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A Philosophical View on Ear Training
#2978908 05/14/20 08:15 AM
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I don't think I mean to seek advice with thread (and certainly not encouragement) but I just thought I'd share my thoughts about ear training. I sort of feel that no one thinks of it the way so you might be interested in what I've to say. It's a little deep but you don't have to read all. Advice is welcome, even if it is to tell me that I'm over-thinking it!

I think it's important to remember (for me at least), that you're not good just because you can figure out how to play the song you want to play by ear. Ideally you should be able to find the notes without thinking. You're fingers should fall on the notes even if you don't know what chord or scale they're from. Regarding myself - I can figure out pieces of music by ear often without even once hitting an incorrect note. But it's confusing because I still don't feel like I can express what I feel on the piano. The goal is to be able to play what I hear in my head. Do you ever see a really skilled player on the piano and think to yourself "if only I had his aural ability I'd be able to do far more interesting things with that song than he is?".

Melody

Their are always several clues within the song to listen out for.

1. By listening out for any obvious intervals.

2. Secondly - if you imagine the same melody played slower in your mind it will make it easier. Also by doing this you will be able to clearly hear the first interval of the melody.

3. If you still are puzzled by what you hear, you can ask yourself "does it sound like an arpeggio from a major/minor chord, or does it sound like a scale?

4. Another trick - lets say you don't trust your finger to fall in the right place for the first of the last two notes of the phrase you're trying to figure. And lets say these two notes are right next to each other (e.g, m2 or M2). Then you can always imagine the scale of the song completing itself, from these last two notes, working its way up/down towards the tonic. And in doing so, you now know where those two notes are in the context of the scale. Now just think about that for a second - it's sort of like cheating! In such a situation shouldn't someone be able to rely on being able to hear the interval before the first of these two notes. Hope I didn't lose you there!

So of the above four tricks for figuring out music by ear, I have to wonder... what's going on subconsciously in the mind of an advanced pianist when they play a melody they hear. I'm presuming it's a bit of everything I mentioned!?

Here another interesting thing. A lot of musicians will advice a beginner that the trick is to listen to the base note of the song, and that's all it is. It's of course easy to follow the base note. But I remember once (when starting out) trying this method with a song and I hearing the base note G. I then asked myself if the chord sounded like a major or minor. It sounded like a major chord so I put two and two together and played a G chord. But no, it was not a G chord. It was a slash chord! But I've no doubt the guy who adviced that

Chords

It was very interesting to me that every single time I asked a music tutor about how I could train my ear to slash chords, that they would always proceed to answer my question by telling what a slash chord is, or maybe how to use them. They just didn't get it! It takes about 5 seconds to understand what a slash chord is, but it takes years to be able to instantly know what type of slash chord it is you hear when it's disguised within a piece of music. It's confusing because your brain is being given two messages when it comes to these chords. Sometimes they're used in a rather predictable way such as (E/G#-A) which would be easy to hear, but it's not always so. But the funny thing is, is that the musician who can't answer such a question satisfactory, is able to himself (without fail), hear the correct chord. Is it the case that they know not what they do, and that they can't explain how it is they learned such an ability? When I was younger I just presumed that there would be exercise drills that musicians would have done for this sort of stuff!

Is interesting the way chords can fool you about the notes being played and vis versa. Has anyone else ever noticed how musical pieces can mis-lead the ear? Like you might think you hear a tritone, but it might actually be a minor 6th, and you're only hearing it as a tritone relative to the root of the key I've never heard it discussed? I also think the fact that a major chord has m3 in it, and a minor chord has a M3 in it can sometimes throw beginners. It was initially funny to me I realised that it was the major chord that had the minor 6 interval in it, and that the minor chord has a major 6th! What can happen to me sometimes when figuring out a piece is that an interval (within a phrase) will stand out to me (without me even being aware) and I'll play this interval one note too early. Whoops, not as good as I thought I was. It seems to happen with minor 3rds a lot. It's like your mind is on the right track but needs a bit more improvement.

Scales

Too many teachers are only concerned about speed and technique. I think what happens with learning scales is that you become so used to playing certain notes, that when you eventually hear a note from outside the scale (for whatever reason), you're completely clueless as to where it is. Or worse, out of habit you're finger goes to a note in the scale that's nearest to the actual note you heard. Perhaps students should get familiar with the sound of basic intervals before learning scales.

Singing?

It's often recommended that you sing the notes to develop your ear! This is something I've never bothered trying. What's the point in singing the notes you hear as you're only going to hear them the exact same way as you heard them the first time? Unless you have trouble re-calling what you heard, or if you're trying to better your voice or something? I don't see how singing the notes makes you more familiar with the layout of the keys corresponds to the sound!

My own ear training exercises

I've recently made a few ear training recordings of myself on the piano which I then edited using audacity. One of these recordings is 'loosely' based around phrases from a certain key. I based these melodies on scales (modal/ pentatonics), minor/major arpeggios (in the many ways you can play them), blues notes, sus chords arpeggios, stacked intervals, aug/dim chord arpeggios, etc. Every few few phrases will also contain notes from outside this key just so that I'll never know what to expect when listening to it. Often one of these phrases will begin with one of the above ideas and end with another, so there are many possibilities. That's just an idea of my own, which to me seems like the best way you could do it! The important thing I've realised using this recording, is that some of the things I've challenged myself with I'm far better at than I'd have expected, and likewise some things I'm far worse. This of course allowed to figure out the areas I need to address.

Of the ear training exercises I developed myself, these are some of the things that I'm still weak at:

1. One thing I'm still very poor at is hearing is large intervals that are descending. This doesn't occur too often in music anyway. If any body knows an examples of songs with obvious examples of large descending (melodic) intervals. The only ones I know are the minor 6th in 'Love Story' (1970), the minor 7th in 'American in Paris' and the maj 7th in 'On the Trail' from The Grand Canyon Suite. And that's about it.

2. If I play a basic chord on the piano, and then (with my eyes closed) touch a random note a few octaves higher. I am very bad at being able to tell what the note is relative to the chord. Ideally I should know whether it's the 3rd, the 5th, or the root. Or I should know if it's a note from outside the chord, and what exactly relative to the chord. I am poor at this in spite my other abilities.

Sound illusions

Is there such a thing? Here are some cadences I've heard in songs before that threw me.

D-C7sus2 - sounded like the C7sus2 had a Bb base

Am-G6 - sounded like the G6 had an E base

I really struggle to hear the base note on major/2 slash chords (e.g, G/A). I just hear the over all sound of the chord, which I'm familiar with, but I just can't follow the base note from the previous chord to know where the it is... unless of course the previous chord shared the same base note, in which case it's easy (as in the major/2 chord in 'Circle of Life').

Thank you for reading

Last edited by Visalia; 05/14/20 08:20 AM.
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Re: A Philosophical View on Ear Training
Visalia #2978933 05/14/20 09:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Visalia
It's often recommended that you sing the notes to develop your ear! This is something I've never bothered trying. What's the point in singing the notes you hear as you're only going to hear them the exact same way as you heard them the first time? Unless you have trouble re-calling what you heard, or if you're trying to better your voice or something? I don't see how singing the notes makes you more familiar with the layout of the keys corresponds to the sound

Singing is a great way to be sure you can hear pitches. Try singing a major 7th, if you can’t do it then that might be that you don’t have as good an internal grasp of the intervals as you think. If you can do that try something a little harder, sing up a diminished scale or sing the chord tone form a B/C chord or whatever. Do it away from the keys, there is no point is just playing a note of the keyboard and then singing it after.

Sight singing is a great way of learning to hear music that you can see on the score. Probably you can see an interval on the page on mentally hear it inside your head, but if you try to sing lines away from the keyboard it is usually pretty apparent where there are difficulties.

It is not really about the singing - what we want to do is to improve the perception of pitch that occurs inside our heads, but that is a pretty hard thing to test unless we actually have a way of evaluating whether we are doing that correctly, and if you can sing something that is a guarantee that you are hearing the written notes accurately. If you are hearing the specified notes accurately in your head it is then pretty easy to write those notes down or play them correctly on the keyboard.

Re: A Philosophical View on Ear Training
Visalia #2979053 05/14/20 02:58 PM
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Ear training crystallized for me when I discovered tendency tones. Every note has a tendency to resolve to the tonic.

In the key of C, for example, C is at rest and has no tendency. The diatonic notes move this way:
D -> C
E -> D -> C (a weak tendency since this is the third of the tonic chord)
F -> E (strong tendency)
G -> C (strong tendency)
A -> G -> C
B -> C (the strongest tendency)

The chromatic tendencies:
Db -> C
Eb -> to my ear wants to go to C as in the blues scale (but I am a jazz player so that's how I think)
F# -> G -> C (strong tendency)
Ab -> G -> C
Bb -> B -> C

Practice singing these tendencies to get them into your ear. (Do Re Do. Do Fa Me. Do La Sol. Do Ti Do. and then the chromatic ones in the same manner).

Play a I IV V I cadence on the piano and then play any note. The tendency will be very clear. And after some practice you can get very fast at this. (You can have fun at parties demonstrating your perfect pitch doing this)

More importantly, in any tonal progression you will hear where any note wants to go. This is critical for learning to improvise because the notes that you play will tell you where they want to go.

I've got a lesson on all of this:

https://www.jazzpianoonline.com/courses/tendency-tones-ear-training

(FYI the lesson is paywalled)

Write me for more info I love talking about this topic.


Bill
bill@jazzpianoonline.com
www.JazzPianoOnline.com
Online Jazz Piano Lessons
Yamaha C7 Disklavier DC7ENSPRO
Re: A Philosophical View on Ear Training
Visalia #2979397 05/15/20 11:52 AM
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Developing one's ears is something that I often preach. And there are all sorts of ways to do it. I've invented a couple of musical/mind/singing games to do while driving in my car. One is to play a random pitch on a pitch pipe (I now have an app on my phone) - let's say a G. Then randomly decide on a pitch to sing from there - lets say a minor 6th above the G (an Eb) - then sing a perfect 5th below the Eb (an Ab). After several notes check your pitch on the pitch pipe.

The other driving exercise I sometimes play is simple choosing a song - Girl From Ipanema let's say. I play it in F. So I slowly sing the melody, enhancing it where I like, by maybe singing (not worrying about singing in tempo) an arpeggiated chord here or there (the chord below the melodic note you happen to be singing at that moment).

Circa 1978 at a pizza joint I was having lunch with a guitar player friend. He put a quarter in the juke box and pointed out the bass line in whatever songs he'd chosen. I had an epiphany. The bass in those pop/rock days was mostly playing root and 5th. This was the key to playing simple pop/rock like Creedence Clearwater Revival and other simple stuff.

About 40 years ago I stumbled onto Arnold Schoenberg's "Preliminary Exercises in Counterpoint". I bought it and worked thru the exercises in a portion of the book. Over time (maybe a year and a half) I could tell my perceptions had sharpened perceptibly. The best example I can come up with is "You've Got A Friend" - such that I could perceive the outer voices - the melody and bass - in a way I hadn't been able to previously.

About 4 years ago I started working thru Arnold Schoenberg's "Theory of Harmony" - under the guidance of Mark Polishook (who sometimes pops up here) for online lessons with another student. Mark had studied the book in graduate school under the guidance of a professor. The biggest reason to need a teacher ? Schoenberg pontificates and ruminates so much that there's a need to know where to focus on in the book to actually study his harmony lessons. He has the student work 4 part harmony voice leading exercises. I wrote 4 part exercises for about 3 years and finally ceased. Working these exercises greatly improved my voice leading when playing Great American Songbook standards.

One other thing I did about 3 years ago. Using YouTube and the mouse cursor I transcribed "Alfie" - the Cila Black (Bert Bacharach arrangement) version. Also "Promises Promises". Also Keith Jarrett's "Le Mistral" from Treasure Island.

And then I think of Erroll Garner. He never learned to read music. But he started playing around age 3 (IIRC) and had ears like a muthaeffa. He had some real life examples around to learn from and worked and developed his ears.

So my motto is obviously, develop your ears. However you wanna do it.

Re: A Philosophical View on Ear Training
Visalia #2979420 05/15/20 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by indigo_dave
So my motto is obviously, develop your ears. However you wanna do it.
+1000

Re: A Philosophical View on Ear Training
Visalia #2979574 05/15/20 05:40 PM
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Ear is everything something I wish I understood from the beginning. Also one of the best ways to work on your ear in a musical way is to transcribe recordings. First listen and absorb the what you plan to transcribe and get it in your ear. Now focus on the chunk you're going to work on and learn to sing it. Now transcribe from your singing. This not only gets you the notes, but it gets you into the phrasing, the timing, the feel. Then move on to the next chunk. You want to develop your ear for more than just the notes you want to get all the things that make it musical. Listening and transcribing you learn way more than recognizing pitches or harmony.

Re: A Philosophical View on Ear Training
MrShed #2979604 05/15/20 07:19 PM
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Originally Posted by MrShed
You want to develop your ear for more than just the notes you want to get all the things that make it musical. Listening and transcribing you learn way more than recognizing pitches or harmony.

That is very true. Learning to listen well is half the battle.

Re: A Philosophical View on Ear Training
beeboss #2979610 05/15/20 07:46 PM
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Originally Posted by beeboss
Originally Posted by Visalia
It's often recommended that you sing the notes to develop your ear! This is something I've never bothered trying. What's the point in singing the notes you hear as you're only going to hear them the exact same way as you heard them the first time? Unless you have trouble re-calling what you heard, or if you're trying to better your voice or something? I don't see how singing the notes makes you more familiar with the layout of the keys corresponds to the sound

Singing is a great way to be sure you can hear pitches. Try singing a major 7th, if you can’t do it then that might be that you don’t have as good an internal grasp of the intervals as you think. If you can do that try something a little harder, sing up a diminished scale or sing the chord tone form a B/C chord or whatever. Do it away from the keys, there is no point is just playing a note of the keyboard and then singing it after.

Sight singing is a great way of learning to hear music that you can see on the score. Probably you can see an interval on the page on mentally hear it inside your head, but if you try to sing lines away from the keyboard it is usually pretty apparent where there are difficulties.

It is not really about the singing - what we want to do is to improve the perception of pitch that occurs inside our heads, but that is a pretty hard thing to test unless we actually have a way of evaluating whether we are doing that correctly, and if you can sing something that is a guarantee that you are hearing the written notes accurately. If you are hearing the specified notes accurately in your head it is then pretty easy to write those notes down or play them correctly on the keyboard.
I needn't to hear that. It is very difficult for me to sing dim chords inspite of me being able to hear them. The minor chord keeps popping in instead. Aug chords are equally as hard.

Re: A Philosophical View on Ear Training
Visalia #2979746 05/16/20 05:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Visalia
It is very difficult for me to sing dim chords inspite of me being able to hear them.

That is likely because you can't hear them as well as you think. Recognising them is not enough. I can recognise Spanish when I hear it, it doesn't mean I can understand it. If you can sing all the intervals reliably up and down then is the time to move on to chords.

Re: A Philosophical View on Ear Training
Visalia #2979762 05/16/20 06:57 AM
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If you're lazy like me you can use: https://www.meludia.com/en/ for awhile. It costs money though, but what is nice is the presentation, layout design and so on. It makes it much more enjoyable then all these ugly cheap software with atrocious sound available online.

Re: A Philosophical View on Ear Training
Visalia #2981540 05/20/20 10:11 AM
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Has anyone tried this out? http://beatoeartraining.com

Even with the discount it's still expensive for an app but then it's cheaper than a Berklee ear training course. I'm currently using the Functional Ear Trainer App which is free and effective, but if the above is worth it I may consider it.

Re: A Philosophical View on Ear Training
MrShed #2982591 05/22/20 06:26 PM
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Thank you for your reply. I seem to not be able to fathom your approach. Below are my thoughts if you wish to read. It'll probably sound a bit rude!

Originally Posted by MrShed
First listen and absorb what you plan to transcribe and get it in your ear. Now focus on the chunk you're going to work on and learn to sing it. Now transcribe from your singing.

The moment I hear something it's in my ear (head) straight away. Listening to it multiple times does not make any difference.

Originally Posted by MrShed
Now focus on the chunk you're going to work on and learn to sing it. Now transcribe from your singing.

Honestly, I don't really see the point in singing the notes that I already have in my head as I'll only hear them the same way. What beeboss said seems like a good idea - to sing note before you hear them... as in play one note on the piano, and then look at whatever notes you want to see if you can sing them.

Originally Posted by MrShed
This not only gets you the notes, but it gets you into the phrasing, the timing, the feel.

Well to be fair, I don't think anyone would really have a desire to play the song if they didn't get into the "feel" of it. Even people who can't play an instrument can get into the 'feel' of something and extemporise great harmonising to a song. Feeling in a musical mood and knowing your instrument are two different things.

Originally Posted by MrShed
In listening and transcribing you learn way more than recognizing pitches or harmony.

But if you can't recognise the pitches when you are transcribing, then you're likely going to be using trial and error to get the notes!

Originally Posted by MrShed
Then move on to the next chunk. You want to develop your ear for more than just the notes... you want to get all the things that make it musical.

You're talking about rhythm? That's either within someone or not. It's innate. It's no good if you don't have the ear for finding the notes.

A lot of people who have a fantastic ear from birth take it for granted. And the only issue they have is to embrace the spirit of the song better. But they forget that some people have the opposite problem. Do you see what I mean?

Last edited by Visalia; 05/22/20 06:29 PM.
Re: A Philosophical View on Ear Training
beeboss #2982605 05/22/20 06:52 PM
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Originally Posted by beeboss
Singing is a great way to be sure you can hear pitches. Try singing a major 7th, if you can’t do it then that might be that you don’t have as good an internal grasp of the intervals as you think. If you can do that try something a little harder, sing up a diminished scale or sing the chord tone form a B/C chord or whatever. Do it away from the keys, there is no point is just playing a note of the keyboard and then singing it after.
Thanks, I have tried some stuff along those lines. Some of might indeed be helping, but if I could ask a question about it.

Take this idea I've been doing for example. I try singing these 6 notes in the same phrase before touching them - the 3 notes of a major chord (let's say C) and then moving down a tone to a diminished chord (Bb). All together: C E G Bb C# E.

The thing is that I find it really hard to sing that last E note. The fact I've already heard myself sing it doesn't make it any easier. The F note from the Bb minor chord just keeps popping into my head. I can sing the F and Eb. But it's as if my brain won't let me hear the note in between.

The only way I can do it is to sing every note until I get to the C#, and then stop and imagine the first notes of 'green sleeves' starting from that note! But that's cheating!

It's too easy to do sing it after I've heard it, but then when I try and do the same theing elsewhere on the piano, it's just as hard.

Last edited by Visalia; 05/22/20 06:57 PM.
Re: A Philosophical View on Ear Training
Visalia #2982651 05/22/20 10:50 PM
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The only reason i can think of that singing, humming, or whistling, doesn't help is for chords. So far i can't get two or three tones out at once. But humming or whistling gets a mental map in one's head, seperate from the instrument.
If somebody is working to connect the brain to the keyboard or string, i swear by scale work. I've collected melodies as well. Starting simply, but it amazes me, by the time one has memorized 50 melodies, patterns seem more aparent. I didn't get to eighty, before i conceded i will simply learn or re-learn it when it's ness.


Rhythm & Chords, it's what I do.
Re: A Philosophical View on Ear Training
Visalia #2982706 05/23/20 06:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Visalia
The thing is that I find it really hard to sing that last E note. The fact I've already heard myself sing it doesn't make it any easier. The F note from the Bb minor chord just keeps popping into my head. I can sing the F and Eb. But it's as if my brain won't let me hear the note in between.

The only way I can do it is to sing every note until I get to the C#, and then stop and imagine the first notes of 'green sleeves' starting from that note! But that's cheating!

It's too easy to do sing it after I've heard it, but then when I try and do the same theing elsewhere on the piano, it's just as hard

Yes, it is harder than you think. If you are finding it difficult it is because it is difficult. But if you keep doing it you will get better. I don't think it is cheating to imagine a well known tune that uses the interval, that is a standard way to get familiar with intervals. If one interval is particularly hard spend a bit more time with it. As you have found out the context is everything, hearing a note that occurs in an unexpected place is a lot harder.

Last edited by beeboss; 05/23/20 06:22 AM.
Re: A Philosophical View on Ear Training
Farmerjones #2982745 05/23/20 09:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Farmerjones
The only reason i can think of that singing, humming, or whistling, doesn't help is for chords. So far i can't get two or three tones out at once.
I'm not sure I follow. Are you saying there's no point in singing the notes of chords (as opposed to whatever else) in order to improve one's ear? Or are you saying that it's more challenging than singing scales?
Originally Posted by Farmerjones
If somebody is working to connect the brain to the keyboard or string, i swear by scale work.
So does that mean you disagree with what I've said in the original post under the heading 'scales'?

I'd be more inclined to swear by melodies.

Last edited by Visalia; 05/23/20 09:51 AM.
Re: A Philosophical View on Ear Training
Visalia #2982861 05/23/20 03:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Visalia
Originally Posted by MrShed
Then move on to the next chunk. You want to develop your ear for more than just the notes... you want to get all the things that make it musical.

You're talking about rhythm? That's either within someone or not. It's innate. It's no good if you don't have the ear for finding the notes.

A lot of people who have a fantastic ear from birth take it for granted. And the only issue they have is to embrace the spirit of the song better. But they forget that some people have the opposite problem. Do you see what I mean?

No you have to learn to look at rhythms and just know them like reading the words of this post. You don't see the work "reading" and think about each letter then group them to discover what word it it, no you have seen and read it enough to just instantly recognize it and know what it is. Learning to read music is the same thing. In beginning you reading is slow and challenging because you are looking at every note and trying to figure out the rhythm and the pitch. But the more your read the more you start to recognize rhythmic patterns like reading words in a post and just knowing what it sounds like, then it just a matter of adding the pitches. That why when I was in music school you see everyone with books of rhythms like the classic Louis Bellson book or there are others today. After school I studied sightreading with a classical conductor who a lot of the studio musicians studied with and his book was mainly rhythms and then pitch was added. Since many of his student were from Pop/Rock world his main focus for us was holding notes to their full rhythmic value. Pop/Rock players when reading tend to shorten notes.

As for the notes they are less important than the rhythms contrary to what you said. As taught in sightreading in school.... If you screw up reading the pitch of a note you're probably just adding to the harmony, but you screw up a rhythm you sticking out like a sore thumb. Try playing all the right pitches but in wrong rhythm you're going to have everyone looking at you including non-musicians.

Re: A Philosophical View on Ear Training
Visalia #2982866 05/23/20 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Visalia
Originally Posted by Farmerjones
The only reason i can think of that singing, humming, or whistling, doesn't help is for chords. So far i can't get two or three tones out at once.
I'm not sure I follow. Are you saying there's no point in singing the notes of chords (as opposed to whatever else) in order to improve one's ear? Or are you saying that it's more challenging than singing scales?
Originally Posted by Farmerjones
If somebody is working to connect the brain to the keyboard or string, i swear by scale work.
So does that mean you disagree with what I've said in the original post under the heading 'scales'?

I'd be more inclined to swear by melodies.

About whistling/humming chords: How? Tell me how to whistle or hum a tri-tone?

In reguards to melody collecting or scales, i think we're very nearly in agreement. I don't like to say muscule memory, but something close to it must be established. I think scales in the very early development, but then depart to simple melodies, then to more sophistcated melodies. I don't think a kitten will die if we do disagree.


Rhythm & Chords, it's what I do.
Re: A Philosophical View on Ear Training
Farmerjones #2983098 05/24/20 06:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Farmerjones
About whistling/humming chords: How? Tell me how to whistle or hum a tri-tone?
Oh I see what you mean. I meant arpeggio chords, and melodic intervals (not harmonic intervals)!

Last edited by Visalia; 05/24/20 06:10 AM.
Re: A Philosophical View on Ear Training
MrShed #2983100 05/24/20 06:07 AM
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Originally Posted by MrShed
As for the notes they are less important than the rhythms contrary to what you said. As taught in sightreading in school.... If you screw up reading the pitch of a note you're probably just adding to the harmony, but you screw up a rhythm you sticking out like a sore thumb. Try playing all the right pitches but in wrong rhythm you're going to have everyone looking at you including non-musicians.
You seem to completely misunderstand. This is not a thread about sight reading, or about rhythm (matters which you might be better versed at talking about). It's about ear training.

You seem to completely misunderstand. This is not a thread about sight reading, or rhythm (matters which you might be better versed at talking about). It's about ear training.

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