To be a true artist and singer you need to be able to hear music, not just know the names and analyze it by note. This goes for learning music and practicing your singing.
We should be to splitting up our practice time in a way that develops and exercises both the left and the right sides of the brain. With this approach when we're practicing we'll be spending time learning new concepts that need to be processed by the left analytical side (as in learning music theory) and also spending time exercising your ear which is the right side of brain. Hearing the music on a deep level allows expression from inside ourselves and our emotions.
Make sure to divide up your time and try not to mix the two together too much in the beginning. Separate out analytical processing of new information which is critical to absorbing so that you can be free enough to not have to consciously think about it to express. You want to move from a conscious process to a sub conscious one which is where the real singing and music is going to come from!
Ear training is something that we should and can always be doing. Hearing music on a deep level is an ability that if practiced even for a few minutes a day can grow very quickly and continue to grow throughout our lifetime. The easier it is for you to hear music the easier it will be for you to express yourself, have more fun, and for you to truly be free as a musician and singer!
Believe it or not there are only 12 notes in music. If you can learn to hear these 12 notes, understand them and how they relate to the songs in the music that you’re working with, the more freedom you will have improvising, making songs your own and even creating your own songs. When it comes to creating your own music the ear is the most important skill that you can have, much more important in my opinion than being able to read and write music (helpful but not necessary.)
The first thing that I would recommend for you to do to build your ear is to start critically listening to music, not just the music overall but each individual instrument.
Try to focus in on what each instrument is doing and you may find at first that certain instruments are easier to hear than others. For instance some people can hear higher frequencies I like guitar, piano, vocals but they have trouble hearing the bass or drums.The good news is that as you critically focus in on each element your ear and brain will develop the ability to cut through the rest of what’s happening and hear each instrument clearly! I also want you to start recording yourself improvising. Take any song and freely sing to it. One great exercise I’ve had a lot of success with when working with different singers is to sing along with your favorite instrumental. (YouTube is great for this because you can find instrumentals of almost any song that you’re listening to minus the lead vocal.) There are different ways you can go about doing this but the best way where we are really building our improvisational skills is to just take to any Vowel, whatever your favorite easy sound is and sing throughout your range and just move it around.
The goal of this exercise is to make your own creative choices, not just a copy what someone else did.
So what I would do is start with learning the notes that are compatible with that song. Every song that you hear and every vocal part you hear (whether the singer knows the names of the notes and the scales or not) are from specific scale notes that are compatible with that song. A singer with a really good ear may not know the names of these notes but their ears are good which allows them to hear what works and make things up. The ultimate ability is to be able to hear the music and also know WHAT we’re hearing. This activates both sides of the brain so they’re working together. I encourage you to prioritize building your ear and going after what SOUNDS GOOD, rather than getting overly caught up in the intellectual aspects.
As a Vocal Coach, Guitar, Bass, Keyboard and Songwriting Teacher I help people work on hearing music on a deeper level so that you can find the notes and the sounds that work in any given situation as well as to be able to create their own ideas in a fluid manner. I also help singers and musicians learn the names of what they're hearing. This really helps us build our individual style because it’s not just hearing it, it’s knowing what it is we're hearing, so that we can find our way to the sounds we like.
It’s a big world of music out there with many different styles and each style uses this theory in a different way. By knowing the names of what you're attracted to, you can more easily find the colors to paint with in any given situation.
I hope you found these free tips helpful. If you want to work with me one on one to develop your ear, singing and musicianship you can Contact me to schedule a Skype session or in person lesson in Oakland and Berkeley if you're in the San Francisco Bay Area.