As a keyboard and music teacher, one of the things I tend to harp on about with my students is to “use your ears.” Clearly, learning to sight read, understanding theory and practicing repertoire are important. However, really HEARING and INTERNALIZING what you play – melodic intervals, harmonies (I often refer to harmony as “colors”), even phrases that repeat within a piece – will boost your musicianship tremendously. Don’t misunderstand me – ear training is a process but it is certainly attainable and rewarding. Probably the best way to develop your ear is to sing while you play. Literally sing the lyrics if there are lyrics, or hum the main melody lines of an instrumental piece. HEAR what you’re singing and playing. I do this with all my students. This connects you to the music at a much deeper level…trust me on this one!
This morning I came across this article which resonates with my ear development philosophy. The website is geared towards jazz and improvisation, but can certainly be applied to music education in general. Check it out for some ear practice tips, but above all – SING!