Tuner or not, students must listen. How do you teach pitch perception?

This is definitely one of the most challenging things to teach…and learn! In my rookie days , I felt teaching tuning was the primary objective, but I soon realized that not everyone is ready …or, more accurately, prepared to learn. Certainly the mechanics (tuning to” the piano, 5th fret, harmonics etc) can be intellectually grasped, ears need to be taught how to listen. This can be done through focused listening activities tied to daily repertoire and technique.

There is ample opportunity to focus their attention to what students are hearing as they play. “Does this melody rise (go higher) in pitch?” When introducing the notes on each string do “play backs” – hide your hand behind your stand. Challenge them to identify the sound of major, minor chords and dominant 7th chords , I IV I, I IV V, I V I progressions. The “light bulb” moment for a student occurs when they approach you and say “my guitar doesn’t sound in tune”. When they can hear that it is out of tune, then they are really ready to tune “by ear”. Until then, electronic, clip on tuners are the way to go. Kids seem to have an innate grasp of electronic gadgets. Have a few available and teach them how to use them while training their ears.
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