Most frequently asked questions and answers about the Tone Hole game
  1. Download and install Tone Hole on your iPhone or iPad. Here’s a link.
  2. Tap each of the circles you see. These are the answer tones.
  3. Tap the play button.
  4. Listen to the tone of the colored circle that appears in the middle of the screen. That is the question tone.  It matches one of the other two tones labeled do and re
  5. On level 1 and other levels labeled warm-up, you will notice that question tones are colored.  This is so you can get acclimated to the melodic patterns embodied in the level. 
  6. Tap the answer tone that matches the question tone and watch it disappear down the tone hole!

   (It is very helpful to use your voice to sing or hum along with the tones as they flow by.  Your voice is the connection between your ear and your mind, and by doing this repeatedly, you will find it easier to move through subsequently more difficult levels.)

  1. Continue until you have finished the first warm-up level. Now you have the sound of the level’s melodic patterns. It’s time to train.
  2. Engage Training Mode by tapping the T in the lower right of the screen.  Tone Hole will cue you to sing the tone that is circled.  See. Sing. Tap. Repeat. You can continue training this way for as long as you like. When you are done, turn off Training Mode and move to the next level. (See below for more about Training Mode.)
  3. The next level is the practice level.  You’ll play it in the same way as you played the warm-up level before it.  The only difference is that the question tones are white: There is no color to cue you, so you must rely entirely on your ears to match the tones.
  4. Once you have completed the practice level, you can play in training mode, or move on to the next challenge level.

11. Challenge levels cement your mastery of that set’s patterns by turning off the sound of the answer tones.  Now you have to imagine the sound of each tone without the help of the tones on the screen.  Once you have conquered a set’s challenge level, you’ll be ready for the next set.

A set is made of three levels and focuses on a specific melodic pattern for you to internalize.  Each of the levels within a set guides you from identifying tones with help from color (warm-up) through doing so without color or even the ability to reference the sound of the answer tones. Once you have mastered a set, you’ll move to the next one, which repeats the cycle of levels (warm-up, practice, challenge) with a slightly more advanced melodic pattern.

Just tap it again and its sound will repeat!


The question tone started flying around too fast to catch. What should I do?

Just tap any answer tone, and the question tone will slow down and start moving toward the tone you tapped.

Yes. Absolutely. Reading music is fundamentally different from understanding what you hear.  Western music notation is a centuries old system that works for writing music and playing music on the spot.  But it is not required to build your ear and your musicianship. You can learn both simultaneously or separately. Many people become fluent in music notation without *really* learning to hear the music they are writing and reading, and this is partly because learning reading and learning listening are such profoundly different processes. The latter requires consistently refining your perception of pitch and your ability to reproduce pitches vocally. This is a very delicate process and requires a completely different set of learning experiences from reading music.  It is much more experiential and much, much less rational.  And it’s one-hundred percent about listening and zero percent about seeing.


Nonetheless, it can be helpful to have a visual model Tone Hole provides you with a different way of visualizing the relationships between tones:

Yes. Absolutely! Music theory is a tool to think about music. You develop your understanding of how music works by naming musical elements, analyzing form, composing pieces modeled after historical styles and more.  Yet, music theory tends to look at music from the outside. Ear training broadly, and Tone Hole specifically, is geared towards learning to think in music. With Tone Hole, the only terms you need are the seven solfege syllables: do, re, mi, fa, so, la, & ti. (There are actually more, but for this discussion, let’s think about these seven.) 


The bonus is this: the better your ear becomes, the easier it will be to learn music theory, either concurrently or at some later time. Why? Because the terms you will be learning will having richer meaning to you. Your abstract analyses of music will be infinitely more grounded in your actual experience as your auditory understanding becomes more and more developed.

You play music first and foremost with your mind. Hearing a note clearly in your mind brings ease to singing it. Knowing what you are hearing in your mind adds a level of relaxation to your playing because you don’t have to *think* so much.  If you, like most people, have a undeveloped ability to recall music in your mind, it leaves you leaning on these crutches: muscle memory, sheet music, inflexible interpretations, and symbolic memory.  That’s a lot of thinking and part of the reason that so many people find music so difficulty.  Playing Tone Hole and otherwise developing your ear and your aural imagination, bring you closer to the source of your music making: sounds and the emotions they beget.  Music makes natural sense when you understand it on its own terms, and mastering solfege gets you a long way.