BigEars is composed of six ear training modules: Intervals, Scales, Triads, Seventh Chords, Ninth Chords and Dominant Chords. To select a module to work in simply click on the appropriate tab. The center of the window displays all the possible ear training problems that BigEars will ask when that module is selected. You can further specify what problems BigEars will ask by loading a Problem Set or manually selecting problems. To the left of the module panel is displayed the score for that module. Sometime modules ( eg Intervals ) have additional buttons that control playback behavior.
BigEars will generate a new problem each time the NEXT button at the bottom of the window is pressed. You will hear the sound and a text message asking "What do you hear?" appears. To listen to the problem again press the REPLAY button. You may replay a problem as many times as you desire.
If you do not hear a sound check that your computer's volume is not down too low or muted. Currently BigEars plays back using the built-in MIDI capabilities of your computer. Future versions of BigEars will support playback through external MIDI devices.
Submit your answer to the current problem by choosing a button from the center area of the window. BigEars will notify you if you are correct or wrong by displaying a text message and playing an optional audio alert notification. If you are wrong try pressing REPLAY and listen again. You may continue to work on the same problem until you get the correct answer or choose the Show Answer button.
Pressing the Show Answer button near the bottom of the window will display a transcription of the current problem.
There are many parameters which you can control to make problems BigEars asks easier or harder. Most obvious is the tempo slider. Drag the slider to the desired setting; the next problem will play at that tempo. Other parameters can be selected from buttons at the left side of the window or under the Settings menu.
Every module has two basic parameters: tempo and the option to use "fixed roots." Changing the tempo slider or the "fixed roots" option effects all modules.
Near the left lower corner of the window is the tempo slider. Simply drag it to the desired setting. Subsequent playbacks will be at that tempo.
Under the Settings menu is a check box labelled "Use Random Roots" which is selected by default. If deslected BigEars will play subsequent problems with a bass note of C, with the exception of the Triads module. Triads will all be "C" triads if "Use Random Roots" is unchecked -- this, of course, will result in notes other than C appearing in the bass for inverted triads.
Under the Settings menu are three choices affecting how melodic problems are played: ascending, descending and the default setting "either direction." These options are disabled ( appear dimmed in the menu ) when not available. Subsequent problems will play in the selected direction. When the "either direction" setting is selected BigEars randomly chooses between ascending or descending.
Chords can be played as block chords, arpeggiated, or as a combination: block chord followed by an arpeggio followed by a block chord again. Select the desired setting under the Settings menu. These choices are disabled ( appear dimmed in the menu ) when unavailable. Chordal playback settings are enabled for the following modules: Triads, Seventh Chords, Ninth Chords and Dominant Chords.
Problem Sets can be loaded by selecting "Load Problem Set" from the "File" menu. A list of available Problem Sets appears in a dialog box. Select the one you wish to use and press Load. If you change your mind press the Cancel button. When a problem set loads some answer choice buttons may appear dimmed. That means BigEars will not play those sounds.
You can also change to a different module when you choose "Load Problem Set." In the window that opens there is a pull down box next to the words "Select Module." When you change that box to different module the list of Problem Sets available for that module appear in the window. Select which Problem Set you want and press Load. When the window closes BigEars will automatically change to that module.
You can specify precisely which sounds you want to drill on in a module by selecting the "Choose X" menu item from the "Settings" menu, where the letter "X" will be replaced by the name of the current module ( eg: Choose Intervals ). A window appears containing check boxes for every problem that BigEars can play in that module. Select the ones you want to drill on and uncheck those you don't want to hear. Press "Done" when you are finished to close the window. At least two sounds must be selected.
A good way to learn to recognize new chords is to compare a sound you do know and a sound you don't know but which is similar. For example, in the Seventh Chords module if you felt confident about your ability to identify Major 7th chords but wanted to compare their sound to Major 7 b5 chords, select "Choose Seventh Chords" from the "Settings" menu and make sure only Major 7 and Major 7 b5 are checked. Press "Done" and BigEars will now only ask Major 7 and Major 7 b5 problems.
When you submit your answer to a problem BigEars tells you if you are wrong or right with an "Audio Alert Notification". You can turn off the audio portion of this notification by deselecting "Play Audio Alert" from the "Audio" menu.
This setting can also be controlled from the Preferences menu. The Preferences menu item is under Settings menu on Windows and Linux but appears under the BigEars menu on the Mac.
When "Play Audio Alert" is selected under the Audio menu BigEars plays an audible message in response to your answers. You may change these audio responses using the Preferences menu item. You can use files of the following types: ".mid" for MIDI files, ".aiff" or ".wav" or ".au" for audio files. The default sounds provided are "correct.wav" and "wrong.wav."
Trial version includes complete access to the intervals and triads modules without time restriction.
An activation key can be purchased for $19.95 (USD) to gain access to the remaining modules.