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Functional Ear Trainer
Software Review
By Shawn Bradshaw

If you are a musician, the most important part of your anatomy has to be your ear. And you should make every effort to develop your ear to the utmost. There are a lot of tools available to help you do this. From books on sight reading, to various computer programs that test your ability to hear different aspects of music. Once such program is called the "Functional Ear Trainer".

Functional Ear Trainer is a program that was originally written by musician/computer programmer Alain Benbassat to help improve his own ear. And now he is very generously offering this program to the general public as free download on his website. (http://www.miles.be/)

Here is how it works. The program will play a cadence of chords to help your ear establish a key center. The program will then play a random note. You have to name what note has been played based on how you hear it in the context of key. Hence the name of the program…"Functional Ear Trainer". You are learning how to hear notes in relationship to the key that they are being played in.

While that is the basic idea of how the program works, there are a few features that help you customize your ear training experience. First you can choose to work with any major or minor key. You can choose to work with random keys, or stick with one at a time. You can also choose what notes that you want the program drill you on. If you are new to ear training, you might choose to have the program only drill you on a couple of different notes. As your ear develops you can keep adding more notes until you have all 12 note possibility. The program includes some preset options for which notes you will be tested on, but they are just a convenience and you are not limited to only those sets of notes.

The next option that you have is how you want the program to establish the tonality of the key for you. The default setting is to have the program play a I-IV-V-I in major, or i-iv-V-i in a minor key. Or for a more Jazz oriented cadence, there is a IIm7-V7-Imaj7 for major, and a iim7(b5)-V7-i in minor. There is also the option of playing just the I chord of the key, or just the root. Or there is even the possibility of having the program not play any cadence at all.

You can either view choices for the answers as the actual note names, or as solfeggio syllables (do, re, mi, etc.). Alain also supplies good documentation for the program, and helpful suggestions on how to practice using the Functional Ear Trainer.

Functional Ear Trainer is a great program, and I strongly recommend that everyone download this and use it as part of your daily practice. There are a lot of ear training programs out there that do more, but I have not seen many that test your ear to hear notes in the context of a key. And in a real world situation, that is a very important skill to have.

You can download this program for FREE here.

Rating - 5 out of 5



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