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#2633272 04/15/17 02:58 PM
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Hi

I am an absolute beginner. I find it hard to tell intervals. Basically if someone played one of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th randomly and asked me which was it, I won't be able to tell. This is also why even if I know a tune, I am not able to find it's notes on the keyboard. Let's say I know the first note, I wouldn't be able to tell if the next note is higher or lower.

Do people generally need to do something to develop the ability to tell intervals or is it something that naturally comes with time.

Vaibhav

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Originally Posted by Vaibhav
Let's say I know the first note, I wouldn't be able to tell if the next note is higher or lower.

Do people generally need to do something to develop the ability to tell intervals or is it something that naturally comes with time.

Vaibhav


Well, what I think is that you have to be able to know that as part of your natural musical ability.

You may wish to reconsider trying to work on piano playing.

It doesn't sound like it will come easily for you.

AND ... definitely not without a teacher.

With the help of a teacher, you may have a chance, not otherwise.

Sorry, for the gloomy outlook ... but I am afraid it is close to the truth.



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Originally Posted by Vaibhav
This is also why even if I know a tune, I am not able to find it's notes on the keyboard. Let's say I know the first note, I wouldn't be able to tell if the next note is higher or lower.

Can you sing, hum or whistle Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star? (Or any simple nursery or folk tune that you know).

If you can, you are not 'tone deaf', and you know whether the next note is higher or lower. You just have to learn to recognize it.

Don't worry about trying to find the notes on the keyboard just yet. You won't be able to until you're really familiar with the keyboard and notes, and their relation to the keys on the keyboard. Just train your ears by singing lots, including scales. Play a note like Middle C on your keyboard, and sing it, then sing the scale going up, then back down.

Now you know whether the next note is higher or lower......


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Do you have a smartphone? There's a app for that - look for music theory. I have one called Perfect Ear. Make sure it includes drills for listening to and identifying the correct intervals.

I don't agree with the doom and gloom opinions of the other posters. This is something anyone can learn if they are motivated.



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Originally Posted by Vaibhav
This is also why even if I know a tune, I am not able to find it's notes on the keyboard. Let's say I know the first note, I wouldn't be able to tell if the next note is higher or lower.
I can take what you described two ways.
1) If you try to reproduce a tune, then you cannot draw on your memory of the tune to know if your remembered note is lower or higher.
or
2) If somebody plays a note, and then another note, you can't tell whether the 2nd note is higher or lower.

For the second one, I bet if you heard a bird twitter and a bear growl or the roar of a souped up truck, you would say instantly that the bird's twitter is higher, and the growl is (a lot) lower. Different people have different extremes, and those extremes get narrowed and refined.

The way intervals are "taught" is, frankly speaking, often stupid. You get on some site that plays intervals for you to name (before having learned to recognize them) which is like teaching the alphabet by having little kids name an alphabet they haven't learned. There are other complications with intervals, such as the spelling system, so that the same sound you hear could be called a (minor) third or (augmented) second. In other words, don't worry about that yet.

For piano, intervals do play a role. You have a set of white** piano keys in a row, side by side - C, D, E, F, G, A, B on and on. You have a note sitting on a space (C) and another note sitting on the space right above it (D) --- they are 2 notes apart (1st & 2nd note) and if you have your finger on C, then the next one over to the right is D. This is visual, not audible. Or you have a note on a line (D) and a note on the very next line (skipping the space in between) = F - they the interval of a 3rd because 3 notes are involved (D,E,F). You have your finger on D, skip the next white key, play the white key after that and voila - D,F = a third - again visually.

A lot of intervalic playing joined together with notation is visual, and you can train your ear subsequently as you go along as ONE (not the only) way.

You can train your ear to hear many things as you go along. By listening to what you are doing, you will start to hear more, both indirectly by playing music, and indirectly by experimenting.

I first had a keyboard when I was a child, without lessons. I "played with sound" like children play with things. I spent hours playing thirds and seconds and fifths all over my little organ - fell in love with 6ths. Decades later when I finally studied music formally, I passed my first theory exam with flying colours, because what was taught was little more than these childish experiments, with names attached.

** Before someone chides me about it, there is a reason why I didn't mention the black keys smile

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This is something you can improve with practice--not five minutes once a week, but with five minutes every day you will see improvement. You can use an app, or just sit at your piano and play an interval and sing or hum the note name. As a matter of fact, I would do the practice at the piano before I went to an app that has you identifying intervals.

If you know solfege (do-re-mi etc.), use that.


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After three and a half years of getting along quite fine on piano I decided to start ear training and found I was completely hopeless. Just like you I could not identify any intervals but gradually my ear started to improve. After a year of practice I have seen considerable improvement and now have little difficulty with interval identification. However my overall aim was to be able to do simple melodic dictation for exam purposes, but I am afraid I have lots more work to do on that front.

teoria.com is a great resource, but I give great credit to Functional Ear Trainer for the way it teaches interval identification.


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@dmd Thanks for your honest opinion. I understand that playing by ear might be very challenging for me, but playing music off a sheet shouldn't require me to be able to recognise intervals naturally. Taking the example of @earlofmar, it seems these two are separate skills. What are your thoughts.

Originally Posted by bennevis
If you can, you are not 'tone deaf', and you know whether the next note is higher or lower. You just have to learn to recognize it.

I actually just took a couple of online tests to check if I am tone deaf. Turns out I am not laugh

Originally Posted by keystring
I can take what you described two ways.
1) If you try to reproduce a tune, then you cannot draw on your memory of the tune to know if your remembered note is lower or higher.
or
2) If somebody plays a note, and then another note, you can't tell whether the 2nd note is higher or lower.

I am afraid the first scenario is closer to what I experience. If I don't know the notes of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, then even though I know the tune in my head, I won't be able to find it on the keyboard. If someone gave me the first three notes, then I will have trouble finding the fourth one.

@PianogrlNW, @Stubbie and @earlofmar I will try out the suggestions provided by you guys. Thanks smile

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This is something you will definitely develop over time. I know because I did and it’s something I never thought I’d be able to do. You might want to look up some ear training exercises online. There are also charts with examples of each interval and a common song it is found in. So, do a search for that too. You also might want to learn Solfege (Do Re mi etc..). If you can, you might want to take singing lessons for little while. That's what really helped me develop my ear.

This is a really good website you might want to check it out for a variety of music theory info. https://www.musictheory.net/exercises

this looks cool too: https://www.earmaster.com/products/free-tools/interval-song-chart-generator.html


Good luck!


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Originally Posted by Vaibhav

Originally Posted by bennevis
If you can, you are not 'tone deaf', and you know whether the next note is higher or lower. You just have to learn to recognize it.

I actually just took a couple of online tests to check if I am tone deaf. Turns out I am not laugh

If I don't know the notes of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, then even though I know the tune in my head, I won't be able to find it on the keyboard. If someone gave me the first three notes, then I will have trouble finding the fourth one.

That's simply because you're not very familiar with the topography of the keyboard yet.

Stay with C major, practice singing in solfège - I don't know your age, but when I was a kid, this was what we'd sing to wink :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k33ZQ4I4p24

In C major, do-re-mi corresponds to C-D-E: remember, sing the whole song in C major, i.e. no black notes - never mind that in the video, Maria sings in B flat major (so don't play on the piano in C major while she is singing!). You just start with 'do' as Middle C, and play the notes along on the piano as you sing..... thumb


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I am unfortunately a hopeless singer. People have actually told me that I CANNOT sing. But I will give this a try. Maybe it will help.

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I'm hopeless at playing intervals. The funny thing is that I can sing intervals perfectly well even though I often couldn't tell you what the interval is exactly. If I try to play one on the piano it's very hit and miss and I can be as much as a 5th out cry I spent several years as a teenager trying to play guitar by ear and not surprisingly, given this handicap, it didn't go too well smile

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If you practice on an app each day for 5 minutes, you will get better. And if you play on a piano, you will get better at translating intervals into jumps on the keyboard.

I was absolutely hopeless at picking out tunes. Then, to my amazement, one day I worked out the chorus to 'Flieger, gruss mir die Sonne'. If I can pick out a tune, after working on the skill, other people can.

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Originally Posted by Vaibhav
Do people generally need to do something to develop the ability to tell intervals or is it something that naturally comes with time.


For some people it comes naturally. It does not necessarily naturally come with time. I know this because I've been at the piano a long time and I don't really identify intervals.

Relative pitch is trainable, though, and it's probably worthwhile to do so.


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I am relieved to know that not everyone has this ability naturally and not having it doesn't mean one cannot learn to play music. Playing by ear might be out of grasp, but seems like people have been able to do that as well. I will install one of the ear training apps and give it a try.

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I really like the app suggested by earlofmar.


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Vaibhav, are you me? Ahaha. I'm terrible at intervals and pitch identification as well. I'm even taking voice lessons now to see if it would help--it has, but barely. While I do concede that having a less-developed ear is a disadvantage, the only thing that has held me back on my progress with piano is my lack of practice. So maybe playing by ear won't come to me naturally (or ever), but I'm quite confident that with some elbow grease I can become a proficient sight reader, which is great as I love collecting music sheets!

Going back to pitch and interval identification, I'm starting to think there's something fundamentally different about how my brain hears pitches. Like the only time I'm sure whether two notes are going high or low is if they're at least a 6th apart. Having a "base" note from which to work out the relative location of a pitch hasn't worked very well either (but maybe my methods aren't very good so I may have to rework on that).

When I hear notes, in my head I don't imagine them going "up" or "down" but rather experience each note linearly, differentiating each one based on its unique voice or personality. So I have better success identifying notes based on how it sounds, but learning to identify all the unique voices is a big challenge.

I wish I could reprogram my brain to be more musical smirk


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Another thing to add to my to do list....learn to identify intervals!!!


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like others here, recognizing the direction of notes, whether a note is above or below a prior note has been difficult for me. Larger spans above a fifth seemed obvious but the closer the interval the more difficult it seemed. However as my teacher pointed out my reluctance to sing was the culprit. By transferring the interval to the physical, (singing it), the direction becomes much more obvious. Herein lies a problem for those just starting ear training, this is not just simply a mental exercise. Both the body and the mind have to work together but I suspect the mind learns from the physical, therefore singing becomes a key factor.

Another thing I had difficulty with was apps in general, any app that used a synthesized sound was impossible for me. In the early days I could only use sounds that were pure piano before being able to eventually move onto to other instruments and the synthetic sounds.


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Originally Posted by earlofmar
like others here, recognizing the direction of notes, whether a note is above or below a prior note has been difficult for me. Larger spans above a fifth seemed obvious but the closer the interval the more difficult it seemed. However as my teacher pointed out my reluctance to sing was the culprit. By transferring the interval to the physical, (singing it), the direction becomes much more obvious. Herein lies a problem for those just starting ear training, this is not just simply a mental exercise. Both the body and the mind have to work together but I suspect the mind learns from the physical, therefore singing becomes a key factor.


I suggest following a vocal score while listening to a recording, even if you don't (or are reluctant to, even in the privacy of your bathroom wink ) sing it. The vocal part's trajectory as you listen will help imprint intervals (as well as the 'direction' of the notes) into your musical mind.

For instance, follow this (clarinet as well as vocal part. The clarinet part is on the top staff, the vocal part just below it. Ignore the piano part):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPpII4xTVrc

If that's too tricky, try this one first (and it's easy to sing along!):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9TlAOKCmaQ


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