This is fantastic, @mem! I love your initiative in inventing your own practices. And you’ve hit on one of the most important insights about ear training, which is to spend time with the sounds in an atmosphere where you already know their tonal numbers.
I can’t say this enough. Recognizing can only take place AFTER you’ve gotten to know something in the first place. Mireia likes to call attention to the words “ear TRAINING” to help her students remember that it’s not about ear TESTING. Endless quizzes actually do very little to hep us learn to recognize the sounds by ear. What we need is a holistic music practice in which we’re enjoying the sounds all day long, and simply knowing each sound’s tonal number as we play with it.
A metaphor that might help is to imagine that you wanted to teach a child the names of the colors. Imagine giving the child three large colored balls, and on each ball is a printed label with the name of that color. So the green ball has a tag on it that says “green”, etc. Literally all you would have to do is walk away and come back a few weeks later, and you can be sure that the child will know the names of all three colors.
I don’t know if that actually works in real life. Probably kids learn the names of the colors before they learn to read, so my technique is nonsense. But it’s a nice image to remember what we’re trying to do. We just need direct personal experience with all of these beautiful sounds (the colored balls), and we need to be conscious of the tonal numbers during this experience (the labels with the color names).
So YES! What you’re doing is exactly right. Play songs that you know, and identify the tonal numbers of every note and chord that you play. Just enjoying those songs repeatedly as you think to yourself “1 chord, 5D chord, 1 chord, etc.” gives you everything you need to grow.
So we agree 100% with your instinct to seek more experience with the sounds, rather than falling into the trap of just doing more ear training quizzes. Just like in school, you don’t learn the material in the final exam. You learn it in the classroom where you have the opportunity study and contemplate things with no mystery about them.
In music, this reduces to the very simple formula of (1) jamming freely with the sounds and (2) thinking in tonal numbers. If you’re aware of the tonal numbers while you play, then literally ANY musical activity will strengthen your ability to recognize sounds by ear.
I’m sorry it took me so long to contribute these thoughts, but I hope that my comment can still add something to your music practice. Thanks for this post!