Ear training apps for your smartphone or tablet are portable, take anywhere tools you can use to improve your musical skills. Whether you are on your commute, lunchbreak, waiting to pick up your kids from practice, or just enjoying a few minutes of downtime, you can practice and improve your ear anytime, anywhere. Here are a few of my favorite apps for ear training.
1. Functional Ear Trainer
Maker: Kaizen9 Apps
Stats: Free, with in-app purchases from $.99 to $15.99. On Google Play App Store: 100,000 + downloads, 4.8 average rating with over 6,000 reviews.
Functional Ear trainer is a relative pitch app more than anything else, but I like this because relative pitch is one of the most useful skills you can develop as a musician. Through this app, you learn to identify the scale degree in the context of a particular key. For example, you learn to recognize the 3rd degree of the C major scale instead of learning to identify an E note outside of any context.
The app is based on the Alain Benbassat program, “Functional Ear Trainer” and is basically an app version of the Benbassat program. After you master the C major scale, you can then move to random major scales, minor scales, chromatic scales, and more. You don’t have to be able to read music to use this program. It has a simple interface that anyone can use, making it great for kids and adults alike.
I enjoyed using this app and will continue practicing with it. I aced the major scale section, did well on the minor scales, and was at times humbled when it came to chromatics. I could use some practice in this area.
If you want to improve your relative pitch, this is a great app. It is not a full ear training program and does not offer every type of ear training available. What it does, however, it does extremely well and is therefore highly recommended.
- Easy for anyone to use
- Does not require sight reading
- Perfect for learning relative pitch in the context of a particular key
- Limited to relative pitch and scale degrees only, although it does this extremely well.
2. Perfect Ear Trainer
Stats: Free, with in-app purchases. On Google Play App Store: 1 million plus downloads, 4.7 average rating, with over 44,000 reviews.
Perfect Ear Trainer is a feature packed app with many different functions including ear training, rhythm exercises, drills, and music theory articles. Although I will focus only on the ear training aspect of the app, the additional features would prove useful to musicians of all types as well.
The ear training section is divided into intervals, scales, and chords sections. The interval section includes lessons and games in the following areas: introduction to intervals, interval comparison, interval identification, interval singing, and interval reading.
The scale section focuses on an introduction to scales, scale identification, melodic dictation (in this you input the melody you just heard), and scale reading. There are lots of lessons and exercises to help you improve and track your progress.
The chords section features an introduction to chords, chord identification, chord inversions, chord progressions, and chord reading. I especially liked the chord progression section as this is an area some of the other apps I tried seemed to leave out.
Understanding chord progressions and being able to identify them is extremely important. This section of the app will help you develop this skill.
An additional drills section lets you practice sight reading, absolute pitch, and note singing. A fretboard trainer is also included for guitarists.
Exercises are customizable, allowing you to create custom scales, chords, and chord progressions. Plus you can perform the exercises with either a piano or guitar interface; definitely a plus. Simply go to the Instruments and Sound Packs section and choose guitar or piano.
Overall, this app is really easy to use and navigate. There is a lot of content, so much so that beginners may have trouble knowing what areas to focus on. However, if you start with ear training and start at the beginning, you will find many tools to help you improve as a musician.
- Lots of features and many types of lessons and exercises
- Ability to customize exercises
- Ability to use a guitar interface or piano interface on the lessons
- Well rounded.
- So much content that inexperienced users may not know what areas they should focus on.
3. Complete Ear Trainer
Maker: Binary Guilt Software
Stats: Free, with in-app purchases. A one-time purchase of $2.99 unlocks all of the features. On Google Play App Store: 100,000 + downloads, 4.6 average rating with over 2,400 reviews.
Complete Ear Trainer is an excellent app that is both fun and easy to use. It has more of a video game like feel than the other apps I tried. Kids, as well as competitive users, will find this fun and engaging. You can share your scores and compare them to your friends’ scores. There’s also an arcade mode which has lots of exercises in a fun, arcade-style setting.
There is so much ear training content on this app, including 150+ drills, over 4 different levels, with 28 chapters; twenty-four different intervals, thirty-six chord types, chord inversion lessons, twenty-eight scales, melodic dictations, and lessons on chord progressions. I liked that the exercise examples are in different octaves and the drills have quality grand piano samples.
In each new chapter, a theory card goes over the concepts discussed, making sure you understand what you need to know to complete the lesson. I found this to be a really helpful overview.
Ear Trainer is a great app, with an excellent interface, well thought out design, and lots of different types of lessons and exercises. It has something for everyone, from beginner to highly advanced, and is highly recommended.
- Lots of great content
- Has a video game like structure that many will enjoy
- Well thought out, with an intro tutorial for each section
- Easy to understand and navigate
- You can share your scores and compare them to your friends’ scores
- None that I could find
4. The Ear Gym – Ear Trainer
Maker: Francisco P.
Stats: Free, On Google Play App Store: 10,000 + downloads, 4.8 average rating.
Ear Gym – Ear Trainer is a great app which focuses on learning to identify and understand intervals, chords, harmony/analysis, and more. The interval section includes interval identification, interval comparison, interval singing, interval reading, interval construction, and interval inversion.
Within each section, you can choose which intervals you would like to work with. Choices range from perfect unison to double octave. You can also study both ascending and descending intervals, a feature some of the apps I tried didn’t include, as well as harmonic or melodic intervals.
The chords section features twenty-nine different chord types, as well as lessons about harmony, harmony analysis, and cadences. There are numerous chord exercises which focus on reading, comparison, identification, construction, and inversions of chords.
Also included are clef reading and key identification training sections, as well as perfect pitch ear training.
All in all, this is a great app with a lot to offer musicians of every skill level. I especially liked the Roman numeral chord identification exercises and the cadence identification exercises.
- Great interface
- Specific content which focuses on intervals, chords, harmony/analysis, and more
- At first, it was difficult to notice the additional tabs for content at the bottom of the app interface
- The chord and harmony/analysis tabs were small and hard to see. Once I saw them, however, the app was easy to use and navigate
5. Piano Ear Training Free
Maker: Learn to Master
Stats: Free, but contains ads. Google Play App Store: 1 million + downloads, 3.9 average rating with over 5,000 reviews.
Piano Ear Training Free includes pitch training, interval training, chord distinction, scale identification, melodic dictation, chord progression training, and absolute pitch lessons. The games have different levels, making this a great app for beginners to advanced musicians. You can also choose which aspects to focus on in the games, allowing you to tailor the experience to your particular needs. Each game has its own tutorial which explains what you will be doing and how to get the most out of your time spent.
This app is particularly good in the chord identification section. I like that you can select the arpeggio mode to hear the chord in individual notes. You can also highlight the chord at any point in order to look at and study the chord’s construction. I found the chord type identification game especially addictive. Although I did well on the most common chords, some of the more obscure chords gave me trouble. After reviewing them, however, I started getting them right. I see this as a good indication that anyone from beginners to advanced musicians can learn from this app.
- Well laid out, lots of great content, I especially like the chord identification games
- Ads are kind of annoying
Best Ear Training Apps – In Summary
I hope this article gave you some insight into a few of the best ear training apps available. Download them today and explore what they have to offer. You will certainly find tools to help you develop your ear, grow as a musician, and have a little fun along the way.
About the Author: Nadav Biran is a music producer/audio engineer and the co-founder of Catz Audio a pro audio magazine focused on providing music producers with the latest pro audio news, reviews, interviews, and guides.