Aural Skills

Essential basic skills: sample assignments

  1. Sight-sing parts of the following type of ensemble pieces. Find the key with a tuning fork or an instrument, but otherwise practise without an instrument.
  1. Listen to the following example and write down the clarinet in the first 9 bars without an instrument. (The key is D, notated in F in the clarinet part and in the score.)
  • W. A. Mozart: Clarinet Quintet in A: K. 581, II movement
  1. Listen and recognise chords in the previous musical example and write them down in chord degrees or chord symbols. Check your results with the score. (II movement starts on page 11.)

If you find it difficult to notate melodies and chords by hearing, start by writing down familiar melodies from memory and harmonise them using a piano or another instrument, if needed. (See "Comments per instrument".) Practise at least until you are fluent in writing melodies from memory, and then proceed to transcribing from recordings. Start with melodies that have simple harmonies and a slow harmonic rhythm, such as

  • Giuseppe Verdi: Gilda's aria "Caro nome" from the opera Rigoletto (from the start of the aria after the introduction, bars 1–8). Sheet music (p. 212 in the file).
  • Franz Schubert: Der Lindenbaum (Winterreise D. 911, no 5.), from the start of the vocal entry to the end of the section in the major key. Sheet music
  1. Read rhythms from musical examples that include rests, syncopation and subdivisions (tuplets). Learn to transcribe rhythm by ear from similar music examples. The following examples are suitable for either reading or transcription:
  • Piotr Tchaikovsky: Violin concerto, I movement. (Read/transcribe the violin solo starting from the main theme, after the fermata in bar 28.)
  • Herbert Lindholm: Flautoduet no 1 op. 46a. (Also suitable for two-part rhythm reading.)
  • Toivo Kuula: Tuijotin tulehen, the sequence beginning with the lyrics "Liiteli suviset linnut" (Poco più mosso, b. 20, at around 1:10 min from the beginning).
  • ​Einojuhani Rautavaara: Lähtö. (Score not available online. Published in the choir music collection SULASOL: Sekakuorolauluja II.)

Recommended skills

  1. Sight-sing music that includes various types of chromaticism and modulations, and also examples of modal music. Practise part singing: learn to sing in an ensemble or to sing one part and play another one.
  1. Sing the bass lines in instrumental music, for example, from pieces in your instrumental repertoire. Simplify parts and change octaves, if necessary. It is also useful to sing chords vertically to get an aural image of the harmony.
  1. Learn to recognise chords and write down melodies by ear also from music that features chromaticism:
  • Fernando Sor: Deux Thèmes variés et 12 menuets op. 11, the theme. (Sheet music.)
  1. Read rhythm from piano and chamber music parts. Practise in an ensemble too – in pairs and small groups. Study various repertoire and also contemporary music:

​There is no fixed time limit for completing these exercises. Initially, concentrate on finding your way to solve and practise the exercises. For your musicianship studies to really benefit your practical musicianship, you also need sufficient fluency and confidence. Completing the first melody and harmony transcriptions in c. 15 minutes already means rather fluent skills. The fluency of the student's skills affects the score in the entrance exam. In professional studies, the goal is to become fluent with complex melodies and rhythms and with the aural analysis of harmony, too, and to employ them in practical musicianship.


Creative Commons License

Sheet music examples on this page are taken from IMSLP - Petrucci Music Library. Licence: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Licence.

// ]]>