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3 Essential Listening Skills for Playing with Others

How to play music with others ear training

Whether you're looking to start up your own band, enjoy rocking out with your friends, or want to collab with other artists, you must develop an "ear for music".

Music is an incredibly beautiful, complex, and diverse art with a rich history. Taking all of the different genres, instruments, and playing styles into account, as well as any personal flair each musician will bring to the table, developing an ear for music boils down to mastering 3 essential musical listening skills.

While there will be additional skills needed depending on the genre you're playing in, the instruments involved, etc... jamming with other musicians requires a well-developed sense of music or an "ear for music". Refining this craft is essentially a matter of mastering three key elements of music: rhythm, pitch, and terminology.

Mastering Music: Developing a Tight Sense of Rhythm

One of the most fundamental aspects of music, rhythm, refers to the pattern of sounds in relation to time. The time, pace, or tempo of a song is heavily impacted by the time signature. For example, 4/4 is arguably the most prevalent time signature in pop music, if not most genres in the 21st century. In 4/4 time, there are four beats per measure. A rhythm arises from sounds and silences of varying length, measured by the number of beats they occur for.


The most effective way to develop a tight sense of rhythm is to practice, practice, practice! Having a tight sense of rhythm requires that you are able to keep a beat and play to it. This ability will naturally sharpen over time with experience. It may also be worth investing in a metronome.


Mastering Music: Developing a Sense of Pitch

Pitch refers to how high or how low a note is. Having a keen sense of pitch is a vital part of playing with others in order to harmonize with their playing. Without an ear for pitch, you will have trouble keeping up with the jam session. You may also find your bandmates scolding you for playing the wrong notes or even in a whole other key, without you ever really hearing the difference.


Again, practice makes perfect. As you read and play sheet music, you will begin to unconsciously associate different sounds with the notes you're reading. Apps such as pano tuner, where you play into your device's microphone for a real-time reading of what you are playing, may also help refine your sense of pitch.


Mastering Music: Learning the Lingo

A huge part of music is familiarizing yourself with the terminology. Learning the lingo will establish a universal way to direct and communicate what you're trying to play with everyone playing. Again, the terms you'll need to know will vary depending on the type of music you're playing and your instrument, but the five main elements of music melody, harmony, rhythm, form, and expression.


  1. Melody is the succession of pitches played.

  2. Harmony is the sound of simultaneous pitches.

  3. Rhythm is the pattern of sounds in relation to time.

  4. Form is the structure of the music.

  5. Expression is the style of which the music is expressed.

However, it wouldn't hurt to - at the very least - glance over a musical glossary.


Playing music with others, whether you're in a band or simply jamming with friends, requires a developed ear for music. Developing this sense of music is a matter of mastering rhythm, pitch, and learning the lingo. You will inevitably get a hold of these skills over time by practicing, however, there are tools available such as metronomes, chromatic tuners, and musical glossaries that certainly help the learning process.


For lessons and more, don't hesitate to sign up for ArtistWorks. Stay up to date and master the art of music by reading our blog. For more information about ArtistWorks, please contact us.

Purple Box Ear Music Training




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