Am I tone deaf??
As I run a pretty large Ear Training App, I get messages from people from all over the world. A while back I got an email from this dude from Poland asking if I had any tips for him. He told me that he felt left behind in the ear training classes at his school and that he thought he was tone deaf. This was my response to him!
Don´t be afraid to sing
Ear training can be a very daunting thing and can be very frightening especially if you're not confident in your ear! I was actually one of does guys, and to this day I don't think that I have the best ear in the world, but thanks to a very good understanding of music theory and a whole lot of ear training I can play most songs by ear fairly quickly. One of the best tips I can give you is to don't be afraid to sing. Singing requires a lot of active listening so it's a great way to develop your ear. This comes from a guy that hates singing and never sings in public. If you don't like to sing in front of people just do it when you're alone!
You don´t NEED a "good" ear to play good music!
If you think you are tone deaf(which I don't believe) you could still become a very fairly good musician just by knowing your theory! As long as you have a sense of what good music is and others generally agree with you, I think you can play music basically just by knowing your music theory! If you struggle with intonation you could always download a guitar tuner to your phone and practice going up intervals and steps and it would probably help you. I'm just a terrible singer myself, but practicing with a tuner will definitely help you with intonation!
Become an active listener
Becoming comfortable with singing is something that will help you out a lot. One of the reasons for this is that singing requires active listening as opposed to a lot of instruments like the piano where you can just hit the right note and it will always be tuned the same way. Another thing you can do in your day to day practice is to just become more active in your listening as you listen to your favorite music. Also, when you practice, your mind should be in the room and if you are just going through the motions the practice session is basically wasted.
Short sessions with deliberate practice is the way to go, no doubt!
Make guesses as you play and learn from them!
As you play a piece or do sight reading you can also try "guessing" as you play along! Whenever you are wrong and your expectations to the sound don't match whats written you should try to figure out what you thought the interval was between the two notes. Then see whats correct. Maybe you discover that you mistake fourths for fifths? If so then you know what you should practice. Every ear training app has an interval trainer built in my app is no exception. You can check it out here....
If your instrument allows it another great tip that you should take to heart is to try to sing along with whatever your playing when your improvising. If you are not improvising, that's another great tip! Improvisation can help you a lot with developing your ear. Sadly there is not really just a quick fix. Ear training can be daunting but if you stick with it I promise you that you will get better over time! And just remember that short practice sessions with deliberate practice are soooo much better than just going through the motion. Just going through the motion is often counterproductive!