can simply listen to a song and then know how to play it? That’s because they have good aural skills. Some people can “naturally” pick up this skill quickly but for others if might require more work and practice – I am one of those people. At first, I had couldn’t identify anything upon listening. But with practice and experience, I improved immensely and can now identify most musical concepts.

Are you thinking “why can’t he identify every musical concept??”

Well, no one’s perfect. I still get things wrong from time to time.

We can improve our aural (a.k.a listening) skills through two main activities; Exercises and experience.

Learning exercises will speed up the process in which you can identify musical concepts. Years of experience playing guitar (and doing these exercises) will enhance your aural skills. After all, being able to identify musical concepts is really just recognising a sound that you’ve heard a thousand times before.

Why Are Aural Skills Important?

This is one of those typical arguments that guitarists have all the time about “do we really need to know theory, sight reading an aural? I’m already an awesome guitarist…”

The short answer is yes – you most definitely do. No matter how good you are, improving your aural skills will make you better.

But don’t take my word for it. Let me explain how beneficial it can be to have good aural skills through an analogy.

My wife is an amazing cook. She makes very popular and sought after desserts like cupcakes, apple crumbles, banana cake and so much more. She’s been offered money for recipes on many occasions and every time she takes something into her workplace, the staff eat all of it. I even charge GFT for anything cooked at home. GFT is the “Good Food Tax” meaning that 10% of anything cooked in my house belongs to me. What can I say, I’m a hungry guy.

She also has an amazing ability to smell a dish and know exactly what’s in it – often from only one whiff. From merely that one whiff, she can even make recommendations like “add a hint of cinnamon” to further improve the flavour. And you know what – she’s always right. Everything is better after she’s made some adjustments to the menu.

Why is this? She has an incredible understanding of the many various flavours and how they interact. This is further enhanced by her ability to identify the flavour without actually tasting the dish.

So, what’s the lesson here? The better we understand the ingredients, the better we’ll be able to use the ingredients. And the ingredients in music are notes, chords, scales, pitch, musical concepts etc.

Good aural skills will:

  • Improve your ability to use sound (and after all, music is just sound)
  • Improve your ability to identify sound
  • Turn you into a musician, not just a guitarist
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