EarMaster, the interactive ear training and music theory software program, is the most comprehensive learning tool I have seen in a very long time.
The developers say:
Covering pitch and rhythm training, music theory and solfege, EarMaster is a complete and powerful ear trainer for all musicians at any level.
The question is, does it live up to the hype?
Getting Started With EarMaster
When first launching the EarMaster program, you arrive at a main menu that asks you to choose which Training Mode, Exercise Area, and input method (piano or guitar interface) you want to start with.
Graphic menu buttons at the top of the interface also allow you to choose what area you want to start with.
The Exercise Areas in the “Standard Tutor” mode are:
- Interval Comparison
- Interval Identification
- Interval Singing
- Chord Identification
- Chord Inversions
- Chord Progressions
- Scale Identification
- Rhythm Reading
- Rhythm Imitation
- Rhythm Dictation
- Rhythm Correction
- Melodic Dictation
Interface and Functionality
Overall the functionality and interface of EarMaster is very intuitive and not hard to figure out at all.
The Exercise Area menu is at the top, the note input menu is on the right, the main learning area is in the middle, and the utilities menu is at the bottom.
It’s laid out perfectly and I don’t think it can be improved upon.
One thing that I didn’t quite like was that when starting a new module, if you don’t hit the “New Question” button, it will automatically start for you after a few seconds.
I would prefer this to not happen as I like to have full control over when I want to begin.
But, a very minor annoyance for sure.
Each area has several lessons which increase in complexity as you progress higher.
For example, the “Chord Progressions” module starts off with identifying major and minor tonic V-I chords.
By the time you get to lesson 20 you are working on modulations to bIII and bVI, with everything in between.
It’s very comprehensive.
Here is the complete Chord Progressions lesson list:
- Identify major and minor tonic in V-I
- Dominants with and without 7
- VIIdim7 in major and minor
- Common dominant – tonic combinations
- Major/minor subdominant (IV) and supertonic (II)
- Various dominant-tonic combinations
- ii-V-I combinations
- ii-V-I and ii-bII-I combinations
- IV-I combinations
- Two mediant combinations
- Four mediant combinations
- Three part plagal cadences
- Extended tonal cadences
- Fifth sequences
- Folk progressions
- Progressions with bVII7(b)
- Interrupted cadences
- Modulations #1
- Modulations #2
- Modulations to bIII and bVI
- Last Step!
And that’s just one Exercise Area. You can see that EarMaster covers a lot of ground.
Scoring and Tracking Progress
Each area has you start a new question, enter your answer, and then check to see how well you did.
A scoring meter at the bottom of the screen shows your correct answer percentage.
If you get a question right, you are congratulated and can proceed to the next question.
If you get a question wrong, EarMaster will tell you so but also show you what the correct answer is.
This seems like a no-brainer, but they do a very good job in terms of graphic design to make your results very clear and easy-to-understand.
There is also a Statistics screen that allows you to see, organized by date, what you worked on and how well you did.
This is an excellent way to see if you’re actually improving or not, and which areas you need to work on.
Jazz Tutor Mode
EarMaster also has a “jazz tutor” mode which you can choose on start up or through the “Change Tutor” option found at the beginning of each lesson and in the main menu.
Jazz Tutor mode works exactly the same way as the normal mode, but many of the exercises are different, geared towards the harmonic and melodic elements that you’ll find common to jazz music.
Unless you are very, very good at music theory, rhythms, and you have a great ear, I recommend you work through the normal mode first.
The only concern I have with EarMaster is in the rhythm modules.
There are several lessons that play a rhythmic example and ask you to play back the rhythm by tapping on the space bar of your keyboard.
Perhaps it’s a latency issue, but no matter how hard I tried there was a very noticeable delay in the time I hit the space bar to the time the beat sounded and was checked against the example.
For the life of me I could not fix the latency problem, resulting in continuously incorrect answers.
I suspect this can be fixed somehow, but I was unable to figure it out.
Pricing and Ordering Information
EarMaster is available in many options including a Pro option, Essentials edition, and several school and academic licensing versions for classroom learning.
The EarMaster Pro 5.0 Internet download version is reasonably priced at $59.99.
Is It Worth the Price?
In a word, absolutely! I was a music theory major in college and the EarMaster program is just as comprehensive as many of the classes I took at the university.
With the only downside I found being the rhythm module, there is hundreds of hours worth of lesson material here to study and self-test on.
I especially recommend this for music students of middle school age up through college, as well as home musicians that are interested in becoming better at music and their instruments.
For more information on how to purchase EarMaster, visit their website – www.earmaster.com.