Exactly as we consider really important for a guitarist the ability of reading music, at same time the development of a good musical ear is essential as well. When a student practices with the guitar ear training exercises should be always included in the daily routine in order to improve, not only a general awareness about the music, but even the overall playing technique. This aspect of the learning process is unfortunately very often underestimated, particularly at the beginning of the teaching path. According to our personal experience instead, getting familiar with timing and sound as soon as possible can make the difference.
We agree on the fact that not all the aspects related to the musical ear training are essential for a student who is just a beginner. Many exercises, in particular the ones related to music harmony, are deeply related to music theory and it takes time to get familiar with these topics. This is the reason why a big part of the job on these subjects should be done once the student is already quite familiar with the instrument and the technique. Only in this way he will easily have the chance to verify on the guitar what is trying to put into practice by using just his ears.
But at the same time it is even true that exercises on the sense of timing can be absolutely important since lesson number one. After all music without rhythm is not music anymore, but just a bunch of notes which create a confusing sequence of sounds.
Since the first lesson of the learning process the metronome is an invaluable help for the student. The metronome is a simple mechanical or digital device which gives the musician the rhythm by consistently emitting acoustically the beat. The first approach with the metronome can be quite tough, particularly if the student is not used to listen to the rhythm during his own everyday life. Luckily this situation is not so common, even because music lovers are used to listen to their favourite music and this automatically improves and develops their innate sense of rhythm. Anyway, the benefits we can get from practicing with the metronome are enormous, and not only if we are practicing modern fingerstyle, but even when performing classical music as well.
Other really useful ear training exercises since day one are all related to the development of our musical awarness. What do we mean with musical awarness? With musical awarness we tend to identify the ability of the student to perceive as many information as possible about the music is listening to just by the use of his ears. Sometimes this aspect can be taken for granted by some teachers, but being able to identify how many instruments are playing in a song, being able to identify the melody line of every instrument, being able to immediately visualize the structure of a song, ect… are all skills which can be developed with practice and exercise. Even if these tools are not directly related to the music theory, they are extremely useful as well, particularly for a student who is just at the beginning of his journey. Here at Fingerstyle & Classical Guitar Studio in Perth we are well aware of the importance of developing not only a musical and ear but even a personal music taste able to identify what are the features which make a piece of music great to be listened to.