At 22, I dropped out of music school and was tending bar while I waited for my original band to make it big.
(Spoiler: we didn’t make it big. Heck, we didn’t even make it medium.)
But somewhere in those few years, I met a couple of older, more experienced players who were kind enough to take me under their wing.
They showed me how to make a living in music. They taught me how to work on my craft.
It was through them that I had my first big professional opportunity—suddenly I was surrounded by world-class musicians who had recorded and toured with some of the biggest names in rock and jazz.
I was scared shitless. Totally out of my depth. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
The feeling of being an impostor was overwhelming. These people were operating at a totally different level than me.
I didn’t belong there, but I was determined to work my ass off to try to deserve this lucky break I’d landed.
Every day was a new baptism by fire. I would spend hours preparing for a gig, only to be left in the dust by people who were sight reading the chart for the first time.
I had so many questions I wanted to ask, but didn’t want to tip my hand by admitting how much I didn’t know.
I learned to ask questions couched in terms of how these amazing players taught concepts to their students. Then I’d run home to apply their insights to my own playing.
And along the way, I developed a set of questions I’d ask each time I crossed paths with a musical badass:
I was startled by how consistent the answers were.
Nine out of ten badass musicians said that—more than anything else—music school taught them how to practice.
The vast majority lamented that school didn’t put more emphasis on developing time & feel.
Nearly every one of them rolled their eyes when they talked about the built-in assumption that classical & jazz were the only types of music worth studying.
And when asked where students ought to start, there were four big contenders, roughly in this order (with a bit of overlap):
I’ve studied (and written about) the first three extensively. But the last one? It always gave me trouble.
I tried a dozen different apps, books, and courses, but I never got one to stick, never managed to make significant progress, never felt any carryover into actually making music.
I started by throwing out everything that was mired in the fussy traditions of music school.
How does a modern musician actually use their ears? What terms do they use?
Then I got rid of all the aspects about ear training that I found discouraging.
Do I need to listen to ten minutes of major thirds before I try to identify them? Do I need to compare every interval to some famous melody?
Then I threw out everything that didn’t mesh with what I knew about people who “naturally” had great ears.
Duane Allman didn’t “study” ear training—he just spent a lot of time copying stuff from records. My buddy who can hear a song once and immediately start playing it didn’t read a book about it—he just defaults to playing stuff by ear instead of looking up the TAB online.
When the dust settled, what was left was the seeds of Effortless Ear Training. A method that’s:
We’ll talk about the details of the course in minute, but first let’s take a look at How Your Brain Works.