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Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf

Posted By: AZNpiano

Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/08/19 05:46 AM

One of my really bad piano students insists on taking the CM exam, and she can't hear anything--no chord qualities, no intervals. NOTHING. She consistently gets confused between C major triad and E major triad if I play them back to back. She hears them as two different chord qualities.

She also can't tell apart an interval that's close or far apart. If I play a minor third, she'll say the two notes are far apart. And if I play a Major seventh, she'll think the two notes are close together.

At one lesson, I got so fed up with her lack of hearing ability, I played simply two notes, a half step apart, and asked her if the note went up or down. She can do that. She can also tell if the notes are same or different. That's it. Up, down. Same or different.

I'm this close to giving her one of those online audio tests that examines deficiency in pitch perception, but that will hurt her feelings cool

Any suggestions? cursing
Posted By: outo

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/08/19 05:59 AM

First thing would be to find out whether she actually cannot hear or if she has a problem with short term memory or other inability to analyze the information or even ADD. Not an easy task though. If so you could try to introduce less at once, give more time and make sure the student does not get stressed.

I have a very good ear but because of my memory problems I am terrible at such exercises...
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/08/19 06:13 AM

Interesting.

She does very well at school, getting mostly A's. I noticed that she's very bad with audio processing of verbal instructions, so I almost always write down my instructions, step by step. She's extremely stubborn and LOVES to debate over semantics, even when she's dead wrong.

Definitely no ADD. I've worked with kids who have ADD, and she's not in the same ballpark as them. I think it's something wrong with her pitch perception.

I tried the "song openings" method to teach her intervals. To her ears, Happy Birthday and Twinkle Twinkle and Jingle Bells start on the same interval.

She thinks Happy Birthday is in a minor key.
Posted By: Eric399

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/08/19 06:16 AM

How is she at singing?
Posted By: currawong

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/08/19 06:17 AM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
I played simply two notes, a half step apart, and asked her if the note went up or down. She can do that. She can also tell if the notes are same or different. That's it. Up, down. Same or different.
If she can do same/different and up/down she is NOT tone-deaf. You might have to think of another word for it. Aurally challenged, inexperienced etc. I would start from the things she can hear and identify, and very gradually extend it. Don't think about working towards a test, just keep gradually extending what she can do, tiny steps. That would be my approach, anyway.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/08/19 06:57 AM

She's a monotone. Can't match pitch if her life depended on it. She must be one of those girls that mouths words in choir.

Don't get me wrong. She's actually a very pleasant student. She's enthusiastic, and actually practices piano!! Her mother can get a little pushy, but what Asian parent isn't these days?

However, she takes her a long time to learn something so simple, even my 7-year-old students can learn quickly. I inherited her from a Suzuki teacher who forgot to teach her to read music, so in the last two years I've managed to turn a non-reader into a kid who can actually sight read decently. Of course, I am THE expert at turning Transfer Wrecks into capable players, but now I've run into something that's even I can't fix. I blame genetics.

I guess I'll try baby steps. But what's the next baby step after Up/Down? Half step vs. whole step?
Posted By: currawong

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/08/19 08:15 AM

Kids who can’t match pitch often just haven’t had the vocal experience they need to do this. Start by getting her to sing a pitch, any pitch, without giving her anything to copy or match. Then find the pitch she sings and once again, go from there. If it’s D she sings, for example, you could try a little 3-note song DED and see if she can match that. It sounds slow, but it’s much more productive to start with what the child can do and not challenging her until she’s confident.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/08/19 11:39 AM

The other thing one might consider is an ear training app for a phone. She likely has a smart phone as most kids now do. Perhaps you assign her to work with one of the more common ear training apps that have different levels and are progressive. Something like 5 mins per day. At least she would get immediate and objective feedback on her weakness, and get this feedback daily too.

It's not as bad to have your smartphone app call you out than to have your teacher call you out, even if the latter is in the nicest way - I know that would push my anxiety button if I repeatedly were to fail in front of my teacher on something.
Posted By: pianist_lady

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/08/19 12:16 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
The other thing one might consider is an ear training app for a phone. She likely has a smart phone as most kids now do. Perhaps you assign her to work with one of the more common ear training apps that have different levels and are progressive. Something like 5 mins per day. At least she would get immediate and objective feedback on her weakness, and get this feedback daily too.

It's not as bad to have your smartphone app call you out than to have your teacher call you out, even if the latter is in the nicest way - I know that would push my anxiety button if I repeatedly were to fail in front of my teacher on something.


I was just going to suggest this. I'm not sure what the latest apps are, but I have used musictheory.net with my students. You can customize an ear training exercise (for example, playing only major and minor thirds) and send the link to your student. The game-like quality might be appealing to her.

Not sure how your exam system compares to RCM, but in RCM the identifying intervals/chords etc. portion of the exam is not worth a huge number of points. So if the student is having huge difficulties in this area, I try not to stress too much... hopefully the student can do well in other areas of the exam.
Posted By: TimR

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/08/19 12:56 PM

Matching pitch can be very timbre dependent.

I've told this story before, but: I was in church when the pastor played the starting pitch (for an unfamiliar hymn) on the organ then started singing it, at least a fourth higher. None of us had the range to sing it. I fumed to my daughter "How is that even possible? He played the note." But my then middle school daughter said Daddy I can't do it either. But, she sings in choir and is always on pitch. She said she can match pitch to a voice, or to a piano, but not to an organ, guitar, trumpet, etc. It's a learned thing, she couldn't do piano at first but with choir experience added that skill.

So here's my thought. I think you said you have a digital in the studio. Try some different voices and see if there's a timbre that her ear responds to better. Then shape outwards from there. Maybe an oboe would work better, or a flute, or a sine wave, or a bassoon, etc.

Reinhardt (famous brass teacher, now deceased) said trombone players should develop perfect pitch by learning to recognize notes on trombone, then expand to trumpet and tuba.
Posted By: Dr. Rogers

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/08/19 01:32 PM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
I guess I'll try baby steps. But what's the next baby step after Up/Down? Half step vs. whole step?


Ouch - what a bad situation. However, it sounds like there is hope. This baby steps idea is the right idea, and the next thing I would do is half step vs. whole step, then move on the larger intervals, identifying half steps, whole steps, and intervals in pieces, etc.

Question: who is actually insisting on the exam? The student herself, or the parents? If it's the student, then you might want to give her a "come to Jesus" talk: she MUST work hard at aural and take it seriously, otherwise her exam scores will suffer. If it's the parents... thankfully I've never been in that situation, even with my Asian students.
Posted By: LarryK

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/08/19 01:33 PM

Originally Posted by pianist_lady
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
The other thing one might consider is an ear training app for a phone. She likely has a smart phone as most kids now do. Perhaps you assign her to work with one of the more common ear training apps that have different levels and are progressive. Something like 5 mins per day. At least she would get immediate and objective feedback on her weakness, and get this feedback daily too.

It's not as bad to have your smartphone app call you out than to have your teacher call you out, even if the latter is in the nicest way - I know that would push my anxiety button if I repeatedly were to fail in front of my teacher on something.


I was just going to suggest this. I'm not sure what the latest apps are, but I have used musictheory.net with my students. You can customize an ear training exercise (for example, playing only major and minor thirds) and send the link to your student. The game-like quality might be appealing to her.

Not sure how your exam system compares to RCM, but in RCM the identifying intervals/chords etc. portion of the exam is not worth a huge number of points. So if the student is having huge difficulties in this area, I try not to stress too much... hopefully the student can do well in other areas of the exam.


I’ve been working my way through meludia on my iPhone. There is also a web version: https://www.meludia.com/
Posted By: outo

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/08/19 03:07 PM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Interesting.

She does very well at school, getting mostly A's. I noticed that she's very bad with audio processing of verbal instructions, so I almost always write down my instructions, step by step. She's extremely stubborn and LOVES to debate over semantics, even when she's dead wrong..


Don't be fooled by school success though...if she is intelligent she can do well despite issues in perception. School is easy compared to piano smile
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/08/19 04:10 PM

Originally Posted by TimR
Reinhardt (famous brass teacher, now deceased) said trombone players should develop perfect pitch by learning to recognize notes on trombone, then expand to trumpet and tuba.

I assume you mean "relative pitch?"
Posted By: TimR

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/08/19 05:15 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by TimR
Reinhardt (famous brass teacher, now deceased) said trombone players should develop perfect pitch by learning to recognize notes on trombone, then expand to trumpet and tuba.

I assume you mean "relative pitch?"


No, I do not. I don't mean the ability to identify or for that matter to play a given interval.

I mean to listen to a trombone player play a simple melody, e.g., and know what notes he is playing at all times. Within the comfortable intermediate trombone range - say, the bass clef up to about third space C in the treble clef - I can usually do this if it's not too fast.

Of course there are more cues available than just the slight variations in timbre. If we can see the player there are cues from the position, there is the information from the notes that preceded, the context of the key, the changes in articulation that accompany changes in partial, etc. I don't know what all goes into it. It is harder with notes in isolation, and when they get into the super high range (F on top of treble clef to the F above) I can't do it at all. I can't play that range myself and that may have something to do with it.

I can't do it listening to trumpet, but I can tell open notes from valved notes usually, and sometimes that is enough to identify what they are playing. For example, if you hear an open note to a major second, there are lots of choices. If you hear open to open major third to open minor third, and it's midrange tone, there's only one possibility.

I'll look up the exact Reinhardt advice and post it if you're interested.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/08/19 05:37 PM

Originally Posted by Dr. Rogers
Question: who is actually insisting on the exam? The student herself, or the parents? If it's the student, then you might want to give her a "come to Jesus" talk: she MUST work hard at aural and take it seriously, otherwise her exam scores will suffer. If it's the parents... thankfully I've never been in that situation, even with my Asian students.

It's both. The girl goes to a school where almost everybody who is anybody takes piano lessons, and over half take the CM test. It's tremendous social/peer pressure, I bet. There's almost a fatalistic disconnect between this girl's enthusiasm for the test and her actual ability. Not sure if I want to try the "Come to Jesus" method of direct instruction.

Mom is one of those gossipy Asian parents who gets all these stupid ideas online. She often would dig up the "achievements" of other girls on FB and ask me if her daughter can do the same. I tried to be as diplomatic as I can, but you know I'm not good at that. I tried to explain my philosophy over email so the daughter can be spared of The Truth. God knows if Mom just shows those emails to the girl and makes her feel even more worthless.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/08/19 05:38 PM

RE: apps and online resources

Tried that. There's no follow-through at home.
Posted By: JohnSprung

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/09/19 12:07 AM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
I'm this close to giving her one of those online audio tests that examines deficiency in pitch perception, but that will hurt her feelings :


Instead of some internet test, better to go to the best available ear doctors:

https://hei.org/

Given how diligent and successful she is in her other school work, maybe there is something physically wrong with her hearing.
Posted By: keystring

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/09/19 09:18 AM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
I tried the "song openings" method to teach her intervals. To her ears, Happy Birthday and Twinkle Twinkle and Jingle Bells start on the same interval.

Hm - Thinking about this. Putting these two pieces into C major:

Happy birthday: G, G, A, G, C, B.....
Twinkle: C, C, G, G, A, A, G.....
Jingle Bells: E, E,E - E, E, E - E, G, C, D, E...

They do all start on the same interval: unison: G,G .... C,C .... E,E... unisons laugh

Every one of the problems you have listed has to with a verbal name for something, and verbal instructions. You say she has trouble with verbal instructions. In Happy Birthday, you are not asking her to identify what interval open the song: You are asking her to identify the first two notes that are different. But she has taken you literally.

You've got all these names of things. I might get mixed up too. How is she in playing? Does she play correctly or badly? If she makes a mistake, can she hear it and correct it?

If she debates over semantics, that may again be the comprehension thing: or aspiness. I have been accused of debating over semantics, and it's not just because I'm a linguist, but because I tend to take things literally.
Posted By: pianist_lady

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/09/19 11:45 AM

Thinking about using tunes to hear intervals: the Celebrate Piano method series uses "interval songs" to support reading and ear training. These are short tunes that the student and teacher sing and play at the lesson; all the tunes have the interval ascending and descending, as well as step-wise motion from the bottom note to the top note of the interval. Perhaps you could help your student compose short melodies (2-4 bars only) to help her hear/feel each interval? If she is not into singing, then writing and playing might help make things more concrete.

Regarding exam preparation, at times I have found it helpful to show the parent and student the breakdown of the marks for the various sections of the exam. Sometimes I get students who refuse to practice scales and/or ear training, because they think the repertoire is only thing that matters and that they will get a high score by "perfecting" all of the pieces. Usually they understand when I show them that neglecting these other areas means saying goodbye to at least 10 points, if not more.
Posted By: malkin

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/09/19 02:02 PM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
...There's no follow-through at home.


It sounds like this is likely to be a problem no matter what you try.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/09/19 08:13 PM

Originally Posted by keystring
Every one of the problems you have listed has to with a verbal name for something, and verbal instructions. You say she has trouble with verbal instructions. In Happy Birthday, you are not asking her to identify what interval open the song: You are asking her to identify the first two notes that are different. But she has taken you literally.

No, I'm quite specific about the openings. And Jingle Bells starts with a M6. (Dashing through the snow)

Every one of these intervals were played a zillion times during lessons. Sometimes it makes me wonder why bother.

Originally Posted by keystring
You've got all these names of things. I might get mixed up too. How is she in playing? Does she play correctly or badly? If she makes a mistake, can she hear it and correct it?

Her playing is competent, though not very expressive. No dynamics, and very little effort at balance or voicing. It's all about getting the notes right. FWIW, she's not yet doing sonatinas, so very early intermediate stage. It also takes her several weeks to learn one piece. A bit on the slow side.

Originally Posted by keystring
If she debates over semantics, that may again be the comprehension thing: or aspiness. I have been accused of debating over semantics, and it's not just because I'm a linguist, but because I tend to take things literally.

To me, it's more about being a teenager.

This is a Transfer Wreck indeed. In total, she's been playing piano over six years now. Many of my beginners who started piano after I got her have surpassed her. It takes longer to undo the damage and then to re-teach.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/09/19 08:15 PM

Originally Posted by malkin
Originally Posted by AZNpiano
...There's no follow-through at home.


It sounds like this is likely to be a problem no matter what you try.

That's what I'm up against. Both the girl and her mother do not realize how much there is to learn, and they don't put in enough effort to overcome what's apparent to me a genetic deficiency.

At this point, I might just let her get a zero for that portion of the Ear Training test. I'll pick my battles wisely. This one is unwinnable.
Posted By: anamnesis

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/09/19 08:49 PM

Are you only using the piano? Try something that has simpler overtone profile like a flute or even a pure sine wave.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/09/19 09:00 PM

Originally Posted by anamnesis
Are you only using the piano? Try something that has simpler overtone profile like a flute or even a pure sine wave.

I think I know what you are getting at. The overtones don't affect most people, though. I think this is a case where the girl's hearing is truly deficient.
Posted By: outo

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/09/19 09:11 PM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by keystring
Every one of the problems you have listed has to with a verbal name for something, and verbal instructions. You say she has trouble with verbal instructions. In Happy Birthday, you are not asking her to identify what interval open the song: You are asking her to identify the first two notes that are different. But she has taken you literally.

No, I'm quite specific about the openings. And Jingle Bells starts with a M6. (Dashing through the snow)

Every one of these intervals were played a zillion times during lessons. Sometimes it makes me wonder why bother.


I tried the song method myself at some point. I can sing the songs fine, I can immediately hear if someone sings them flat or sharp but I can never remember which interval it is. Now that you mention that one is a sixth, fine I can sing it, but ask me tomorrow what that interval is and I will need to go to the piano and count the keys...if I have to sing a specific interval outside of context I will have to sing the scale and count the steps in my head. Melodies I can remember without much effort but If you play me two different intervals I cannot remember the first long enough to compare to the second even if can surely HEAR the difference. It's a bit hard to explain. It is some kind of a handicap with my memory, just like I cannot remember faces no matter how often I see them...and it is not a problem for me to list the interval names and handle them theoretically. For your student whatever the deeper reason behind the problems, It may indeed be that the exam is not worth all the trouble...
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/09/19 10:55 PM

Originally Posted by outo
Melodies I can remember without much effort but If you play me two different intervals I cannot remember the first long enough to compare to the second even if can surely HEAR the difference. It's a bit hard to explain. It is some kind of a handicap with my memory, just like I cannot remember faces no matter how often I see them...

I read the Oliver Sacks book that discussed visual agnosia and am therefore pretty sure a difficulty remembering intervals would not be neurologically related to a difficulties with faces.
Posted By: malkin

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/10/19 12:53 AM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by anamnesis
Are you only using the piano? Try something that has simpler overtone profile like a flute or even a pure sine wave.

I think I know what you are getting at. The overtones don't affect most people, though. I think this is a case where the girl's hearing is truly deficient.


Yes, if hearing is defined as her entire auditory system from her outer ears to her auditory cortex, and then through the magical web that would enable her to give expression to the experience.
Posted By: macuaig

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/10/19 01:38 AM

Another tangent, but related from today’s news. “Aphantasia” is a newly defined inability to create or hold abstract imagery in your mind. BBC story features the outgoing head of Pixar animation studio. May be similar things happening with struggling music students?

Aphantasia: Ex-Pixar chief Ed Catmull says 'my mind's eye is blind'
https://www.bbc.com/news/health-47830256
Posted By: keystring

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/10/19 02:04 AM

Originally Posted by currawong
If she can do same/different and up/down she is NOT tone-deaf. You might have to think of another word for it. Aurally challenged, inexperienced etc. I would start from the things she can hear and identify, and very gradually extend it. Don't think about working towards a test, just keep gradually extending what she can do, tiny steps. That would be my approach, anyway.


and

Originally Posted by currawong
Kids who can’t match pitch often just haven’t had the vocal experience they need to do this. Start by getting her to sing a pitch, any pitch, without giving her anything to copy or match. Then find the pitch she sings and once again, go from there. If it’s D she sings, for example, you could try a little 3-note song DED and see if she can match that. It sounds slow, but it’s much more productive to start with what the child can do and not challenging her until she’s confident.


Both of these things make sense.

There is so much "medical diagnosis" going on here. It all seems off. There is also the matter of her having been a transfer student, needing to learn to read after two years of some version of Suzuki, and if that was ear as it must have been, you might be looking at a MIStraining of the ear.
Posted By: outo

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/10/19 02:46 AM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by outo
Melodies I can remember without much effort but If you play me two different intervals I cannot remember the first long enough to compare to the second even if can surely HEAR the difference. It's a bit hard to explain. It is some kind of a handicap with my memory, just like I cannot remember faces no matter how often I see them...

I read the Oliver Sacks book that discussed visual agnosia and am therefore pretty sure a difficulty remembering intervals would not be neurologically related to a difficulties with faces.


I never said it was. I can recognize faces, I just cannot remember them consistently. Agnosia is a more severe condition. My problems are memory related. It was an example of how certain things do not stick. I cannot remember left and right either, even after decades of trying wink
Posted By: malkin

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/10/19 03:21 AM

Originally Posted by JohnSprung
Originally Posted by AZNpiano
I'm this close to giving her one of those online audio tests that examines deficiency in pitch perception, but that will hurt her feelings :


Instead of some internet test, better to go to the best available ear doctors:

https://hei.org/

Given how diligent and successful she is in her other school work, maybe there is something physically wrong with her hearing.



I want to hear the response from the House Ear Institute when you refer her due to tone deafness!
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/10/19 03:56 AM

Originally Posted by keystring
There is so much "medical diagnosis" going on here. It all seems off. There is also the matter of her having been a transfer student, needing to learn to read after two years of some version of Suzuki, and if that was ear as it must have been, you might be looking at a MIStraining of the ear.

What training of the ear? The girl learned to play piano by copying her teacher's demonstration. It was learning by sight, not by ear.

The girl is just now getting ready to play the stuff that her last teacher let her mimic. So much time is wasted.

Also, the girl has been in choir since 4th grade. What has she been doing the last four years if she can't even match pitch?
Posted By: keystring

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/10/19 04:42 AM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by keystring
There is so much "medical diagnosis" going on here. It all seems off. There is also the matter of her having been a transfer student, needing to learn to read after two years of some version of Suzuki, and if that was ear as it must have been, you might be looking at a MIStraining of the ear.

What training of the ear? The girl learned to play piano by copying her teacher's demonstration. It was learning by sight, not by ear.

I wrote MIStraining - not training. Anything you have a student do will end up creating some kind of training including a wrong kind. For copying she had to "listen" to her teacher, but it's the wrong kind of listening. It spoils the ear, depending on how she/her teacher did it.
Posted By: keystring

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/10/19 01:07 PM

I'll expand. I have a friend who was taught viola via Suzuki, imitating piece after piece over recordings. We met when she was relatively advanced, and we explored this and that as two strings students. She discovered that with all that imitating, she had never learned to listen and hear individual things. An interval, a motif, a pattern. In this way it had spoiled the ear and hearing had to be relearned with things unlearned. I was thinking about that kind of thing.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/10/19 07:39 PM

This article is almost 6 years old but explains very well the phenomena of congenital amusia in children. It references these four research papers:
The upshot is that not only might there be nothing to be done about this, but the condition could be hereditary - your student's parent(s) could also have congenital amusia. This research paper here includes a little summary:
Quote
It may be possible to compensate for amusia by training pitch discrimination abilities. Amusic adults show a normal range of intelligence and have no other brain deficits. They get little payoff from pitch training and typically find it annoying. Their performance on tests of pitch may even decrease with continued testing.

There is greater hope for children, especially since an understanding of amusia may have broader implications. Researchers believe that congenital amusia has similarities with dyslexia and related disorders. These findings should contribute to understanding the origins of learning disorders – the genetic causes and their neural consequences, opined the scientists of the study.
Posted By: rocket88

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/11/19 12:29 AM

Congenital amusia...is this proof, scientific or otherwise, that some people are simply not musically talented? Sure sounds like it.

ps...thanks for the research, Tyrone.
Posted By: Morodiene

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/11/19 11:11 AM

Originally Posted by currawong
Kids who can’t match pitch often just haven’t had the vocal experience they need to do this. Start by getting her to sing a pitch, any pitch, without giving her anything to copy or match. Then find the pitch she sings and once again, go from there. If it’s D she sings, for example, you could try a little 3-note song DED and see if she can match that. It sounds slow, but it’s much more productive to start with what the child can do and not challenging her until she’s confident.

This is a good tactic. Also, I will explain to the student that the problem is she isn't internalizing the note, meaning she's not singing it in her head. That is absolutely necessary in order to match pitch, and it is what allows us to determine intervals because we "sing" them in our head and can figure out if it's a large interval vs small, and narrow it down from there by figuring something like Wedding March for a perfect 4th, twinkle twinkle for a 5th, etc.

While I am explaining this, I'm sitting at the piano and playing middle C, and the surrounding octaves at the same time with the pedal over and over again. Middle C is an easy note for any female voice to sing. I with then ask her to listen to this note I've been playing, play Middle C only and then stop. I ask her if she still hears the note in her head. If not, I'll play it again, and then stop and ask again. If she says yes, then I ask her to sing it on Ah.

Chances are, she'll hit it. It's this internalization that needs to be cultivated. Usually it's something they learn at an early age if the parents sing to the child (and if they can match pitch). So if that's missing, they have to go through this enough until they can do it automatically.
Posted By: jdw

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/11/19 12:35 PM

I was thinking, if G major and E major sound quite different to her, then she's hearing something that many wouldn't--just not the quality that you want her tuned into. I don't know ways to address it other than what's been suggested, though.
Posted By: hello my name is

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/13/19 12:30 AM

I knew a guy in college who I thought was tone-deaf in his singing. He had trouble matching pitches. He knew it and he loved singing, so he actually spent quite a lot of effort working on it and he is extremely better now, enough to be able to join an acapella group which I never would have imagined before. I second curra's suggestions.

I mean technically if she's thinking in absolute terms... she's right about the major7th's notes being closer together .. so she must be hearing something, maybe just not in a completely typical way. If she has had no ear training at all, I don't find it completely unusual that she can't identify intervals and that chords that are both major might sound different to her.. she doesn't know what that "different" sound is and is shooting in the dark. It's difficult for those of us who never had to really struggle at matching pitch to understand. I also had a beginning student who couldn't even identify up or down, which I had taken for granted, thinking everybody could identify that automatically. I think as she practices and she gets more of a reference, she'll be able to name what she's hearing better, it won't be an entirely lost cause.

As for CM though..... eek
Posted By: thepianoplayer416

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/13/19 02:31 AM

The term used by the English neurosurgeon Dr. Oliver Sacks who worked in NY is "Amusia". Being tone-death has nothing to do with having a learning disability. It describes people who cannot distinguish between different sounds. To them, the sound of different notes & chords is just noise.

1 thing I was good at in high school was having a good ear. Back then I could only pick up an instrument to an intermediate level because of lack of practice. Otherwise my music teacher in high school would play just about any chord on a piano. As long as I can figure out the first note, the rest just fall into place. Back then I was playing violin. Even if my playing wasn't perfect, I could always rely on music theory tests to help me pass the music course. I tend to memorize music since my school days so getting the finger sequences in my head would help me get through a piece even without hearing the actual notes.

Even today if I hear a piece often enough I can pick out the Key Signature like Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #5 is in D and I can relate that piece to the Orchestral Suites #3 & 4 which are also in D and so are movements from the Handel Royal Fireworks Suite.

A lot of people including myself don't have Perfect Pitch but have some sense of Relative Pitch. If you definitely feels your student is almost tone-death and may affect her future progress, the last resort is to talk to the parents to see a medical specialist like a neurosurgeon. For now she probably needs to do ear training exercises like you get another family member who is good in music to play notes at random on the piano / keyboard and get her to name them. Do this a few times a day and hopefully you can train her ears sufficiently enough to pick out a C when it is played.

When you play 2 of the same notes an octave apart like a D+D, can she tell they sounded in unison? If not, she may need to see a medical specialist.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/13/19 02:58 AM

Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
The term used by the English neurosurgeon Dr. Oliver Sacks who worked in NY is "Amusia". Being tone-death has nothing to do with having a learning disability. It describes people who cannot distinguish between different sounds. To them, the sound of different notes & chords is just noise.

Yes, I linked to articles on cognitive amusia, above.
Posted By: outo

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/13/19 04:36 AM

Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416


A lot of people including myself don't have Perfect Pitch but have some sense of Relative Pitch. If you definitely feels your student is almost tone-death and may affect her future progress, the last resort is to talk to the parents to see a medical specialist like a neurosurgeon. For now she probably needs to do ear training exercises like you get another family member who is good in music to play notes at random on the piano / keyboard and get her to name them. Do this a few times a day and hopefully you can train her ears sufficiently enough to pick out a C when it is played.


You probably know this but in case anyone is unaware: The term ear training is quite misleading. There's little to do to train ears, they either work or not. Sometimes cleaning the ears or treating for infection may help, but there's surprisingly little doctors can do to actually cure the ear when it is damaged.

It is the brain that does the actual work in tasks like this. And that's where it gets complicated. It's no easy task to find out what's working and what's not. It's a mixture of comprehension (of what one hears), understanding (what it means) and remembering (to compare and analyze) and any of those can deficient. There are no quick tests to determine slight cognitive anomalies. The case studies that Sachs uses in his books are extreme cases, which of course are easier to study but much more rare.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/13/19 04:50 AM

Originally Posted by outo
There are no quick tests to determine slight cognitive anomalies.

That may have been true at one time with respect to cognitive amusia, but the papers I linked above show easier ways to detect cognitive amusia today.

Originally Posted by outo
The case studies that Sachs uses in his books are extreme cases, which of course are easier to study but much more rare.

The papers I linked above show cognitive amusia occurs in 5% of the population and appears to sometimes be hereditary. This is not what I would call rare.
Posted By: Morodiene

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/13/19 10:54 AM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by outo
There are no quick tests to determine slight cognitive anomalies.

That may have been true at one time with respect to cognitive amusia, but the papers I linked above show easier ways to detect cognitive amusia today.

Originally Posted by outo
The case studies that Sachs uses in his books are extreme cases, which of course are easier to study but much more rare.

The papers I linked above show cognitive amusia occurs in 5% of the population and appears to sometimes be hereditary. This is not what I would call rare.

I think true amusia ("Tone-deafness") is much rarer than the case of just not being able to match pitch as I spoke about. I have never encountered amusia in my teaching. It has always been a case of not having learned at an early age to match pitch, and with each student I was able to get them to match pitch. The more they stuck with it, the better they became. Or, perhaps these all had amusia, and this is the solution to that.

I've just not encountered someone that whatever they had couldn't be fixed. Not saying there aren't people like that out there, but I do think we should not condemn those that can't do this automatically by giving it a name that sounds like a disease and making it sound like there's no hope. With effort and the proper instruction, it can be permanently resolved. wink
Posted By: keystring

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/13/19 11:48 AM

It is much more likely that if a transfer student received poor instruction before coming to the present teacher, that the cause and solution lies here, and not some obscure thing that scientific papers gets written about.
Posted By: outo

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/13/19 04:16 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by outo
There are no quick tests to determine slight cognitive anomalies.

That may have been true at one time with respect to cognitive amusia, but the papers I linked above show easier ways to detect cognitive amusia today.

I would not call amusia a slight anomaly, I was referring to problems associated with learning deficiences in case there's no amusia present. And while testing for amusia may be something the researchers can fairly easily do, these test are not commonly available to teachers, parents or sult students.


Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop

Originally Posted by outo
The case studies that Sachs uses in his books are extreme cases, which of course are easier to study but much more rare.

The papers I linked above show cognitive amusia occurs in 5% of the population and appears to sometimes be hereditary. This is not what I would call rare.

Depends on the population I guess smile

Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/13/19 04:27 PM

Originally Posted by Morodiene
I think true amusia ("Tone-deafness") is much rarer than the case of just not being able to match pitch as I spoke about. I have never encountered amusia in my teaching. It has always been a case of not having learned at an early age to match pitch, and with each student I was able to get them to match pitch. The more they stuck with it, the better they became. Or, perhaps these all had amusia, and this is the solution to that.

And this may be. I can't say I've ever knowingly encountered a person with amusia.

Originally Posted by keystring
...and not some obscure thing that scientific papers gets written about.

This is not so rare if 4-5% of the population has it, and therefore being dismissive of it is unwarranted:
Quote
In an attempt to quantify this disorder and to measure its prevalence, Kalmus and Fry administered a test that required the detection of anomalous pitches inserted in popular melodies to more than 600 participants in the UK. Approximately 4% of these subjects performed as poorly as 20 self-declared amusic individuals. Since then, a similar estimate (5%), based on the low tail of the normal score distribution has been obtained in the USA with a similar test (Drayna, pers. commun.). While these estimates are based upon performance on a single measure of musical ability, which may have poor validity, they are interesting for two reasons. First, they are consistent with the prevalence of other domain-specific disabilities, such as SLI (7%). Second, the estimates have been obtained with a test that has been recently shown to tap a genetically transmitted ability. The anomalous pitch detection test has been completed by 136 identical (monozygotic) twins and 148 fraternal (dizygotic) twins. Genetic model-fitting indicates that the influence of shared genes is more important than shared environ- ments, with a heritability of 70 – 80%. This suggests that the 4 to 5% of the general population that is amusic may suffer from a genetically determined defect in perceiving pitch structure in music.

On the other hand, I do not work in this area so I am not trying to stand behind these numbers - I only "know what I read" in this case. Just saying that if the cognitive amusia research is correct, this may be obscure, but not rare, which makes it indeed relevant to this discussion. There are certainly many disorders which we talk about that are rarer than 4-5%.

Originally Posted by outo
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by outo
The case studies that Sachs uses in his books are extreme cases, which of course are easier to study but much more rare.

The papers I linked above show cognitive amusia occurs in 5% of the population and appears to sometimes be hereditary. This is not what I would call rare.
Depends on the population I guess smile

The populations for the research cited above is UK and US. See quote above. The paper this quote comes from is also linked above. Again, I'm not standing behind this research or the numbers. Not my area of expertise. I'm just citing it.
Posted By: keystring

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/13/19 04:33 PM

In the present circumstance, I think it is the wrong tack.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/13/19 05:14 PM

Originally Posted by keystring
In the present circumstance, I think it is the wrong tack.

Well, three thoughts.

First, cognitive amusia is either "a real thing" or it "isn't a real thing." Neither I, nor probably most of those in this thread, would be able to say one way or the other if it is a formal disorder, not being researchers. Really out of the scope of this thread on whether it's real or not.

Second, if it does exist, perhaps as morodiene pointed out, there are solutions to it. It's a relatively new thing so just because researchers haven't found a solution doesn't mean that solutions don't exist, and it is perfectly plausible that a simple solution as morodiene suggested would address the issue.

Third, the issue of cognitive amusia though is absolutely relevant to this discussion as the OP has a case where a student has problems discerning the difference between two pitches - whether one is higher or lower than the other. This is actually practically a definition of amusia. If amusia is not relevant to this student example (not saying the student has amusia, just pointing out "relevance to the conversation" here), then amusia is really not relevant to anything, in my book.
Posted By: malkin

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/13/19 09:27 PM

If you find certain people amusing, then it could be said that they...amusia (amuse-ya).

But seriously, why would this ability to hear, match, sing, relate to, discriminate or otherwise "get" pitch not be normally distributed across the population, with some people really good at it, some people really bad at it, and most people falling somewhere in the middle under the big part of the bell curve?
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/13/19 10:12 PM

Originally Posted by malkin
If you find certain people amusing, then it could be said that they...amusia (amuse-ya).

But seriously, why would this ability to hear, match, sing, relate to, discriminate or otherwise "get" pitch not be normally distributed across the population, with some people really good at it, some people really bad at it, and most people falling somewhere in the middle under the big part of the bell curve?

No idea... Because it's a disorder, perhaps? But fully speculating (without basis wink ) here, I suppose it could be a spectrum disorder where different people are on different parts of the spectrum? But even so, I guess there would still be people "on the spectrum" and people "not on the spectrum" like most spectrum disorders.

Anyways, without speculating wildly, the only thing I know about this (or think I know about this) are in the papers I've linked. It's possible that the researchers don't know a lot more than that either!
Posted By: malkin

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/13/19 11:17 PM

Many (most?) traits are normally distributed within a population and are only considered a disorder for the members of the population who fall toward of the tails of the curve or outside the "normal range."
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/13/19 11:56 PM

Originally Posted by malkin
Many (most?) traits are normally distributed within a population and are only considered a disorder for the members of the population who fall toward of the tails of the curve or outside the "normal range."

Well then, you know more about this than I do!
Posted By: outo

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/14/19 05:06 AM

Originally Posted by malkin
Many (most?) traits are normally distributed within a population and are only considered a disorder for the members of the population who fall toward of the tails of the curve or outside the "normal range."


This is true and it even applies to being blind or deaf. You may have a little ability left or none at all. "Normal" is sometimes easier to define, but it is usually never exact.

In this case however we do not know whether the person in question actually has amusia as defined in the research or not. Let me make an analogy: The reason a person does not understand your speech may be that he is deaf, but it could also be that he does not know your language, your sentences are too elaborate and complicated or while you speak a familiar language the content is just too difficult (trying to explain string theory to a layman for example). And there's also the possibility that he is simply not motivated to listen wink
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/14/19 05:27 AM

Originally Posted by outo
Originally Posted by malkin
Many (most?) traits are normally distributed within a population and are only considered a disorder for the members of the population who fall toward of the tails of the curve or outside the "normal range."


This is true and it even applies to being blind or deaf. You may have a little ability left or none at all. "Normal" is sometimes easier to define, but it is usually never exact.

In this case however we do not know whether the person in question actually has amusia as defined in the research or not. Let me make an analogy: The reason a person does not understand your speech may be that he is deaf, but it could also be that he does not know your language, your sentences are too elaborate and complicated or while you speak a familiar language the content is just too difficult (trying to explain string theory to a layman for example). And there's also the possibility that he is simply not motivated to listen wink

All great points. As I said, I brought this up because it is clearly relevant to the conversation - "That person doesn't understand my speech. Could he be deaf?" But not to say that this is necessarily what is happening with the OP's student. It was just to say that according to certain researchers, this behavior the OP describes is also possessed by certain people that fall into a certain category to which the OP's student may or may not belong to.

Also as I said above, the research into that latter "certain category" is pretty new, so I personally don't take the remarks that it is impossible to train people in that category in something, as definitive. It may be the researchers just didn't try the method that would work, as was suggested above. After all, it was long thought that absolute pitch was not trainable either after a certain age, yet there are a few studies that have shown even this is trainable.
Posted By: keystring

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/14/19 12:47 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
...as the OP has a case where a student has problems discerning the difference between two pitches - whether one is higher or lower than the other.

I have time to do more than a one-liner this time (sorry about that). I've gone back over the thread and have a list of what we know sitting there. In regard to the two pitches: That is a thing that the student can do. That is, when she is asked, with words if notes go up and down, or if two notes are different, she can do that. I have stressed "with words", because a person may have an ability, but not be able to show it per verbal command.

The picture:
Her first lessons were with another teacher, apparently poorish, and had consisted of imitation. We can assume that nothing was named or identified. I may write about this in a separate post. This in itself may muddy the waters for her. She now wants to do a test, and all this plays out in the context of preparing for a test, which throws together a bunch of concepts and terminology in a short time. This is pretty destructive to learning, and the OP isn't happy about it. If you bumped your shin, I won't suspect a rare blood disorder to be causing the bruise on the shin, even if blood disorders can cause bruises.

The problems themselves all have to do with named concepts: named chord qualities, named intervals - because these exams go after named things. Since she "argues semantics" she may have a problem in the naming area. Meanwhile, looking at the things listed.

* hearing a C major triad as being different from an E major triad

Depending on what you're listening for, they ARE different. The chord qualities are the same - they are both major. But the pitches are different. In fact, because of what influenced trained my first music-hearing, I have had to work hard to hear a G7 as being different than a C7 or Eb7 etc. because all I heard were quality and function. I heard from one angle, and not the other. She's got this in reverse; the part I was missing.

We're in the area of quality here, i.e. major vs. minor etc. This is a thing one learns to hear, and an angle for hearing things. There is also the "semantic" part - the name for the thing. There are two problems here.

* when asked how far apart an interval is, hearing m3 as far apart, and M7 as close together.

Intellectually I know that an C and the B above it are far apart. I can picture the spacing of two piano keys: I can I it as notation, and my mind can go. C,D,E,F,G,A,B and "see" all those notes in between. But in what I actually hear, I've often mistaken an m2 for an M7 because they both have that grating edgy vibrating quality.

Again, we're into concepts plus names, and a bunch of things that suddenly have to be crammed together because of an ill-advised wish to do an exam due to social pressure. Add to this the fact that the student doesn't study much at home, and I wager that even if she tried, she wouldn't know how to tackle it.

This is why I wrote that I felt other things were much more pertinent. I just didn't have the time to write out all of this. However, several piano teachers with experience teaching piano were also going in directions that made sense to me.
Posted By: keystring

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/14/19 02:10 PM

Expanding more from the angle of personal experience. My exposure to music was without training, except for the brief stint with movable Do solfege in a primary grade, which the teacher probably decided on her own to do. I came into music without having names of anything, or concepts of anything, a bit like Helen Keller living in a world of her own without names until her teacher gave her language. This girl, if the version of Suzuki she got was of a lesser kind, seems to have had her own version of that.

There are things that I heard readily, in the framework of what I was exposed to, and things that I had to work to learn to hear. For those things that I had always heard, studying theory was a breeze because it was just a matter of attaching names to old friends. The book of sonatinas I was given as a child (mostly Clementi) goes hand in hand with movable Do solfege. The I IV V I "hears itself" readily as Do Fa So Do. When it modulates to the Dominant key or relative major, there's a bit of "twiddle-twiddle in the transition" and suddenly G "stops calling itself So" and "starts calling itself Do" ... you're in, in a heartbeat. That was my world.

I've had to overcome blind spots to my hearing, and am still doing so. I can hear V7-I readily. C7-F; G7-C; B7-Eb .. instant. But if you play various V7-I chords in a row, I would not catch that they were different chords ... they were all the same; the opposite problem of the OP. I had to learn to hear C as C as a pitch: G as G as another pitch; then I could hear that C7-F, then G7-C, were not the same thing being played twice. This wasn't amusia. This was trained associations.

Chord qualities: major and minor I could hear. But if I heard a diminished chord or a dim7 played as a block chord, I might call it a minor chord, because my hear honed on on one of the m3's, and was probably "unpacking" the chord as though sung melodically. Learning to hear an harmonic interval or chord, was a different hearing skill than the one I had. The dim7 now has an "edginess", a unique personality that it alone carries, which I can hear. But there was a time that I could.

Also, there was a time when I could differentiate between things .... hear a difference .... but not to the point of recognition and naming.

I could go on.

Hearing; and then naming; and also concepts; are learned skills.
Posted By: Morodiene

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/14/19 03:02 PM

Originally Posted by malkin
If you find certain people amusing, then it could be said that they...amusia (amuse-ya).

But seriously, why would this ability to hear, match, sing, relate to, discriminate or otherwise "get" pitch not be normally distributed across the population, with some people really good at it, some people really bad at it, and most people falling somewhere in the middle under the big part of the bell curve?

I think this has a lot to do with the fact that were are all born with an instrument inside of us - the human voice (unless you cannot speak). This means that not only is speaking, but singing as well is a part of the natural human behavior. I believe all cultures that we know of have some form of singing.

In order to sing, one must first internalize a note - they must "sing" it in their head before trying to make the sound, so that their vocal cords can go to the appropriate pitch. Many of us learn to do this around age 3 or so, when the larynx starts to be able to control pitch and has a wider pitch range. Children who sing with others during these formative years of learning to speak as well learn to internalize the pitch without even realizing it. However, if a child is not sung to as a baby and doesn't have others to sing with when they are capable, then that ability lies dormant.

With work, that ability can become easy. The older the student, the longer it will take, but I've worked with a 7 year old who could do i in a matter of a month, and a 40 year old who it took roughly a year, although the first 6 months were more difficult, and over the remaining year or so it became more accurate. It's a process, and so the desire has to be there to overcome it.
Posted By: thepianoplayer416

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/14/19 06:23 PM

Rather "amused" just reading the discussion posts.

A number of years ago, a family member was scheduled to go to a Gr. 1 violin exam. The piece was "Minuet in G" from the Anna M Notebook. Back then the Internet wasn't around so she had to rely on listening to the teacher play and correct her mistakes during the lesson. The week before the exam, she made a few audio recordings to hear her mistakes. The exam came and she barely passed. After a few years of violin lessons she quit. Coming from a non-musical family nobody we know mastered an instrument to a high level. Every time you ask her about her music playing abilities she would say the whole family is "tone deaf".

A lot of people I know don't come from musical families. Their parents or grandparents never picked up an instrument. If you practice the right way like being focused on your mistakes instead of playing from the beginning to the end of a piece most of the time with the same issues, your problems have nothing to do with being tone deaf.

There are a few people in the family who passed their piano exams and they don't have good ears. They learned to play by reading notes. In my younger days before I got into piano playing, I was able to recall the melody of various TV theme songs and reproduce the notes on a piano. Back in 1977 a popular tune "Feel So Good" by Chuck Mangione on flugelhorn was on radio for weeks. I could reproduce the tune easily on a piano although lacking any piano training. Having a good ear is 1 thing but it would be another few decades before I got into playing piano. I don't know if having a good ear is the prerequisite for learning to play an instrument as long as someone is a good reader. I can play some version of "Happy B-day" on piano but nobody in the family who took piano lessons can reproduce some version of the melody on piano. If you put the sheet music in front of them, they can probably play.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/15/19 01:38 AM

Many nice thoughts here, but I'd like to focus on this particular problem:
Originally Posted by keystring
* hearing a C major triad as being different from an E major triad

Depending on what you're listening for, they ARE different. The chord qualities are the same - they are both major. But the pitches are different. In fact, because of what influenced trained my first music-hearing, I have had to work hard to hear a G7 as being different than a C7 or Eb7 etc. because all I heard were quality and function. I heard from one angle, and not the other. She's got this in reverse; the part I was missing.

We're in the area of quality here, i.e. major vs. minor etc. This is a thing one learns to hear, and an angle for hearing things. There is also the "semantic" part - the name for the thing. There are two problems here.

To be more precise, I did not ask her if the chords are same or different. Of course they are "different" in the sense that they are different notes. I asked if the chords are major or minor.

She will say C major is major, and then E major is minor.

???????????????

Obviously, she's just guessing on the quality. And if you are guessing _consistently_ wrong, at least you can just flip the switch and say, "Well, whatever you thought was major is in fact minor, and vice versa."

However, the girl is unable to guess correctly with any degree of certainty. It's literally all over the map. The chord's quality makes no difference to her ears.

What part of this problem is semantics??
Posted By: keystring

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/15/19 04:16 AM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
What part of this problem is semantics?

"major" and "minor" are words that have meanings. Naming a chord quality wrongly can be due to:
- not studying and learning
- not being able to hear
- not having grasped the meaning of major and minor (semantics)

You have another transfer student here, and who knows how she learned to hear or to study. I'm thinking this is more likely than an clinical type diagnosis such as amusia.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/15/19 04:36 AM

Let's put it this way....

If you were teaching this girl words to associate with the sense of smell....

You show her chocolate. She smells it. You tell her this is chocolate.

You show her lemon. She smells it. You tell her this is lemon.

Then, with her eyes closed, she should be able to tell the difference between chocolate and lemon just by smelling. There might be small variations between dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate, and whatever varieties of lemons are out there. The girl SHOULD be able to tell the difference between the two different smells.

Is there anything to _teach_ here? Other than to associate a physical sensation with a word?

If the girl can't tell the smells apart, then it's time to get her nose checked.
Posted By: currawong

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/15/19 05:10 AM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Is there anything to _teach_ here?
What does lemon taste like? Is it sweet, or sour? Does it have a creamy or an astringent feel? What things do you like that have lemon in them? Why does lemon taste different from chocolate? OK, so you probably wouldn't have to do that with something that a child has such experience with as taste. But you need to give her what's needed to help her recognise the difference between major and minor. I don't just mean happy/sad. (Anyone who's ever played any Schubert will know that some of the most poignant moments in his music are when it changes from minor to major, not the reverse.)

Yes, there's plenty to _teach_ here.
It's not simply a matter of recognising the sound of major/minor. Have you worked on recognising what goes to make up the sound of a minor/major chord? Can she tell the first 3 notes of a major scale from the first 3 notes of a minor scale? Does she know about major and minor 3rds? That is, are you sure you've been giving her the tools to work out whether it's major or minor? Does she have tunes in her repertoire that are strongly major/minor? Would she know if you played a simple, well-known major key tune in the minor? Or a minor key tune in the major?

Believe me, I know what an uphill battle working with some kids can be. But in all my years teaching 5-12 year-olds in the school system I don't think I ever came across a child who couldn't make some progress with pitch perception.
Posted By: malkin

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/15/19 01:22 PM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Let's put it this way....

If you were teaching this girl words to associate with the sense of smell....

You show her chocolate. She smells it. You tell her this is chocolate.

You show her lemon. She smells it. You tell her this is lemon.

Then, with her eyes closed, she should be able to tell the difference between chocolate and lemon just by smelling. There might be small variations between dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate, and whatever varieties of lemons are out there. The girl SHOULD be able to tell the difference between the two different smells.

Is there anything to _teach_ here? Other than to associate a physical sensation with a word?

If the girl can't tell the smells apart, then it's time to get her nose checked.


In both examples the task is to use verbal language to describe the sensory experience of sound quality or smell. You could control for the language piece by giving her a picture or visual symbol to support her response. By allowing her to point to a picture of the items or color cards brown for chocolate and yellow for lemon, you have controlled for the possibility that she just can't hang on to the words and conjure them up when needed. To establish symbols for major and minor, I'd have her pick or draw something, and then see if she could keep them straight.

My guess is that her everyday verbal communication is good enough that no one sees or suspects that she has any difficulty learning and using the verbal labels of things in the world. I think it would be interesting to check out aspects of her auditory discrimination in addition to pitch. If she is given a set of opaque containers with different things inside (rice, gravel, sand, sunflower seeds etc.)--that is 2 containers of each item--can she find the matching pairs of them? Can she tell apart sounds made by different instruments? Can she repeat nonsense words? Is the prosody of her spontaneous conversation typical? Can she imitate various prosodic contours when speaking?
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/15/19 01:51 PM

Originally Posted by malkin
In both examples the task is to use verbal language to describe the sensory experience of sound quality or smell. You could control for the language piece by giving her a picture or visual symbol to support her response. By allowing her to point to a picture of the items or color cards brown for chocolate and yellow for lemon, you have controlled for the possibility that she just can't hang on to the words and conjure them up when needed. To establish symbols for major and minor, I'd have her pick or draw something, and then see if she could keep them straight.

My guess is that her everyday verbal communication is good enough that no one sees or suspects that she has any difficulty learning and using the verbal labels of things in the world. I think it would be interesting to check out aspects of her auditory discrimination in addition to pitch. If she is given a set of opaque containers with different things inside (rice, gravel, sand, sunflower seeds etc.)--that is 2 containers of each item--can she find the matching pairs of them? Can she tell apart sounds made by different instruments? Can she repeat nonsense words? Is the prosody of her spontaneous conversation typical? Can she imitate various prosodic contours when speaking?

Let me guess- you specialize in learning disabilities in Real Life™? thumb
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/15/19 09:33 PM

Originally Posted by malkin
Is the prosody of her spontaneous conversation typical? Can she imitate various prosodic contours when speaking?

Huh?
Posted By: keystring

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/15/19 10:50 PM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by malkin
Is the prosody of her spontaneous conversation typical? Can she imitate various prosodic contours when speaking?

Huh?

Folks have been dabbling in areas of disabilities of various kinds and within areas of education and learning. So this time an experienced professional in the field weighed in. Plain language seems to invite ignoring. The quoted text is not at all incomprehensible. Look up the word "prosody", and "prosodic contours". It's as evident as the nose on your face. wink
Posted By: keystring

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/15/19 10:50 PM

Bumping:

Originally Posted by currawong
Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Is there anything to _teach_ here?
What does lemon taste like? Is it sweet, or sour? Does it have a creamy or an astringent feel? What things do you like that have lemon in them? Why does lemon taste different from chocolate? OK, so you probably wouldn't have to do that with something that a child has such experience with as taste. But you need to give her what's needed to help her recognise the difference between major and minor. I don't just mean happy/sad. (Anyone who's ever played any Schubert will know that some of the most poignant moments in his music are when it changes from minor to major, not the reverse.)

Yes, there's plenty to _teach_ here.
It's not simply a matter of recognising the sound of major/minor. Have you worked on recognising what goes to make up the sound of a minor/major chord? Can she tell the first 3 notes of a major scale from the first 3 notes of a minor scale? Does she know about major and minor 3rds? That is, are you sure you've been giving her the tools to work out whether it's major or minor? Does she have tunes in her repertoire that are strongly major/minor? Would she know if you played a simple, well-known major key tune in the minor? Or a minor key tune in the major?

Believe me, I know what an uphill battle working with some kids can be. But in all my years teaching 5-12 year-olds in the school system I don't think I ever came across a child who couldn't make some progress with pitch perception.
Posted By: malkin

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/15/19 11:27 PM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by malkin
Is the prosody of her spontaneous conversation typical? Can she imitate various prosodic contours when speaking?

Huh?


Does she sound like a normal person when she talks? Native speakers of US English raise pitch at the end of a question and lower pitch at the end of a statement. We change pitch and stress in various ways for emphasis (GET that ball (don't just watch it); Get THAT ball (not the other one); Get that BALL (not that bell))

Native speakers of other languages do other cool things with tone, pitch, stress, vowel duration, etc. Does she sound like other people or does she sound like an artificial voice?
Posted By: keystring

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/15/19 11:35 PM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Let's put it this way....

If you were teaching this girl words to associate with the sense of smell....

You show her chocolate. She smells it. You tell her this is chocolate.

You show her lemon. She smells it. You tell her this is lemon.......

Currawong gave a better response than I would. The analogy seems wrong for a number of reasons. But her response says it better than what I might write. In addition, the things that I have written so far seem to have not been gone into so far, and I'm afraid the same would happen again. I am very interested in any thoughts on your colleague's input. wink
Posted By: malkin

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/16/19 01:31 AM

Originally Posted by currawong
I don't think I ever came across a child who couldn't make some progress with pitch perception.


I agree that almost anyone can make progress with almost anything, but sometimes the increments of progress are so small and the rate of progress is so slow that the game isn't worth the candle, in other words the progress lacks social validity, or in other words the minute amount of progress isn't worth the enormous sustained effort that it required and everyone involved would have done better to focus on something else.
Posted By: malkin

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/16/19 01:33 AM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop


Let me guess- you specialize in learning disabilities in Real Life™? thumb


You're quite the gambler, aren't you? wink
Posted By: outo

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/16/19 04:00 AM

Originally Posted by malkin
Originally Posted by currawong
I don't think I ever came across a child who couldn't make some progress with pitch perception.


I agree that almost anyone can make progress with almost anything, but sometimes the increments of progress are so small and the rate of progress is so slow that the game isn't worth the candle, in other words the progress lacks social validity, or in other words the minute amount of progress isn't worth the enormous sustained effort that it required and everyone involved would have done better to focus on something else.


Very well said. Which brings us back to whether she can pass the exam without this ability and whether it is worth it to work more on it.
Posted By: pianist_lady

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/16/19 01:22 PM

Originally Posted by outo
Originally Posted by malkin
Originally Posted by currawong
I don't think I ever came across a child who couldn't make some progress with pitch perception.


I agree that almost anyone can make progress with almost anything, but sometimes the increments of progress are so small and the rate of progress is so slow that the game isn't worth the candle, in other words the progress lacks social validity, or in other words the minute amount of progress isn't worth the enormous sustained effort that it required and everyone involved would have done better to focus on something else.


Very well said. Which brings us back to whether she can pass the exam without this ability and whether it is worth it to work more on it.


Yep.
And it sounds like her efforts have been kind of lackluster overall. If the student is interested and committed to improving, then it makes sense to explore all avenues to help her improve. But it sounds like she just needs to get through the exam, so it's probably best to help her do that.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/16/19 02:22 PM

Originally Posted by pianist_lady
Originally Posted by outo
Very well said. Which brings us back to whether she can pass the exam without this ability and whether it is worth it to work more on it.

Yep.
And it sounds like her efforts have been kind of lackluster overall. If the student is interested and committed to improving, then it makes sense to explore all avenues to help her improve. But it sounds like she just needs to get through the exam, so it's probably best to help her do that.

In comparison with the exam system mentioned by the OP, I was curious what percentage of the overall test score the aural component was in the international piano exams, RCM, ABRSM and Trinity, so I just looked it up:
  • RCM: aural 10% (10 out of 100, of which 60 are needed to pass)
  • ABRSM: aural 12% (18 out of 150, of which 100 are needed to pass)
  • Trinity: aural is always only one of several supporting options and no student need ever take an aural exam for any of the levels if they don't want to

I'm curious what percentage of the overall possible points on the prospective exam of the OP's student is aural and if it might not be better to focus on components of the exam, such are repertoire with the assumption the OP's student will get a zero on the aural component. For example, in comparison with the 18 points for aural, 90 of 150 points for ABRSM are for playing, while for RCM, up to 80 of 100 points are for playing (pieces + études). Depending on how the prospective exam of the OP's student is organized, it's possible, the most effective exam coaching scheme will just focus on having the student become even better at playing and pay short shrift to the aural part.
Posted By: keystring

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/16/19 03:01 PM

Originally Posted by pianist_lady
But it sounds like she just needs to get through the exam, so it's probably best to help her do that.


"Need" is a funny word, because these days it seems that it can mean a bunch of things, like "wants" (she and her family do want) --- I always think of its first meaning, which is necessity. You're not saying, as a teacher, that as part of her learning and growth as a student, it is necessary for her to get through the exam, are you? But rather that since she has committed to this thing, as unwise as it probably is, she just has to get through it, right?
Posted By: TimR

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/16/19 03:36 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Depending on how the prospective exam of the OP's student is organized, it's possible, the most effective exam coaching scheme will just focus on having the student become even better at playing and pay short shrift to the aural part.



And in the process, the student has learned an actually valuable life skill.
Posted By: keystring

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/16/19 04:31 PM

Originally Posted by TimR
And in the process, the student has learned an actually valuable life skill.


How do you figure? wink
Posted By: malkin

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/16/19 11:42 PM

Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by TimR
And in the process, the student has learned an actually valuable life skill.


How do you figure? wink


Set priorities?
Allocate available resources?
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/17/19 12:45 AM

Originally Posted by malkin
Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by TimR
And in the process, the student has learned an actually valuable life skill.


How do you figure? wink


Set priorities?
Allocate available resources?

Yes! I agree! No better time to learn that one usually can't do everything. Good standardized test taking skill too.
Posted By: pianist_lady

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/17/19 01:07 AM

Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by pianist_lady
But it sounds like she just needs to get through the exam, so it's probably best to help her do that.


"Need" is a funny word, because these days it seems that it can mean a bunch of things, like "wants" (she and her family do want) --- I always think of its first meaning, which is necessity. You're not saying, as a teacher, that as part of her learning and growth as a student, it is necessary for her to get through the exam, are you? But rather that since she has committed to this thing, as unwise as it probably is, she just has to get through it, right?


Well, nobody needs to take an exam, but that's what this student is doing.
As a teacher, you have to balance long-term learning with short-term goals like exams and recitals. I try to help all my students to become lovely well-rounded musicians with strong aural skills (and many of them are on the way there) but sometimes you have to meet a deadline and prioritize.
Sounds like AZN has had to balance doing remedial work with the student and helping her to meet the exam requirements.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/17/19 09:34 AM

Originally Posted by pianist_lady
Originally Posted by keystring
"Need" is a funny word, because these days it seems that it can mean a bunch of things, like "wants" (she and her family do want) --- I always think of its first meaning, which is necessity. You're not saying, as a teacher, that as part of her learning and growth as a student, it is necessary for her to get through the exam, are you? But rather that since she has committed to this thing, as unwise as it probably is, she just has to get through it, right?

Well, nobody needs to take an exam, but that's what this student is doing.
As a teacher, you have to balance long-term learning with short-term goals like exams and recitals. I try to help all my students to become lovely well-rounded musicians with strong aural skills (and many of them are on the way there) but sometimes you have to meet a deadline and prioritize.
Sounds like AZN has had to balance doing remedial work with the student and helping her to meet the exam requirements.

Exactly! As a piano student, I set the long-term goals myself, and a few of the medium-term goals and my teacher helps me set most of the short-term goals and most of the medium term goals to get me to the long-term goals which I have set.

Among the goals I've personally set for myself includes taking exams, which is not a goal of my teacher's but one which my teacher supports me to be able to achieve.

So it would be perfectly nature for my teacher to think in terms of "need to do exams" here even though it is my requirement and not that of my teacher's.

And if an exam must be done, and assuming one wants to pass, then sometimes short cuts might be called for to optimize one's ability to pass that exam, if indeed the goal of taking the exam also includes passing it.

Now if, instead, one's goals were only to "learn something" and demonstrate it, then that could be done with or without exams, and in this case, short cuts should not be taken since it would subvert the purpose of "learning something" in the first place.

But if the goal includes taking and passing an actual exam, and considering there is usually limited time and even limited teacher/student patience, than I think it is perfectly fair to consider a short cut as needed to optimize for the result being sought.
Posted By: keystring

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/17/19 03:09 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop

Exactly! As a piano student, I set the long-term goals myself, and a few of the medium-term goals and my teacher helps me set most of the short-term goals and most of the medium term goals to get me to the long-term goals which I have set.

Among the goals I've personally set for myself includes taking exams, which is not a goal of my teacher's but one which my teacher supports me to be able to achieve.

There are some very important differences here. You started piano relatively recently, knew your goal of exams and also (I think) of learning to play the piano properly. You looked at what was involved and set about it intelligently. You are getting good guidance with a teacher who is ensuring your foundations while you go after this, so it's all gong a good way.

In contrast: This child had six years with another teacher where apparently she was poorly taught. Her present teacher has spent, I think, two years bringing her reading skills up to snuff. I don't know whether the repair work also extended to hearing, since you pick your battles by priority, or if this is recent - and so a real cramming effort. The first "teaching" she got may well have skewed her perception of musical sounds, making it harder than if she were starting from scratch. For the aural part, the foundations you're getting aren't there. Might you see a difference? wink
Posted By: thepianoplayer416

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/17/19 06:11 PM

The discussion that never ends...

A few years ago a friend of the family got his son into a Yamaha piano program. The mother accompanied the child to his weekly lessons. Like the Suzuki, at least 1 parent is supposed to be present to reinforce learning at home. After a few years and recital(s), the parents feel that the child has no interest in music and let him quit. In the beginning, it was a big decision to buy an upright and spend all the time and money for the lessons. I've never heard the son play so can't comment on his musical abilities. The decision was made to stop playing and everybody was relieved.

I'm not sure in many cases whether the teacher is the problem. If a child really wants to learn, you can see that he/she doesn't need to be pushed to practice 1h/day. Even if the teacher is an issue, the child is eager to get a teacher in order to move ahead. A lot of times it is the parents who made the decision for the child to take music lessons. You can tell in a short time whether the child has interest and is making progress. If the child has no interest in music to begin with, stopping the lessons may not be a bad idea. If a child takes an exam and does poorly, it would hurt his/her self-esteem than simply keep practicing for another few months until he/she is ready.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/17/19 06:44 PM

Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
The discussion that never ends...

A few years ago a friend of the family got his son into a Yamaha piano program. The mother accompanied the child to his weekly lessons. Like the Suzuki, at least 1 parent is supposed to be present to reinforce learning at home. After a few years and recital(s), the parents feel that the child has no interest in music and let him quit. In the beginning, it was a big decision to buy an upright and spend all the time and money for the lessons. I've never heard the son play so can't comment on his musical abilities. The decision was made to stop playing and everybody was relieved.

I'm not sure in many cases whether the teacher is the problem. If a child really wants to learn, you can see that he/she doesn't need to be pushed to practice 1h/day. Even if the teacher is an issue, the child is eager to get a teacher in order to move ahead. A lot of times it is the parents who made the decision for the child to take music lessons. You can tell in a short time whether the child has interest and is making progress. If the child has no interest in music to begin with, stopping the lessons may not be a bad idea. If a child takes an exam and does poorly, it would hurt his/her self-esteem than simply keep practicing for another few months until he/she is ready.

I don't believe the OP has said the student in question wants to quit or that practicing is the issue. It seems the issue raised is only concerning aural skills or lack of them.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/17/19 08:53 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
I don't believe the OP has said the student in question wants to quit or that practicing is the issue. It seems the issue raised is only concerning aural skills or lack of them.

And, if anything, the student seems to enjoy piano, and music in general. She must be one of those kids who is completely aloof to their musical incompetence. She's been to my studio recitals several times, and I don't think she even realizes how poorly she plays, comparatively.

In some cases, ignorance IS bliss.
Posted By: JohnSprung

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/17/19 10:00 PM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
..., and I don't think she even realizes how poorly she plays, comparatively. ...


How about recording and playing it back for her? Could that be an eye opener?
Posted By: Morodiene

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/18/19 12:12 AM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by malkin
Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by TimR
And in the process, the student has learned an actually valuable life skill.


How do you figure? wink


Set priorities?
Allocate available resources?

Yes! I agree! No better time to learn that one usually can't do everything. Good standardized test taking skill too.

I've taken this tack when I have a student who couldn't do the aural stuff. We just made sure they got the theory and performance as good as possible, knowing that they'd not get the aural component (or some section of theory).

It wasn't for a lack fo trying, but sometimes the lightbulb moment doesn't coincide with taking tests.
Posted By: malkin

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/18/19 01:09 AM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
I don't believe the OP has said the student in question wants to quit or that practicing is the issue. It seems the issue raised is only concerning aural skills or lack of them.

And, if anything, the student seems to enjoy piano, and music in general. She must be one of those kids who is completely aloof to their musical incompetence. She's been to my studio recitals several times, and I don't think she even realizes how poorly she plays, comparatively.

In some cases, ignorance IS bliss.


I want to learn THAT!
Posted By: keystring

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/18/19 01:40 PM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
And, if anything, the student seems to enjoy piano, and music in general....

I am getting the impression recently that the problem has been solved, or solutions are not being sought? What is the status?
Posted By: malkin

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/18/19 11:49 PM

Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by AZNpiano
And, if anything, the student seems to enjoy piano, and music in general....

I am getting the impression recently that the problem has been solved, or solutions are not being sought? What is the status?



The problem never was that the student didn't like piano or didn't like music. The problem is that the kid can't demonstrate understanding or discrimination of major/minor or of intervals or ...ok, I'm too lazy to go back and look.
Posted By: keystring

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 04/19/19 04:52 AM

Originally Posted by malkin
Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by AZNpiano
And, if anything, the student seems to enjoy piano, and music in general....

I am getting the impression recently that the problem has been solved, or solutions are not being sought? What is the status?

The problem never was that the student didn't like piano or didn't like music. The problem is that the kid can't demonstrate understanding or discrimination of major/minor or of intervals or ...ok, I'm too lazy to go back and look.

I didn't even entertain the idea of liking piano or music. I was addressing AZNpiano, and asking whether the original problem had been solved.
Posted By: Opus_Maximus

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 05/21/19 06:27 AM

Something I did when I was teaching an ear-training class:

Have her sing to match a pitch you play. Then play an interval above it (nothing too large). Have her sing every step along the way, and see if she can stop when she GETS to the second pitch you played.

Example: Play middle C. Have her sing it. If she can't, do it over and over unitl she can. If she still can't, record her with your phone, and play it back to her, so she can hear that she is off. (If she STILL can't hear she is off....then do a comparison between what the right pitch would be, and the one she sang. She might even need to stay in this stage for a few weeks.)

Once she can match the pitch, play F above middle C. Have her sing stepwise up the scale from C. See if she can "recognize" when she gets to the F with her own voice. This requires some long term aural memory - and maybe that is something she can't do now, but I think it can be developed.

Another thing -- I know it's been said, but I think it's important to stress JUST how valuable singing is in ear training. Even if somebody can't HEAR pitch, the very act of singing scales and intervals will cause students to actually associate a certain physical (not aural), sensation with each interval; A 3rd FEELS different than a 6th in the throat when you sing it. Once a student internalizes that there is a differentiation in intervals based on how they "feel", they will be on the right track to assimilatin the differentiation in intervals based on how they sound.

Posted By: pianoMom2006

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 05/21/19 12:58 PM

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
I don't believe the OP has said the student in question wants to quit or that practicing is the issue. It seems the issue raised is only concerning aural skills or lack of them.

And, if anything, the student seems to enjoy piano, and music in general. She must be one of those kids who is completely aloof to their musical incompetence. She's been to my studio recitals several times, and I don't think she even realizes how poorly she plays, comparatively.

In some cases, ignorance IS bliss.


If she's enjoying the journey, even if she's slower than slow, it's worth it. How many talented kids are forced to practiced hours on end and quit the first chance they have?
Posted By: Qwerty53

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 05/21/19 04:07 PM

Originally Posted by Opus_Maximus
Have her sing to match a pitch you play. Then play an interval above it (nothing too large). Have her sing every step along the way, and see if she can stop when she GETS to the second pitch you played.

Yes to this suggestion! I say this, because I was once that kid! I sang flat all the time in the children's choir of our little church. One day the choir director, a young woman then of high-school age, took me to the piano when the other children had gone away. She played a white key and asked me to sing it. Then she played the black key next to it and told me, "you are singing in the crack between the keys." She worked with me that day for a while, and for the first time I began to hear the difference. After that, I practiced noticing small discrepancies in pitch. To this day, I can hear (if not sing!) correct pitch with a fair degree of accuracy: at least I know when my piano needs tuning! And I will always be grateful to Ruth K for that lesson, which came at a time when I was able to hear and understand what she was sharing with me.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 05/21/19 05:14 PM

Originally Posted by pianoMom2006
If she's enjoying the journey, even if she's slower than slow, it's worth it.

Well. It's my sanity that is at stake here. The girl has so many problems--I haven't discussed all of them. She's incapable of playing on time. She has poor rhythm. She has zero expression when playing music. I don't dare teach her anything that requires pedal, because she can't hear the difference between muddy and clean pedal. And now she's giving the excuse that she needs more time to study for school. I guess her good grades come after hours of studying, so she's not THAT smart to begin with.

Originally Posted by pianoMom2006
How many talented kids are forced to practiced hours on end and quit the first chance they have?

Not sure how this even figures in the discussion, but it's true and quite unfortunate.
Posted By: PianoStudent88

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 05/22/19 03:49 AM

Opus_Maximus provides an example of breaking ear training into smaller components. OM’s components might not be small enough, depending on the student’s prior skills. I want to lay some things out as an example of coming up with alternative pathways when someone doesn’t have the skills that are often expected, or that come easier to other people. I’ll start with thoughts flowing from OM’s example, and then turn to thoughts flowing from the situation of interval training.

Some people have difficulty matching pitch to a piano, or to some instruments vs. other instruments. Try singing a note and ask the student to match your vocal pitch.

Some students simply don’t have experience matching pitch at all. Try having the student sing a note, and then you match their pitch. Perhaps sing different pitches and have the student tell you if you are singing “same” or “different” from their note.

If the student isn’t matching pitch, you could have them try to move their voice around until they are matching pitch. You can give them “higher” “lower” “that’s it” guidance.

Before matching pitch though, comes being able to move one’s voice through different pitches. For example, a student may not know how to change pitch with their voice. Or they may not be able to move smoothly through their range. Or they need practice imagining the pitch before they sing it, in order to come out with a planned pitch rather than a random pitch. There are various ways to help people play with their voices and acquire these skills.

You never know where a key, or an obstacle, to growth for the student might be lurking. I have read a teacher describing a student who never sang in tune with the rest of the chorus. It turns out that when the student sang in tune, he experienced his voice as “disappearing”, and he thought that disappearance meant he was singing wrong, so he was actively singing so as not to do that “wrong” thing. I’m not sure how the teacher discovered this, but once she did she was able to reassure him that that disappearing feeling in fact is the proper feeling for singing in tune — and he started singing in tune.

Earlier in the thread it was proposed that perhaps a “smallest step” for AZNPiano’s student would be to teach them to distinguish half-steps from whole-steps. That may I’m fact be the correct first part of the ear training process for some students — but I think it would be worth considering that something that seems obvious (the difference between half and whole steps) and basic (because they’re the smallest intervals, after unison, I’m western music), might not at all be a useful initial step for working with the student. For example, you could experiment with: second vs. octave.

And even before that working with specific intervals, an even smaller step is distinguishing two notes as same or different, and later, distinguishing the second as higher or lower than the first (I forget if AZNPiano has said whether the student can already do these things.)
Posted By: Opus_Maximus

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 05/22/19 05:21 AM

I would counter the notion that ear training should begin with half steps. Chormaticism can be difficult for a lot of people, and most of the basic western melodies we know and love (Happy Birthday, Mary Had a Little Lamp, Ode to Joy, etc), are based off a major scale. I think the first step would be singing and recognizing major pentascales - intervals up to a fifth. Better to start with too little than much. Once the student has this grasp of 4 major intervals (2,3,4,5), you can procced to the major scale, then half/whole.
Posted By: Opus_Maximus

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 05/22/19 05:30 AM

Re: "Tone Deafness"

The brain works in mysterious ways. Neuroscience is a hobby of mine - and it really has NO idea how our brain (and spirit) proccess hearing. None. What I do students to give them confidence when starting ear training is this:

I'll play Happy Birthday. Then I'll ask my class "Ok - does anybody recognize this?". Of course, all the hands will go up.
Then I tell them that if they can recognize a melody, they already have all the tools for success they need in my class - progress will just depend on how much drill they're willign to put themselves through.

Becuase it's true: if your brain can create meaning and recolleciton out of a pattern of intervals, then you are NOT tone deaf. You can't be. You are hearing notes, and something inside of you is reacting to the arrangment of the tones in a specific order and going "AHA! I know that!". So it should follow that the blockage that students face when recognizing intervallic patterns is not an innate lack of ability, but some sort of auditory processing facility that needs to be unlocked, starting from the smallest steps.
Posted By: Andamento

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 05/22/19 08:11 AM

Originally Posted by Opus_Maximus
I would counter the notion that ear training should begin with half steps. Chormaticism can be difficult for a lot of people


I agree with this. Singing pentatonic songs (with solfa syllables Do, Re, Mi, So, La) avoids the half steps of Fa (half-step higher than Mi) and Ti (half-step lower than Do).

After much practice singing pentatonic syllables, then Fa and Ti can be introduced with more success. It gives the student ample opportunity to sing major seconds and other wider intervals first, which are easier to get in tune than minor seconds.
Posted By: keystring

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 05/22/19 08:51 AM

The first thing I ever did was solfa, and it was my main reference. Years later in an exercise in a group, there was solfege again, which I checked with the piano, and thought my pitch was "off" because my "Ti" was always too high, and my "Mi Fa" was always too close. I discovered that I had come into one particular type of tuning, and that tuning contains the feel for leading notes, and the feel for underlying chords. This had carried me in my sense of music for decades subconsciously. There are methodologies that also teach the "flavours" along with solfege singing. If you leave out Fa and Ti, you destroy that. If you leave them out, then you are merely teaching whole tone intervals, which are rather meaningless, with no association to anything. There are different angles to music, different worlds. Mi Fa and Ti Do are not "chromaticism".
Posted By: Andamento

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 05/22/19 12:45 PM

Originally Posted by keystring
The first thing I ever did was solfa, and it was my main reference. Years later in an exercise in a group, there was solfege again, which I checked with the piano, and thought my pitch was "off" because my "Ti" was always too high, and my "Mi Fa" was always too close. I discovered that I had come into one particular type of tuning, and that tuning contains the feel for leading notes, and the feel for underlying chords. This had carried me in my sense of music for decades subconsciously. There are methodologies that also teach the "flavours" along with solfege singing.
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If you leave out Fa and Ti, you destroy that.
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If you leave them out, then you are merely teaching whole tone intervals, which are rather meaningless, with no association to anything.
There are different angles to music, different worlds. Mi Fa and Ti Do are not "chromaticism".


I'm not suggesting leaving them out, just introducing them later.

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If you leave out Fa and Ti, you destroy that.


Careful with your use of the word "destroy." That's a strong word.

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If you leave them out, then you are merely teaching whole tone intervals, which are rather meaningless, with no association to anything.


Mary Had a Little Lamb is a meaningless tune because it only has Do, Re, Mi, So?

That's a rhetorical question. No need to answer, and I probably wouldn't see an answer, anyway, as my husband is having surgery soon, and I'll be away from the forum for a good while again.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 05/23/19 04:32 AM

Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
For example, you could experiment with: second vs. octave.

And even before that working with specific intervals, an even smaller step is distinguishing two notes as same or different, and later, distinguishing the second as higher or lower than the first (I forget if AZNPiano has said whether the student can already do these things.)

Yes, the student can tell higher/lower. Right now she can tell far (6th, 7th, 8th) vs. near (2nd, 3rd, 4th).

We are working on half steps and whole steps.

And, no, we are not going to sing a chromatic scale. In fact, getting this girl to match pitch is an adventure.
Posted By: hello my name is

Re: Teaching Ear Training to the Tone Deaf - 05/30/19 05:15 PM

Alright! Now we're talking.

For matching pitches, if you have not already tried, one strategy is to have the person cup their ears, that way they can hear themselves better. Also I've found what Tim said about timbre to be true in my experience, I once had a friend who sang completely out of tune, as in wrong pitches, and was practicing matching pitch. I was one of the friends there and she said she had an easier time matching pitch to my voice! lol.

Alluded to here~
https://ramseyvoice.com/ear-training/

Some other ideas to try~
https://www.musical-u.com/learn/11-tips-to-help-the-tone-deaf-sing-in-tune/
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