I think one of my favourite things about ear training was learning to transcribe something from a very distant long term memory.
Transcription in general was easily the greatest tool I ever learnt; being able to play by ear without the need for any visual reference is fundamental to being a musician as far as I’m concerned. Being able to interpret and analyse music from the sound alone is vital, because when it all boils down, that’s what music is. It isn’t dots on a page, midi blocks on a grid, it’s not chord tabs or a digital keyboard with keys that blink and flash. Music is sound. It’s an aural medium, and snobbish purist that I am, I think that’s how it should be appreciated.
Since high school, it’s always been my focus to be able to play anything by ear. I’ll never be able to play everything that way, but most of what’s actual useful to me is pretty easily aurally identified, and anything more challenging is just a means to improve.
But what still gives me a giddy thrill is working out something that’s locked in a vault somewhere.
A melody that has just been sitting idle in your memory banks, that you knew innately but never formalised. Something you only knew how to whistle as a kid, and never saw the sheet music. Something you never even learnt how to play, like a Top 40 hit that didn’t get swept up in the 90’s revival, or a theme from a level of Batman on the original Gameboy™. Then 20 years later, having not listened to the tune since childhood, you can still remember it - but suddenly with new skills you’ve had in practice for years, you sit down at a keyboard and it just comes out of your hands. Makes me feel like a wizard. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to Mozart’s famous Allegri’s “Miserere” moment.
It’s the same thrill as rewatching Disney’s Popeye fifteen years after its release and realising that the title role is played by none other than Robin Williams. Like rewatching Simpsons episodes from childhood and noticing piles of jokes and innuendo that went straight over your head. It’s like suddenly hearing the notes the way Neo sees the Matrix.
I think what I’m saying is that being moderately okay at music is cool. Controversial, I know.