More on Ear Training – Thoughts on Relative Pitch for the iPhone


OK. I’ve now had a chance to play with the iPhone application “Relative Pitch”. I cannot say that I’ve gone through the entire app, but I’ve gone through most of it and done enough work to give an informed, unbiased report back to you.

Bottom line is that this is a great little app! I like it a lot. There are ways that the software can be improved (which I will get to), but given:

  • What it’s intended to do
  • How much it costs (c’mon, it’s $7.99… jeepers)
  • How it actually works

This is a bargain! It’s portable and really useful. Have a few minutes to spare? Do some ear training! You’ll find that you can do ear training/testing wherever you go.

How It Works

Everything is broken into lessons (or modules) where you learn a little bit at a time.

Here’s how it works:

  • Start the software (duh, right?)
  • Choose Training
    • At this point, the software gives you some introductory text about what you’re going to learn.
    • When you hit the play button/arrow, it plays the intervals for the lesson and then a voice tells you the name of the interval
    • On the screen, once the interval plays, you see the name of that interval.
    • Do this until you’re comfortable that you can distinguish the intervals in the lesson
  • Choose Testing
    • When you start the test, the software will play the interval and then prompt you to select the interval just played on the screen.
    • You get immediate feedback on how well you did
      • If it was right, you get a green flash and the score increments
      • If it was wrong, you get a vibrate and a red flash. You see what the correct choice was an have a chance to listen to the difference between what it was and what you chose
    • Once you achieve a certain score (15 of 20 correct), you are ready to move on
      • It opens up the next lesson for you
      • It may open up a new difficulty level (…only when you get a perfect score)
      • Keep working the level until you do get a perfect score

That’s all there is to it! You’re off and training your ear. The difficulty levels are an important concept. First you go from identifying ascending intervals using a simple reference tone to having the ascending intervals played all across the normal range of a concert keyboard. Then, you get into descending intervals… which is a whole new beast, if you’re struggling with ascending ones. Finally, you start working on harmonic intervals. The way this is designed, you’re not going to get to something that is too difficult for you. Just keep working it. You can always go back and redo the training and the testing. I think this is part of the benefit.

You can also use the Custom mode to design a custom program for testing and training. If you know there are problem spots in your ear training, you can use this to easily go after them.



Here are the downsides/problems:

  • In the testing modes where you have a lot of intervals (Lesson 10, for example), when you’re tested you only get a certain number  of choices on the screen. This is due to the lack of screen real estate on the iPhone, so it’s not as much their problem as it is a limitation to the platform. Because of that, you can actually make some intelligent guesses and just get good at taking the test.

Yes, that’s it. ‘Nuff said, eh?

Feature Requests

Here is my feature wish list:

  1. Repeat Last Note. Sometimes you miss stuff, have background noise or just want to hear it again. Having a repeat would be great.
  2. Longer Pauses During Training. During training, it would be good to have a slightly longer period between when the interval plays and when the app gives you the answer. That way, you could say it aloud (or say it to yourself) and then let the software confirm your choice.
  3. Play Double Stops. It would be very useful to have a setting where you could hear both intervals at the same time and train your ear to recognize that “double stop”. Single notes are useful, but this would be even better.
  4. Scale Recognition. It would be great to have a mode where you could learn to identify scales, ascending and descending
  5. Triad/Chord Recognition. For this, it’d be great to have it work on playing it as an arpeggio (ascending and descending), a whole chord and inversions.
  6. Statistics. Would be great to have the app keep and display statistics. If you tested multiple times, you could hone in on your “problem intervals” and work to nail them.


In summary, the sound quality is great, it’s fully functional, simple to use and a lot of fun. I think this is a bargain at its current price! Tools like this are great and have their place. I don’t think it is a replacement for the other aspects of ear training, like I wrote about in my last post. Still, the vendor doesn’t claim anything that they cannot deliver on. If you want to leverage the power of your iPhone to enhance your ear training, this is an important app to have on your device.

Big kudos to the dev team for a job well done! :-)


October 24, 2009 · kengon · 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Music, Technology

2 Responses

  1. kengon - December 22, 2009

    OK. So just a quick update on this thread. I’ve been playing with the update for a while now and I decided that it was time to report back.

    Feature requests #1, 2 and 3 have been addressed in this latest version and work fine. #2 has to be accomplished via the “Settings” application. Look for the Relative Pitch group in the lower half of the screen (where the rest of the custom apps are).

    Chris told me that #4 and 5 are going to be addressed in other apps. They decided that they were going to keep their development efforts and product functionality focused. Given my background in software development, I wholeheartedly agree. I’m confident that they’ll do an excellent job with it.

    #6 hasn’t been addressed yet. I’ll likely reach out to Chris in January to ask.

    Still, the important thing to remember is that the app team continues to work on making this a great little application. I am using it all the time — never a need to go too long without ear training! :-)

    Wishing everyone a happy holiday season!


  2. Outside Notes™ » More Ear Training Tools! - March 2, 2011

    […] that I use on a regular basis that I wanted to share with you. We’ve already talked about Relative Pitch, but there is (at least) one other tool that you should have in your bag. In fact, there’s a […]

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