Music Teacher's Helper Blog

New Online Workout for the Ears

Theta Music Trainer has designed an online “ear trainer” that provides thirty 10-15-minute workout sessions. The system recommends game levels for players based on the scores of previous workout sessions. This added intelligence makes it easy for players (and teachers) to track progress and continues to provide challenges to motivate and in turn, boost skills.

What you will find:

~Concise explanations of the fundamentals of music
~Rationale of why mastering these drills can enhance the skills needed to function as a soloist and/or band musician
~Reports of individual progress
~Clever games with sophisticated graphics that train the ear in…

1) Melody:

  • Paddle Pitch–the format echoes the days of  Atari, the listener must determine the scale tone heard
  • Melodic Drops–melodic interval training
  • Parrot Phrases–melody playback  or call and response

2) Harmony

  • Harmonic Balloons–recognition of harmonic intervals
  • Chord Locks–although it has some quirks, this is the first game that I have seen that asks to identify the chord quality, inversion and its function within a key–love it!
  • Tone Trees–chords, their roots and inversions are reviewed
  • Phrase Fitter–another favorite but tricky, players are asked to choose the chord to fit (harmonize) the melody–necessary skill for any musician.
  • Speaker Chords–listeners must click on the correct order of chords within common progressions

3) Rhythm

  • Rhythm Puzzle–match the rhythm heard to its notation

4) Sound

  • Sound Channels–innovative game for players to match instrument names to their sounds. The graphics transport the player to a soundboard–again another example of how Theta Music Trainer has attempted to simulate real-life skills.

~The Progress and Training Reports keep track of scores and customize lessons to suit the needs of the player.

~Graphics cross over generations, however the games seem to be geared for those in middle school to adult with knowledge of music notation.

~Highly creative, interactive games designed specifically to build skills for playing by ear on the guitar or piano or both.

~Unique games that simulate specific challenges one might encounter as a band member, improviser, song writer…

What you may miss:

~Careful Sequencing of Concepts

1) Early levels are slightly more difficult for beginners than preferred. Ex: the first level in Rhythm Puzzle includes 8th notes, triplets, 8th note rests.

2) When beginning Tone Trees, a scale is played but the chords assigned to play are not within that scale. It would be more helpful if trainees were asked to play chords within the scale heard.

~Quality of Design:

1) In Rhythm Puzzle, the puzzle pieces overlap, coupled with a time limitation, this seems more difficult than necessary.

2) When playing Paddle Pitch it is easy to guess the next pitch number to be played by looking at the angle of the ball and therefore a player can be successful without using the ear. Perhaps disguising the path of the ball more would keep players from relying on eyes more than ears.

3) In some of the games, ex: Chord Locks, it would be helpful to have an option to repeat the sound of the tonic pitch. The assigned chord root name is given but it would be more helpful to develop the trainees’ ear if the tonic was heard as well. When asked to identify a chord function within a key, a tonal relationship must be established.

4) Progress reports could be more concise.  A single line graph is provided that reflects scores of all games played in each category. It would be more helpful to see a separate progress line graph for each game.

Cost and Format

~A monthly subscription runs $7.95 per month or $54 for a year. The course features 30 carefully- structured workout sessions.  It is expected that players will see a noticeable improvement within this 30-session program and can opt for a one month fee. However, those who aim to train seriously, will most likely need more time and repetition of the course to develop the desired skills.  The flexibility to subscribe by month or by the year caters to any level of player.

~There are advantages to an online subscription opposed to a CD-rom: new games can be added, while others can be modified in response to subscribers’ needs. It is hoped that Theta Music Trainer will provide fine customer support and continue to upgrade their product.


Recently, I acquired a new adult student with no musical background who aspires to play favorite songs by ear. He also realizes that he must develop his reading skills along with his knowledge of chords and scales.  As this motivated student forges ahead, I look forward to seeing how these workout sessions shape-up his listening skills and help him achieve his goal–creating music to (and through) his ears.

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  1. Jason Bernstein

    Hey thanks for posting this. There are so many great online resources these days that one can access for free, the secret is finding a way to weed out the useless and get your students to actually use the useful ones. I’ve been compiling a list that might be interesting to you and some of your readers: List of Useful Music Websites I will certainly be back to read more. Thanks!

  2. Leila Viss

    Jason–thanks for your helpful list. Sifting through online resources is tiresome–I appreciate your efforts and your willingness to share with all of us!

  3. Rebecca Bogart

    This sounds like a useful resource. I’d like to also recommend another website that I have used extensively for more than a year now. Called, it has outstanding coverage of early level concepts. It covers keyboard layout, aural pitch recognition, visual pitch recognition, rhythm, both visual and aural, intervals both visual and aural, scales and key signatures, chords (major, minor, inversions) both visual and aural, and some harmonic dictation. The harmonic dictation area focuses on the primary triads only. Finally there is a section on musical terms.

    I use this site with all of my beginning students. It is developmentally appropriate for ages 4+, although someone has to read the directions to a non-reader, and very occasionally the games require too much mousing skills for younger students. There is a huge variety of game format and a tremendous number of games presented. The only negative I would offer is that it is time consuming to create and monitor student assignments. However, I have felt that it is well worth the effort because every young student I have is learning to read successfully as well as developing a good ear – OUTSIDE lesson time. Hallelujah!!

  4. Leila Viss

    Thanks Rebecca. Yes, Music Learning Community is great for my students as well. If you are interested in learning about more computer software checkout

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