Melody Ear Training Exercise 1: Identifying Notes in a Scale

Let’s start developing the ability to hear and understand the major scale using relative pitch. I've created a simple game to help you practice this skill. See instructions below. Scroll down below the game for instructions for practicing offline.

It’s useful at this point to label the notes in the scale using numbers instead of letters, because numbers can be applied to any scale. The first note of the scale is “one”, and then it goes up to “seven”, and then above “seven” is another “one”, and this repeats. I highly recommend thinking of the notes in the scale in this way, because this makes it much easier to play music in different keys.

How to play

Step 1:
Click "Play Scale", to familiarize yourself with the sound of the scale. You will here one octave of a major scale (notes 1 to 7, then 1 in a higher octave)

Step 2:
Click "New Random Note" to hear a random note from the scale you just heard.

Step 3:
Guess which note you just heard by clicking the numbers. If you get it right, click "New Random Note". If you get it wrong, you can click "Hear it Again" to hear the same note again, and make another guess.

Have fun!

How to Practice Offline

If you have a practice partner:

Have your partner play the whole scale a couple of times so you can hear how it sounds. This will orient you within the scale so that you can use relative pitch instead of perfect pitch. Now that you’ve heard the scale, your partner will play random notes from the scale and you will guess the number. Did they play the first note? The fifth? Think back to when they played the whole scale and make a guess. If you’ve never done this before, you will get it wrong most of the time. To learn faster, I recommend limiting the number of notes your partner plays. Tell your partner to limit their note choice to just the first three notes of the scale. When you get good at identifying whether your partner played a “one,” “two,” or “three,” then tell them to add the fourth note sometimes. Keep adding notes until you can do this exercise with the whole major scale. This may take weeks or months depending on how often you practice. If you want an extra challenge, have your partner play a melody of two or more notes, and try to guess the sequence that they played.

If you don't have a practice partner:

Just as with a partner, start by orienting yourself within the scale by playing the whole scale a couple of times. Now, write down a random series of numbers from one to seven. If the first number you wrote down was “five,” try to sing the fifth note of the scale. Then check if you are right by playing the fifth note on an instrument. Make a mental note of whether you sang the right note, and then move on to the next number you wrote down. If this is hard (if you are a beginner, it will be), write down a random series of numbers from one to three, so you focus on just the first three notes in the scale. When you get good at that, add four, then five, etc. You can then add the extra challenge of trying to sing more than one note before checking to see if you’ve done it right.

I recommend doing this version of the exercise, even if you have constant access to a partner who is willing to help you practice. Singing the note requires imagining the note in your head, which is different from hearing the note being played. It is good to be able to do both. This version of the exercise might also be harder than the partner version because it requires the use of your singing voice, which can be a difficult instrument to play.