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Ear Training

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  1. guitar1025
    Member

    Hey guys!

    I been consistently getting some pretty great info and insight from this forum and I love it.

    What are some ear training exercises you guys like doing or would recommend?

    I'll say this; I have perfect pitch, so what I've been doing recently is training myself to hear more in terms of intervals. I feel like learning to hear something intervallically, in the end, will be much faster than figuring out each note individually. So a basic excercise I've been doing is sitting at the piano, playing a note and trying to sing a specific interval either above or below it. I also have an android ear training app that tests a lot of things; the one I use most with that is interval recognition.

    Just curious what you guys could recommend beyond the basics I already described. I've also been doing a decent amount of transcribing which I know will help too.

    Thanks in advance!!

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  2. gleepglop
    Member

    In my experience with people who have perfect pitch, the area that is sometimes lacking is hearing intervals as they relate to a key center, rather than isolated intervals. This also seems to me to be faster than hearing intervals sequentially.

    So for instance in the key of C you might hear F-B as 4-7 first, and secondarily as an augmented 4th.

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  3. guitar1025
    Member

    With me, it's more of a thing where, if I hear F & B. . .that's just it. I hear two notes, both of which I can immediately identify.

  4. jorgemg1984
    Member

    There's a previous thread where I posted several good exercises for ear training that are basically useless for someone who has perfect pitch... if you have it enjoy and practice other stuff :) Do you feel you have to improve any specific area?

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  5. guitar1025
    Member

    Haha! I always tell people that having it is more annoying than it is helpful. The only real benefit that I've had from it came when I used to work as a musical director on cruise ships. When we would do talent show rehearsal and the key was too high or low for a singer I would have them sing a bar or two a capella. I could then easily figure out which key they needed the tune in.

    I remember a long time ago writing out a solo from memory away from any instrument. I had maybe three or four errors in the entire thing but I remember it being very arduous to go pretty much note for note. I feel like if my relative pitch gets better I can hear things in a more melodic context and pick things up quicker rather than "C. . . .E. . . .F#. . . . A. . . .G. . . . E. . . .C (I want to see who will be the first to figure out the origin of that melody)."

  6. jbroad
    Member

    the siiiiimpsons

  7. guitar1025
    Member

    Gold star, sir!!!!

  8. Pauli Poulsen
    Member

    For the last 2.5 years I've been doing ear training with movable solfege, which I find to be a great way of organizing notes and colors. There's many aspects to this, but I've used the method of breaking it down into 4 areas, single notes, intervals, triads and melodic fragments. All practice is done with movable keycenters, so whenever you're done with one example, you move to the next key, which can be by circle of 5th/4ths or some other random method.

    For single notes, you play a note on an instrument, C for example, which will be "Do" (or 1) and you start out with hearing a major 3rd, or "mi". So you play C, sing "mi", and immediately move to F, play the note, sing the relative "mi", and move to Bb. Etc. Then do this for all the intervals.
    I should say for all these that it is beneficial to work on one mode at a time. Ionian obviously is the perfect place to start, moving on to to aeolian, mixolydian, dorian, lydian, etc.

    For intervals, go around keycenters in the same way, but now you're doing two notes, for example major 3rd and perfect 5th, so "mi" and "sol". Then go on to larger and smaller intervals starting on any note of the scale, ascending and descending, in all the modes. You get the picture...

    Then do all the 3 note arpeggios of the mode, starting with 1 major. So play C, sing Do - Mi - So - Mi - Do. Move around the circle of firths. Then do 2 minor. Still starting on C, now you're singing Re - Fa - La - Fa - Re. It goes on: all 7 triads, ascending and descending, all modes.

    Similar to the arpeggios are the scale fragments. Only now you're doing: starting note, step above, starting note, step below, starting note. For example Do - Re - Do - Ti - Do. All keys, starting on all scale degrees. Now do starting note, up, up, down, down to starting note. Then do the same thing ascending. Then do the same thing with two steps at a time, for example: Do - Mi - Do - La - Do.

    The way to approach this like I said is to do one mode at a time. Start with ionian, work with all 4 areas until you've got it down. Then move on to the 6 remaining modes. The do as many modes of harmonic and melodic minor as you find useful, which would obviously be the basic modes, plus phrygian dominant, lydian dominant, altered and locrian nat.2. You can easily spend several weeks on each mode.

    Doing exactly this has helped me immensely to internalize music to the point where everything becomes more instinctual, and it definitely spills over into my playing.

    In addition to this tanscribing is important as you're already doing. And also try sightsinging stuff in solfege syllables.

    Hope this helps and I'm not being redundant here. :)

  9. jorgemg1984
    Member

    Mail 1:

    1 - Singing is the key for good ear training
    2 - Always sing by numbers
    3 - Sight Singing is also essential (for these there are plenty of other good cheap books available)

    Exercises (sing everything in the 12 tones, I usually make a random note order; you can sing with the chord in background, just the tonic as a pedal note or internalize the tonic before and sing with no background)

    1 - Scrambled Triads - (135, 315, 513, 153, 351, 531) - These are the six possible combinations for the triads notes, sing for all the triads you know;

    2 - Scrambled Seventh Chords (1357, 1375, 3157, 3175, 1537, 1573, 5137, 5173, 1735, 1753, 7135, 7153, 3517, 3571, 5317, 7153, 3517, 3571, 5371, 5317, 3715, 3751, 7315, 7351, 5713, 5731, 7513, 7531) These are all the possibilities, sing for all the seventh chords you know

    3 - Scrambled scale patterns - basically make a random organization of a scale like 3 5 6 2 4 7 1 and sing for all the scales (for scales like the whole tone or the diminished you must adjust the number of notes). You can make any pattern you want, the idea is to be able to hear all chord tones related to each other.

    4 - 13 Chords. Singing chords by thirds: Major 7h (1 3 5 7 9 #11 13), Dominant 7h (1 3 5 b7 9 #11 13), Minor 7h (1 b3 5 b7 9 11 13), Locrian ( 1 b3 b5 b7 9 11 b13) - you can sing the minor with a major 7h also and the dominant as an altered starting on the # 11 - singing the Db dominant pattern over a G bass. You can sing them in a row ascending and descending and also as triads (135, 357, 579,...) and seventh chords (1357, 3579, 57911, etc...) ascending and descending. The idea is to learn the sound of extensions and to hear them as groups of upper extension triads.

    Mail 2:

    "Some things I missed, some are in his books others are mine actually.

    1) Bebop scales at eight notes up and down from all chord-tones (implies knowing bebop scales theory well)

    2) Target Notes (from up and down and all the usual combinations) to all chord tones (implies knowing targeting notes theory well)

    3) Make a random scale pattern ( 4 2 5 7 3 6 for example). For each note sing it and then descend to the root. Then do the same ascending. (singing in a scalar fashion, by steps)

    4) Make a random chord pattern (11 9 5 7 3 13 for example). For each note sing it and then descend to the root. Then do the same ascending. (singing in a chord fashion, by thirds)

    5) Choose a scale tone. Sing all the other scale tones against it (2 1, 2 3, 2 4, 2 5, 2 6, 2 7) You can also do this random ( 2 6, 2 3, 2 5, 2 7, 2 4, etc...)

    6) Singing all the intervals in a chord / scale. For example in a major scale; minor seconds (34, 78), major seconds (12 23 45 56 67), etc... Do this to all intervals and up and down"

  10. jorgemg1984
    Member

    I honestly feel this is all useless given you have perfect pitch... really!!!

  11. gleepglop
    Member

    Jorge, I used to think that too, but having met some musicians with perfect pitch who had poor relative pitch made me realize that relative pitch needs to be cultivated regardless (though someone with AP will usually pick it up more quickly once they start working on it) and that relative pitch is far more important since that is how music actually works.

  12. gleepglop
    Member

    guitar1025, try singing with a drone and focusing on the feeling of resonance between the drone and the note you are singing. This resonance is the intervallic quality you want to listen for (you still feel it even when the tonic isn't being sounded).

    I don't have AP, so I don't know how you hear the pitches, but I'm certain that it is different from listening to resonance.

  13. jorgemg1984
    Member

    The thing is the guys I know with perfect pitch simply cannot develop relative pitch. They just hear (and think) notes not degrees... It's been like that since they remember themselves. They are still aware of how the notes work inside a chord or a tonality (degrees) but they just hear notes.

    I think for people with absolute pitch thinking fast is the way to hear degrees - knowing E is 3 on the key of C. Trying to stop hearing notes and hearing degrees might be really really hard and not that useful...

    I would like to have AP actually, it just saves you a lot of trouble. And I actually believe you can learn it but it just takes too long for an adult and it's probably not worth so much time.

  14. gleepglop
    Member

    If you can listen to music and enjoy it, then you have some degree of relative pitch. It's the pitch relationships that give music its meaning. If you really only had absolute pitch, it's unlikely that music would be terribly meaningful to you, or at least not in a way that most humans could recognize. In addition, the ability to even recognize which note in a piece is the key center is a relative pitch ability. Otherwise, a person with perfect pitch couldn't hear the difference between F lydian and D dorian.

    AP for sure could be handy in a lot of situations. It's unlikely that it can be learned by adults, thought most people can achieve some degree of pitch retention/recognition. I know people who have trained themselves to have a sort of pseudo perfect pitch, but it is much more limited than the real AP folks.

    There's a lot of very interesting research on the subject because it is so strange from a cognitive standpoint.

    The best research I've seen suggests that people are all born with AP faculties (of course the ET system of notes is arbitrary, so it is learned later) but that AP is somewhat detrimental to the development of (most) language and has little practical use (outside of music) and so our brains are trained to ignore it unless given a reason to do otherwise. And just like foreign accents and phonemes, once you are an adult it is nearly impossible to regain the flexibility that you had as a child.

  15. jorgemg1984
    Member

    yes, it's terribly hard to develop but I have the very personal opinion that it is learnable although it requires a huge amount of time. I have read a lot on the subject - Joe Henderson had a very interesting opinion on the subject in a masterclass I heard.

    One funny thing is that people tend to say you have it or you don't have it but it's not like that; some people have it just on one instrument; some people just have it on some days; some people just have it for some notes; some people have it to the point of knowing the difference between A440 and A339 others just for the actual notes; etc...

    I agree with you, you must have a good notion of tonality in order to fully understand music but the guys I know with perfect pitch don't seem to have a hard time understanding the role of notes in the tonal center. But of course I don't knot that many people with AP... the ones I know have it since little and have studied much since they remember walking or talking - I don't see any room of improvement for their ears in terms of recognition actually...

    If the OP wants to hear in a more relative way there are already excellent exercises on this thread. There are other areas of improvement of the ear besides recognition 1) memory (improving how fast you can memorize a musical sentence and how long the sentence is) 2) rhythms 3) imagination (the ability of the hear to produce good melodies) etc...

  16. guitar1025
    Member

    Thanks for the responses and advice.

    To answer some questions, I can't really explain how I hear notes. This is not something I've developed. I'm pretty sure I was born with it and didn't realize it was a "thing" until I was about 19. If someone plays an F. . .I just know it's an F. If I'm on the subway in NYC. . .I know it goes D#, B (the older ones, anyway) when the doors close. I know most car horns are an F (there are more variations with newer models). Etc, etc.

    When I was at Berklee I took one semester of ear training (I placed into the last course during my first semester) and I struggled to get a B in the class. Why? Because of solfege. It was really aggravating for me because I previously had NEVER dealt with solfege at all; moveable DO or fixed DO. So I could sight sing things pretty well, but it was a lot like knowing an entire song but struggling to retain any of the lyrics. I used to joke with the teacher about assignments and ask if I could just whistle them instead of stumbling over solfege.

    As far as can AP be learned, I don't know. I've heard stories that Mike Stern has middle C memorized and his RP is so good, it's almost the same as AP. He immediately recognizes other notes through their relationship to C.

    I feel like I am getting to a place where I am starting to rely more on relative hearing rather than AP. The way I see it, I want to use the AP thing as a last resource (which probably sounds crazy to people). I think of AP this way; imagine you knew every movie ever made, line-for-line. That would be great, but imagine you didn't know the context of any of the dialogue in ANY of those movies. So basically, you just know the words that are in these movies but you don't really know any of the movies. . .I hope that's a good analogy. . .

  17. gleepglop
    Member

    Jorge, I agree with you, but I think part of the issue is in definition of what constitutes "AP" . . . if you simply define it as "being able to recognize or produce pitches without a reference", then what you are talking about holds true. There are many different degrees of this, and to some extent it can be learned.

    But among that group of people, there is a subset who have far superior abilities, that are not restricted to one instrument and hear all octaves equally well, and consistently perform differently in objective tests involving notes that are deliberately out of tune. To me, that is "real" AP, and the other is just pitch memory. Even if you use some pitch memory and excellent RP to achieve similar results, it is a qualitatively different process than how "real" APers seem to perceive pitch. This latter perceptual shift has never been shown to be acquirable by an adult, though studies have shown that it can be ingrained in children up to about the age of 8 or 9.

    My point about understanding tonality is that understanding tonality is relative pitch; if someone can recognize tonality then they have relative pitch, by definition, so I don't buy the idea that people with AP can't also have RP. This is not obvious until you meet people with AP who dont have RP, and the musical problems they have seem really bizarre to anyone with even remotely decent ears.

    Good suggestions on the other aspects of ear training, though it sounds like guitar1025 doesn't need to work on his memorization skills . . .

  18. arewolfe
    Member

    Singing over a root/5th drone is a really good exercise. I'll just sing triads and 7th chords (Imaj, bII, IImin, bIII, IVmaj, #IV-7b5, V7, bVI, etc.). I just started doing this this week. Next I'm going to try singing all 12 triads of a single type (i.e. major triads, every key) over a root/5th drone.

    I don't have perfect pitch, so I can't say for sure, but I think these types of exercises would be beneficial. When I was in music school full time I did ear training about half an hour a day, 5-6 days a week for 4 semesters straight. The progress I made in that time made me realize that relative pitch is so valuable that I have no interest in tying to attain perfect pitch anymore (something I thought would be important before I ever did any ear training).

  19. jorgemg1984
    Member

    "As far as can AP be learned, I don't know. I've heard stories that Mike Stern has middle C memorized and his RP is so good, it's almost the same as AP. He immediately recognizes other notes through their relationship to C"

    Heard that story too, seems like a good method actually. If you do want to develop RP I think you have enough for a long time here :)

    "But among that group of people, there is a subset who have far superior abilities, that are not restricted to one instrument and hear all octaves equally well, and consistently perform differently in objective tests involving notes that are deliberately out of tune. To me, that is "real" AP, and the other is just pitch memory. Even if you use some pitch memory and excellent RP to achieve similar results, it is a qualitatively different process than how "real" APers seem to perceive pitch. This latter perceptual shift has never been shown to be acquirable by an adult, though studies have shown that it can be ingrained in children up to about the age of 8 or 9."

    Very interesting, never thought of this way. As you put it it's really clear.

    "My point about understanding tonality is that understanding tonality is relative pitch; if someone can recognize tonality then they have relative pitch, by definition, so I don't buy the idea that people with AP can't also have RP. This is not obvious until you meet people with AP who dont have RP, and the musical problems they have seem really bizarre to anyone with even remotely decent ears."

    Actually I never met people with AP that had problems with RP - it must be really weird... that's why I didn't see the need of an AP person to develop RP. My point is not that an AP person cannot develop RP I just think that process depends a lot on the brain - knowing what specific notes are on a specific key. At lest according to my friends with AP it's not really possible for them to hear degrees, they will always first hear the note and then eventually "think" what degree the note is.

  20. guitar1025
    Member

    "At lest according to my friends with AP it's not really possible for them to hear degrees, they will always first hear the note and then eventually "think" what degree the note is."

    That's exactly it jorgemg1984. So I guess what I'm trying to do is sort of just "selectively" use that part of my brain. When I hear two notes or a melody I may use the AP to figure out the first note. But then from there, I try to hear the rest in terms of intervals. I guess it's really an exercise in being able to turn on/off one or the other at any given time (. . .I never really looked at it that way until just now. . .).

    It CAN be done. My brain definitely goes through a process when identifying a note. Over the years, it's gotten to a point where I don't really think about it much anymore BUT it's still prevalent enough that I feel I can shut it off, i.e. just hear a note and not worry about what it is. Having said that I still very much feel like hanging myself if a band is playing at 440 and a trumpet is playing at 435. . . :).

    Reading what all you guys have had to say has helped my organize my thoughts somewhat better. If I do the drone exercise, I feel there's a scenario where AP would take over and not necessarily be a bad thing. If I want to sing a Bmin triad over a C-G drone, I would probably just recall a B in my mind's ear and go from there and not really worry about the intervallic relationship. I guess I feel like RP is going to help me more in terms of longer phrases of music in real time. If I want to transcribe a solo, I feel RP will help more than figuring out the solo one note at a time.

  21. jorgemg1984
    Member

    Well keep trying and keep us posted! :) The only RP advice I always give to people is hear intervals related to a key center or the chord of the moment NOT intervals between notes... good luck!

  22. silverwater
    Member

    Lots of great suggestions here, but not surprisingly for the best forum for musicians on the web!

    "Contextual Ear Training" by Bruce Arnold could be useful for you, if you're interested in an audio CD designed to help with relative pitch.

    http://www.muse-eek.com/digital/books/cetb.html

    What you'll get is 288 audio clips that cover all degrees of all keys, major and minor. For each one you'll hear a cadence, then you'll hear Bruce say "Sing x". I made folders, one for each degree, that way I could put my ipod shuffle and target a specific degree. Good stuff for commuting or whatever.

  23. guitar1025
    Member

    I'm intrigued by the Arnold material. I will definitely check that out!!

  24. This sounds very interesting, silverwater

  25. Thiago
    Member

    And what about Ear Master Pro? Does anyone know something about it?
    I heard good things about it, but did not have a chance to dig in.

  26. jorgemg1984
    Member

    Ear Master is fine for training the fundamentals - intervals, triads and invertions, seventh chords and inversions, etc... It does focus on hearing intervals instead of degrees.

    I have some Arnold files, they are good to put in an mp3 and study away from home which is very good for me.

    To practice art home they are useless for me, with Ear Master you can do much more than his files do (play a note on a keyboard and then put Ear Master playing random notes and guess the degrees for example).

  27. Thiago
    Member


  28. Thiago
    Member

    Nice to know about Ear Master, Jorge. I will check it out. My ear actually works kind of quickly in response to the chords I hear in a progression, but most times I am not able to identify on the spot which scales I`m playing over the chords.

  29. gleepglop
    Member

    Ear Master lets you design your own exercises, so if you're creative there is quite a lot you can do. I rarely use the built-in exercises, mostly I do my own.

  30. silverwater
    Member

    I can't praise Bruce Arnold's educational methods enough, especially in the area of technique. Classical guitar has an established pedagogy for technique, but electric pick-style guitar is still left as "whatever works". This is enough for many players, but some (like me) end up developing a lot of bad habits that end up severely limiting one's natural ability, and Mr. Arnold is the first educator I've come across to have developed such an in-depth approach to solving technique issues.

    My left hand was constantly strained and felt weak, and my right hand left much to be desired. One lesson with Bruce, a video, and one book, set me on a path to learning how to play fluidly and pain-free. Of course there's more than one way to do something, but the important thing I think about his methods you're not going to develop any muscular problems if you do them right, so therefore it's the only approach I know that can be said to "work for everybody".

    When I watch Nir Felder play, he's basically doing everything that Bruce would recommend (except wearing the guitar that low!), which makes me wonder if he didn't study with Bruce at NYU...Anyways, that would be the example I'd give if you want to see this in action.

    And not to continually sound like a paid spokesman, but Bruce also has a series called "One Note Ear Training" which I've never used, but apparently it functions as a prerequisite or a companion to "Conceptual Ear Training".


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