A place for piano pedagogy, music teaching professionals and creative studio ideas…with style!

Aural Training and Development Series: Print Resources

Aural Training and Testing Books in my Studio


Recently I have been considering the ways I develop aural skills with my students and other alternatives that may be available. Singing and aural development has always been a part of my teaching but I feel the need to do some further research and find some more tools to work with some specific students. In particular this stems from a couple of students who struggle to remember simple short phrases (think 2 bars of 4/4) to sing back. Rhythmic clapping is mostly ok, as long as it isn’t too long, but adding the melody to remember seems to short out their fuse.

Why? What happens after the first bar of music that they can’t remember the rest? How can I assist them to increase their aural memory and attention span? What is it specifically that is causing this issue?

So, off to do some research I went. Medical journals, text books, auditory processing diagnosis and management specialists and parents with children with auditory processing issues. I want to learn more and gain more understanding to be a better teacher.

I am still reading through much of the research. It is a very broad topic when looking at auditory processing, how it works, what dysfunctions can be present and how we utilize different techniques in order to benefit our students’ musical education. It is so vast that I am really just covering the tip of the iceberg currently and would like to further research some paths before I draw any conclusions worth sharing.

My reading has led me to devise something of a series on Aural Development: Print Resources, Tech Resources, Resources for Early Development and finally, Auditory Processing: Information for Music Teachers.

So here today is the beginning of the series, specific print books and resources out there for piano teachers to use in lessons. I wanted to discover what was good, useful and helpful in the development of students’ aural skills.  Is there something we should be looking at that isn’t mainstream? What is the best thing on the market? Are there things students can use at home?

This list is by no means exhaustive, it is a collection of books on the market for aural training, test and exercises for students beyond the beginner (primer) stages. Please keep in mind that there are so many things you can do with students to develop their aural skills in those early years that go beyond the technical testing style offered in these books. If there are other books out there that you would recommend, please leave a comment and I will investigate and add that to my review panel! So without further ado, here are the books currently on my studio shelf:

Trinity College London Aural Book 1:

This is a book I have recently added to my collection in my recent Trinity College exam book buy up!

Trinity College of London Aural Book 1

This is a book of specimen tests for the aural component of Trinity College exams initial through to grade 5. It has been designed to be used in lessons with the teacher or by a student at home. The book includes CDs with examples of the tests and an answer booklet that has notated examples. I particularly like that this book explains each test and the parameters that are set. It also highlights what the question is developing (i.e. musical memory, regular pulse, higher/lower pitch).

What I enjoyed most about this method is that it tends towards tests that have musical context (I will play the first two notes from a melody, what interval do they make?) and use questions that build on the same melody. For example, in grade one a melody is played and the student is asked to clap back the rhythm and identify the time signature, then after another play of the melody, identify if the last note is higher or lower than the first. Next, the melody is played again for the student to identify staccato or legato touch. Finally the original melody is played again, then once more with a change in it. Students are asked to identifying the point the change occurs. This progressive analysis allows students to build on their aural observation skills and requires more instinctive responses.

This is the stand out print book and my current favourite for development of aural skills with students.


Aural Training in Practice- Ronald Smith-ABRSM

Recently a newer edition of this book has been published, however, this is the copy I have in my studio:

photo 3

Ronald Smith Aural Training in Practice ABRSM Book 1 Grades 1-3

Aural Training in Practice has been developed to support the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) aural tests for their practical examinations. There are tests for grades 1-3 in the first book. Unlike the other books reviewed, in this book, the examples are taken from pieces from a variety of composers (Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Bach, and Hayden for a small portion). In the first grade tests pulse, echo singing, noticing differences and identifying expressing qualities in performance are the areas developed. Examples are provided primarily for keyboard music, however, some examples for violin cello, trumpet, flute, double bass and voice are also provided. This book did not have an accompanying CD making it a book for use in lessons with the teacher.

Similar to the Trinity book, this ABRSM publication focuses on creating aural awareness and the ability to identify differences/similarities in melodies leading to students becoming more discerning when processing the sounds of the pieces they hear and play. Tests are presented with explanation and teaching notes/ideas for approaching the exercises with students. These features present the text as more of a training book than a ‘test-examples’ book.

Aural Tests- AMEB

This is a book graded to suit the Australian Music Examination Board’s aural tests in practical examinations.

photo 1

AMEB Aural Tests

Just as the title suggests, this text covers the exact requirements for testing in the AMEB exams and is not really aural training beyond providing examples to use with students. It covers AMEB exams from Preliminary to Eighth Grade. This book also comes with 9 CD’s (one for each grade) as all examples provided are notated for piano. Having the CDs make it is useful for teachers of other instruments.

The areas tested change over the different grades. Initially, time (pulse), rhythm, memory and pitch are tested in short examples. Progressively identification of duple/triple time signatures, interval recognition and harmony are added to exams.

This book is clear in providing examples for AMEB exams. This is all I would use it for. It does not give musical context or facilitate training and development and focuses heavily on memorization.


Aural Tests- Miriam Hyde

Deep in my collection I have a book published in 1973, written by Miriam Hyde. There are some entertaining differences in vernacular used in the foreword between editions! The most recent edition I have was published in 1995 and is somewhat toned down from the language used in the earlier edition!

photo 3

Miriam Hyde Aural Tests books- My studio has two copies of this!! The older one was printed in 1973!

This book was commissioned by the Music Teachers Association of New South Wales to provide examples an exercises for preparation for the aural tests in AMEB practical exams. This book covers the same categories for testing as the AMEB Aural Tests book above. It does not come with any audio support for the student to further their study at home.

In contrast to the AMEB book, this foreword has sound explanation for each test category with some ideas for developing students’ ability to perform well in each test. Grades from Preliminary to Licentiate have test examples provided and from sixth grade cadences are presented in groups rather than random exercises. In addition, there is a supplementary section at the back of the book with atonal melodies for “the interest of the enterprising teacher.”

Aural Training- Dulcie Holland

Written to provide further test examples for AMEB aural tests, this book covers similar ground to the AMEB and Miriam Hyde books. Test examples are provided from Preliminary Grade to Licentiate and are structured just as the AMEB book is. In contrast to the AMEB text, this book offers suggestions at the beginning of each section of each grade. There is no audio support with this book.

photo 4

Dulcie Holland- Aural Training


In reviewing these books, I have also created a quick reference table. I hope this provides you with some ideas for what might best suit your students and the methods you use in your studio.

Quick Reference Table- Aural Books

Aural Books Table


If there is another text you know of that would be helpful, I’m all ears!

For the next installment I will look at the technology available to develop aural skills.

Don’t forget to sign up to the updates to ensure you don’t miss out on any of the installments in this series!


6 Responses to “Aural Training and Development Series: Print Resources”

  1. John BRIGGS

    ANZCA have some different ideas in their book. Have had students who would achieve distinction results in exams but have refused to do the exam because singing was required. (AMEB). Have often wondered if any top performers cannot sing in tune. Certainly enjoyed Glen Gould humming along when performing his BACH works.


  2. Fabrice Muller

    Although I don’t have a specific book to recommend, I would gladly share my approach to Aural Training as a professor of Musicianship (formation musicale). Here in France, formal Aural Skills is a very broad subject and I have been privileged to teach at each every level, from 6/7 y.o. kids to graduate students.
    I put emphasis on the following :
    1) note reading
    2) rhythm theory (the old “syllabic” theory)
    3) rhythm reading with precision and sense of phrase
    4) scales and tonality (singing & theory)
    5) intervals (singing, theory, recognition, dictation)
    6) chords (singing, theory, recognition, dictation)
    7) authentic cadences (and others) [singing, theory, recognition, dictation]
    8) melodic dictation of known elements [you wouldn’t ask anyone to write down a conversation in Chinese unless they know the words you’re using]
    9) sight singing [so as to being immersed in the repertoire and develop a natural sense of the musical phrase, but analysis of the score will also be part of the job]
    10) analysis [it’s not a matter of doing maths with a musical score, but a matter of understanding and HEARING INTERNALLY what’s going on, in as much as possible]
    In all this, the goal is always to develop the ability for the musician to hear their score internally, and to understand it.

    When the score in musically understood, then it’s also more easily memorized. When each and every voice is heard, musical life is much easier to breathe into your score.

    You wrote “concerning a couple of students who struggle to remember simple short phrases (think 2 bars of 4/4) to sing back”…
    I would see to possible reasons (but I may be wrong altogether; I didn’t see them, and don’t know what has already been tempted with them).
    One reason could be that they try to memorize by chunks of one or notes, because the the succession of pitches don’t make a global sense to them. They don’t try to memorize a phrase, they try to memorize, say 15 notes or a lot of intervals which is too difficult.
    The second reason might be that despite their understanding of the phrase, they don’t feel it. Perhaps they lack some sense of direction (don’t breathe before the cadence, sing with all notes slurred). Perhaps the rhythm is not felt properly. For instance, one “mini-accent” on each eight note might prove very tiring and difficult, while the proper accentuation indicated by, say 4/4, will be of much more help to go forward and embrace the whole phrase.
    In some cases these two reasons are cumulative, and intertwined.
    But, again, I didn’t see your students, and perhaps it’s something else.

    I guess I will stop writing this long comment there. Anyone wishing to discuss the matter, please feel free to contact me. Carly, perhaps we could skype (?). Also, if someone wants to try out, feel free to take aural skills lessons from me, or have your students work their aural skills with me—I am always happy to work with partners! ;>)

    My best to everyone!


  3. jsong

    What a great article! “Aural Training in Practice” is really helpful. I also an app called AURALBOOK to prepare my Grade 8 ABRSM exam. t gives you live feedback like a music teacher was with you and is really easy to use. It helped me pass my Grade 7 ABRSM. Just wanted to let you in on my secret!



Be awesome, leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: