Music is sound, and the importance of listening and developing your ears cannot be overstated.
Music is also a language, and just as children learn to speak from hearing those around them, aural training in your piano lessons is just as important as learning to read music.
Aural training consists of everything related to listening, from the very general practise of listening to music on a regular basis, to the very precise ability to identify individual elements - notes, intervals, chords, rhythms - in the music you are hearing.
The better trained our ears are, the better we will be able to listen to our own music as we play the piano. When we can stop thinking about the score, the notes, the piano keys, and focus only on the sounds we want to create, we can develop a more direct relationship between our inner musical voice and our instrument, the piano. It’s at this point that we can achieve the highest possible degree of musicianship.
Here are some elements of aural training that your classical piano teacher may introduce to you.
General musical knowledge: How extensive is your collection of classical music? If you hear a classical piece at random, can you tell what era the piece was composed in? Can you tell who the composer is? Can you describe the texture, structure, character, style, and emotional quality of the piece?
Intervals and melodic training: Have your piano teacher or a friend play middle C, and then another key on the piano. Can you find the second note by ear, on your first try? Listen to the first few seconds of any music recording in your collection. Can you find the notes of the main, singable melody on the piano?
Keys, chords, and cadences: While listening to your classical music recordings, try to tell whether the overall key is minor (sad sounding) or major (happy sounding). Now try identifying the changes in chords - it helps to listen to the lowest instruments or the left hand of the piano. Listen to the ends of each section; the final chords of a section are called the cadence. Ask yourself whether the cadences sound final, or are left unresolved.
Identifying different instruments and parts: Listen to some classical orchestral or chamber music. Can you isolate the different instruments in your ear? Can you sing along with the violins? The basses? The flutes? The clarinets? Now listen to some classical piano music. Can you isolate the left and right hands in your ear? How many notes are being played in each hand? Imagine the piano was an ensemble of different instruments - can you hear the different instrumental parts suggested on the piano? The melody? The bass? The middle voices? Can you sing along with each of them?