Learning by Ear


This module will take you through an ensemble aural learning process, from hearing the initial tune to constructing a full performance.

Module Description

Learning a piece of music by ear can be an intimidating challenge to a musician who plays primarily through notation. However, it can also be incredibly freeing for musicians who haven’t learnt through written notation, and can unite a group who have come from a wide range of musical backgrounds: essential in developing an inclusive ensemble community. It’s a great way to sharpen everyone’s musicianship skills.

Aural learning is, of course, an ancient practice, and at the core of how humans have always shared music. We’ve enlisted some help for this module: for the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS), aural learning is at the heart of ensemble performance. The musicians are from EFDSS’s London Youth Folk Ensemble, led by Emily Askew.

In this module, you will learn how to:

  • Teach an accompaniment and melody without using notation
  • Break melodic or rhythmic sections into segments to support everyone to develop their aural musicianship
  • Involve your ensemble in the creative process of constructing a performance using aural learning techniques

This module will cover:

  • Including everyone in aural learning
  • Introducing the tune, the musical context, the musical structure and the tonal context
  • Teaching the accompaniment
  • Teaching the melody
  • Combining melody and accompaniment
  • Developing the accompaniment
  • Developing colour and texture
  • Developing ideas and structure
  • Developing improvisation skills
  • Preparing and polishing a performance
  • Preparing your own learning by ear performance

You will be asked to physically participate in practical conducting activities throughout this module and given opportunities to reflect on your own practice.

 This module will take about three hours to complete.


What you will need:

  • Speakers or headphones
  • Internet access
  • A melody instrument


Module leader: Emily Askew (EFDSS)


FREE thanks to the support of the English Folk Dance and Song Society!