Pedagogy Corner

Pedagogy Corner: Get those ears working!

This month we look at some fun ideas for incorporating ear training into your classes.

By Cynthia Kinnunen and Angela Dwyer

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Making music involves a number of different skills, which is why we employ a variety of teaching strategies to help our students learn. A big part of it should definitely be using our ears! Give your class lots of opportunity to work them by incorporating ear training elements into your lessons. Here are a few ideas you can use right away.

Name that chord

Build pitch recognition by standing with your back to the class and playing a chord that they know. See who can be the first one to name and play that chord. You can do this with notes, too!  

Crawling up the neck 

Play chords for Skip to my Lou in key of F (or G for D6) have class sing. Those chords are F and C or C7, by the way! Then use barre chords to move up the neck one step — chromatically — to change keys, using the V7 chord of the next key to transition and give students the clue to the next key. Let the students lead the singing into that new key.

Repeat after me

Echo picking and echo singing are great ways to have your students use their ears. They can be exercises on their own or you can use them for introducing new songs in small, manageable chunks by singing or playing 2 – 4 measures at a time and having the class sing or play back after you.

What comes next?

Begin playing a familiar tune and stop before a chord transition. Ask students to figure out what chord comes next? This can be a great introduction to looking at common chord progressions and songwriting, too!

Sing me harmony

If scales are getting tired, ask students to sing a sound (“loo” is a good one) a third or fifth above each note as they play through the scale. This also reinforces singing and playing together.

Share your own ideas for ear training in your classrooms in the comments!


The New Ukulele Program Starter Kit

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• The C-Chord Trap (And How to Avoid It)
• Detailed Sample lesson plan
• Top 10 Reasons to Choose Ukulele
• Parent letter template
• Two fun Songs to teach Right Away
• Easy Pickin’s: Melody for Beginners
• Words of wisdom from ukulele teachers around the world

and much more!