A few years ago I was reading an interview with someone famous who had studied with the late Charlie Banacos. He was a very well known jazz educator who taught both from his own studio in Massachusetts, and also as a faculty member at NEC and other wicked presitgious places. Anyway, this person was describing an ear training excercise that Charlie was having him/her practice as part of their lessons. Basically (so far as I remember) the exercise was this; the student was to play a ii-V-I cadence (Dm7 G7 Cmaj7) on the piano, then close their eyes and play a random note on the piano with the eraser end of a pencil.
So what's happening is that the cadence establishes the key in your ear, and then you are training your ear to hear the "penciled" note relative to that key. The reason for the pencil is that if you simply close your eyes and use a finger, it's pretty easy to tell if you've struck a white key or a black key, and then... that isn't quite as much fun. Once you've mastered one pencil, you can add another pencil and then you have to figure out two notes. Allegedly, Michael Brecker could do this excercise wtih 10 pencils or something. If you've ever heard Michael Brecker shred on an EWI, you would not doubt this. If you have not heard Michael Brecker shred on an EWI, click here.
Anyway, this excercise is pretty cool. As I spend alot of time driving around in my car, I often think about things that I can accomplish with all these surplus hours spent in my Subaru. You know, I'm basically streamling my life. I realized that 'hey I can do my ear training too!" What I've done is record a short example of the ii-V-I cadence and then a note. There is a short space where one can think about what you've just heard, and then deduce the correct answer. After a few seconds, you hear my not-so-sexy baritone anounce the correct note. Easy. I did this in five octaves for all 12 notes for a total of 60 audio clips. I put those 60 "songs" on a CD, and then I would play it on random in my car so that I wouldn't know what was coming next.
For those of you that don't have cars, or CD players for that matter, you can just shuffle theses songs in a playlist in iTunes or your iPhone or your GuyPhone or whatever you use. I might someday follow this up with a two-notes-at-a-time or a three-notes-at-a-time exercise, but it seems like it might be a bit of an ordeal because I think having two or three notes means that all the iterations make for exponentially or logarhythmical more examples? I really don't know because I'm not a mathmetician. I'm a musican. Barely.
download ear training files here