Building Your Ear: Tips for Student Musicians from Colin Gatwood, Oboe

Building Your Ear: Tips for Student Musicians from Colin Gatwood, Oboe

For students on any instrument, building your ear is an important part of learning music. Learn more in this blog from Colin Gatwood, Houston Symphony oboe.

Play along with music you love

Pick a piece you like that you find really motivational and challenging. Through this process, you will not only build your ear, but build techniques like scales and arpeggios. Here are a couple of steps to do this:

  1. Find a recording/video (I recommend YouTube) of a piece of music that YOU want to play.
  2. Go to settings in YouTube and slow the speed to half speed in order to hear all of the notes.
  3. Without using printed music, use your ears to figure out what to play.

Nailed It!

It takes time and patience to work up a piece, especially when you are taking the time to build your ear without the music written out. Here are some tips for breaking down the process to learn the music you picked. I’m sure you’ll be saying “Nailed It!” in no time.

  • Setting goals: All good teachers are self-taught with the help of your teacher. One of the main points that an electric guitarist I admire, Steve Vai, emphasized is that when you are working on an instrument, have a goal—have something in mind. Set a goal that’s right for you.
  • Tempo chart: When I practice, I make a tempo chart to help log what I’ve done and work up to a certain tempo.
  • Transcribe your music: To learn this music, it helps to write down the part, or parts, for the music you are learning in order to rehearse passages easier and record yourself.

Practicing Patterns by Ear

Continue building your ear by just practicing patterns and arpeggios. Play along with me—all you need is your instrument and your ears!

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