Play By Ear

A free tool that helps you improve your Music Perception Skills

This is a free application that lets music learners improve their Play-By-Ear capabilities of Music (Swara Gnana). With support for over 100 different instruments, users will be able to practice identifying the notes of their own favourite instrument.

For the first time in the world, this is a single application that seamlessly supports both Western and Carnatic Music Notations. The application is designed around simple Question/Answer paradigm. It plays (poses) a series of notes that the user has to identify (using the Virtual Keyboard Control provided on the application Window).

The questions are designed around the concepts of reinforced learning paradigm. With questions designed to be set at multiple levels of difficulty, users of all levels (from beginners to advanced) should be able take advantage of the application starting at their own level of Music Knowledge. The scoring system is based around advanced behavioral learning patterns that captures users' Music recognition capabilities through different metrics that help them immensly with progressive learning.

The UserManual.html (presented below) has all the details on how to use the application and the various ratings/scoring details. The manual is available in the download and is also accessible from Help Menu of the application.

Free tool for Learning to Play the Music By Ear

How It Works

Play By Ear application helps you improve your music perception skills in a fun yet challenging way. Working with the application is simple and straight forward. It poses you questions (music notes) and you have to identify them correctly. During this Question-Answer(QA) process, application will analyze your Effeciency and Accuracy for each response.

When you start the application, you will be presented with a virtual Piano control along with few other group of controls that let you select various options. You can either use the virtual Piano control for practicing the notes at will, or use the Test menu Start option to start a QASession. In the QASession, you will be posed few notes (based on your selected level of difficulty) and you have to identify those notes (if you miss the question, you can request for a Replay). You can then use the Mouse or Keyboard over the virtual Piano control to supply your answer. When you Submit your answer, it will be verified against the question and results will be displayed. Based on whether your answer is correct or not, you will be either prompted to go to next question or to retry the same old one. You have the option to avoid the prompt and take you automatically to the next question or retry the same question every time. Use the Test menu Wait Before Retry and Wait Before New Question options for this purpose. Your score ratings will be decided based on the number of questions you have tried and the number of retries and replays you have used.

Accuracy measures how much correctly you are answering the questions. When a question is played as a series of music notes to you, you enter your answers using the Piano control provided on the application window. When the answer is wrong, you will be given a chance to retry another answer. This way, you can keep retrying a question till you get the correct answer. However, with each retry, your Accuracy ratings will go down.

Efficiency measures how much unnecessary work you are avoiding to answer each question. When a question is played as a series of musical notes to you, you enter your answers using the Piano control provided on the application window. You can replay a question as many times as you want and/or change your answer as many times as you want before submitting it for verification. However, with each replay of the question/answer, your Efficiency ratings will go down. Also, the more Notes you try on the Paino control before you arrive at the answer, the less your efficiency becomes.

Your goal, hence, is simple. Improve your Accuracy and Efficiency ratings over time, by answering correctly, with as less retries as possible, and with as little replays as possible. In other words, avoid unnecessary keys and replays and you will get higher Efficiency ratings - and, answer the question correctly without any retries, you will get higher Accuracy ratings.

Remember that when you enter a wrong answer, you have the option of skipping to the next question (instead of retrying the same one). However, choosing to skip a question does not increase your overall Score. The Score is the overall metric that you should have 100% results for. It simply counts the number of questions attempted and answered correctly (even with retries). Skipping a question might save your Efficiency and Accuracy ratings, but you will loose on your final Score.

Note that it is important to have all the Score and Accuracy/Efficiency ratings high. One who excels in one, but zeroes in on the other is not an expert and needs to work on improving their learning. No other learning / teaching technique helps you track all these areas so elegangly as this application does.

When you are tyring to answer a question, based on the number of Notes you try and the number of replays and retries, your results for that question might keep becoming low - but let that not worry you. Once you find the right answer, you would get little winning bonus that should increase your final committed score. Also, if you do good with other questions, you should be able to recover your score back to higher ratings quickly. As you would observe, the scores are designed to be learner-friendly. Unlike a strict master, your scores would be adjusted to increase over time if you keep doing better. So, be persistent and work through all the questions. Let not a low rating for a single question worry you.

This application will help you improve your Accuracy and Efficiency ratings if you keep practicing the QA sessions consistently. You can play the QA Sessions at any of the four below mentioned levels. Each has specific purpose targetted to improve specific area of music note perception.

Key Bindings

For Piano control provided on the application window, Keyboard keys are mapped to individual Notes (Swaras) in an octave. The mapping is done similar to the real world Piano keys (alternate black & white forming up & down series), starting with key Z and ending at key M.

The mapping is as below:

Keyboard Key     Western Note     Carnatic Swara

The pattern extends to next keys: , L . ; etc..

Though the Piano control on the dialog has 5 Octaves (just like a typical real world instrument does), the limited number of keys on the Keyboard, however, does not allow us to play all octaves at the same time the way we do with real instruments. So we restrict the keys to be bound to only one 'active' octave at any time; When we need to change the octave, we simply shift the 'active' octave. This is not as elegant as working with the real instrument. But this works.

Use the Function Keys (F1 .. F5) to select the current 'active' Octave. Or, use the TAB key to shift to next heigher octave, and the BACKSPACE key to shift to next lower octave.

  Keyboard Key            Functionality        
F1select Octave 1
F2select Octave 2
F3select Octave 3
F4select Octave 4
F5select Octave 5
TABone Octave UP
Shift TAB (or) BACKSPACEone Octave DOWN

By default, when the application starts for the first time, Octave 3 will be set as the current 'active' octave. You can change it to other octaves using the above specified keys, and the application will remember your preference, even if you close it and open it again.


Download is provided in two options: One as a Zip file containing all the binaries that you need to extract to your harddisk one time, or the second option as a self-extracting Exe that does the extraction automatically everytime you launch it. Either options does not require any installation - just download and run.

Download available at:



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