Got Ear Training Techniques?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by peterjh85, Feb 17, 2009.


  1. peterjh85

    peterjh85 Member

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    I was curious to know how you all have or had developed your ear training skills. Do you simply listen to a track and try to replicate it over and over until you get it correct? That seems to work best for me. But maybe there is a better way to get better at ear training. I'm all "ears." Haha, sorry I couldn't help that one.

    Thanks!
     
  2. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Member

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    You're going to get lots of advice, but I think one very important step is to sing. You don't have to be a singer exactly, but at least be able to create a tone that's the correct pitch. You can even hum if you want- the pitch is the important thing.

    When you do this I think you'll realize what you're actually hearing and what you aren't. And it's an important step in being able to reproduce what you hear in your head through your instrument.
     
  3. Austinrocks

    Austinrocks Member

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  4. purestmonk

    purestmonk Member

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    agree. what helps me a lot is to transcribe and try to sing what i am going to transcribe then find out the notes on the guitar. diatonic stuff can come quite fast, but try doing some thelonious monk's heads and it can help

     
  5. Mandoboy

    Mandoboy Member

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    From Steve Vai-

    Take out some paper and number it 1-100. write in what you want to train yourself to hear, for example chord types, intervals, etc. Get your recorder, announce the #, play the thing 3x slowly. Do this until the end.

    When you play it back, you won't remember beyond the first or last few what you wrote down (unless you are a savant). Get another piece of paper and write your answers, then check 'em against what you wrote.

    Repeat until accurate :)
     
  6. stevel

    stevel Member

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    I have taught (and taken) Ear Training Classes at the university where I now teach.

    Our class is: Ear-Training, Sight-Singing and Dictation.

    It's funny, because when I took the class, I didn't learn its value - I had developed a good ear from following along with recordings, and figuring out bass notes, and then the chords from there.

    But years later (after I took the class, but before I taught it) I discovered the secret to making the whole concept work for you is to *internalize* it.

    And those three thing aren't separate (which was how the class was approached), but work hand-in-hand.

    To give a simple example, many people would learn to sing the interval of a Tritone by singing "Maria" from West Side Story, or "The Simpsons" theme.

    The problem is, that you usually encounter the tritone between the 7th and 4th scale degrees (B and F in C Major). So it really helps "understand" the interval by treating it not so much as a distance, but by which notes they fall on within the Scale.

    Side note: we used Moveable Do and a Tonal-based system, so this was a very important way to use it. However, out of context, B-F would be "just an interval".

    I actually improved my ear, and ability to recognize intervals and patterns, just by singing (in the car, in traffic for example):

    C-D
    C-E
    C-F
    C-G
    C-A
    C-B
    C-c

    then backwards. Then D-C, E-C, F-C, and so on.

    Then - still thinking in C Major:

    D-C
    D-E
    D-F
    D-G
    D-A
    D-B
    D-C
    D-d

    and so on, for every possible combination in the scale.

    Then I did minor keys.

    Later, I just did everything chromatically.

    So if you look at the above, C-F is a perfect 4th. So is D-G. But I'm not thinking "perfect 4th" when I'm singing or hearing that interval (though I know it is).

    I'm thinking, "that's The Tonic to Scale Degree 4" (or Do to Fa) for C-F, and "that's Scale Degree 2 to Scale Degree 5" (or Re to So) for D-F.

    Knowing that C-F and D-G are both perfect 4ths is Ok, but it's kind of like knowing that E minor Pentatonic and B minor Pentatonic are both Pentatonic Scales. But what happens when you use B minor Pentatonic in the key of E minor over an Em7 chord?

    So to me, it became more clear when I looked at the intervals in terms of what notes of the scale (or key) they were, as opposed to simply non-contextual intervals.

    This helped me to *internalize* them - not just by singing them, but *thinking* about what notes they were in the scale, and how they related to the Tonic, and what size interval it was, etc.

    I'll add that there's also some amount of experience that can be involved. For example, when I hear a sus4 chord, I'm just so used to that sound I know immediately that's what it is. You hear it, you figure it out, you play it (or write it out), and then after you end up doing the same sound 100 or so times, suddenly, you just know what it is.

    So you have to actually "practice" it, just like anything else.

    Best,
    Steve
     
  7. peterjh85

    peterjh85 Member

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    Thanks for the advice Steve!
     
  8. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    What Steve posted is very much how our ear training was conducted at our university first-year theory course for music majors (non-majors such as myself were welcome).

    Singing is such an effective ear training technique because it forces you to internalize the music. Ear training software MIGHT be helpful if used in conjunction with singing, but if it is used without singing, your progress will be much, much slower.
     
  9. Voodoo Blues

    Voodoo Blues Member

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    I'd say the first step to training your ear is to learn to tune your guitar by ear.
     
  10. K-man

    K-man Member

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    This may be a dumb question, but how do you know if you are singing the intervals correctly? You could think you are singing a major sixth, but without a way to check it (i.e. play the same notes on your instrument) it could be off.
     
  11. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    I can't speak for how Steve first learned his singing interval practice, but in our class, the professor used a piano in the beginning of the course to help us check ourselves.

    After a while though, one generally gets a good enough idea of what a major sixth is supposed to sound like. When I was in community orchestra, our music director checked the intonation of the horns, strings, etc. by identifying the musicians who were off-pitch, making them play a chord together, and making them adjust until the chord they were in tune. He never used an electric tuner - he just listened for beating. You can hear it yourself when you tune your guitar with the 5th-fret to open-string method.
     
  12. SyKrash

    SyKrash Member

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    Sing everything out loud you're trying to play, transcribe etc. Then pick up your guitar and match it.

    Then, sing what you're trying to play (out loud) while placing your hands on the fretboard without actually pushing down. (Does this make sense). Still pluck the notes with your pick, but you're not adding full pressure to fully fret the note. This links what you're singing out loud with your fingers playing the right frets and your picking hand picking the rigth strings.

    Check-Check-Double check you're singing accurately with what you're fretting.

    For starters, just do the "fake fret" exercise with a major scale or pentatonic scale. Eventually, start singing licks you know how to play, then move on to improvising and singing simultaneously.
     
  13. stevel

    stevel Member

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    No, very good question actually.

    Initially, you need to check against something - like a copy of the printed music, or check your pitch against the piano or guitar.

    Once you get comfortable vocalizing (singing) the interval - and the relationship of the notes of that interval within the key, you can kind of "feel" if it's correct.

    For me, initially, it was easier to do something like sing an E over a C note to sing a Major 3rd, than it was to sing C up to E. That way, I could hear (or "feel") the E "lock in" above the C. Otherwise, once you sing the C, you have to "remember" the sound of that note mentally as you produce the E - which is easy to throw yourself off.

    A good way to practice (which I should remember to mention but frequently forget) is to play a note on an instrument, and since the interval above that. So instead of you singing C to E, you play C on the guitar and then Sing the E - and you can then check your sung E against the guitar's E.

    So it's always a good idea to practice your intervals Melodically (like C followed by E with your voice) AND Harmonically (C and E simultaneously, like playing one and singing the other).

    You can mix it up by you playing the E, and singing the C BELOW.

    It's much harder to sing intervals DOWN in general!

    When I'm singing in a band, I can't think "I'm singing a third below the lead".

    Many people who harmonize do that (though they typically sing a 3rd above - I just don't have the range).

    But what I do is, I think, "I'm supposed to be singing the 3rd of the chord" then I base that of the Root note - and luckily in rock music, that note is supplied by the Bass and/or the lowest note of my power chord!

    Steve
     
  14. stevel

    stevel Member

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    This "fake-fret" exercise is really a very good exercise to incorporate into your ear-training regimen - and I bet it's something most people don't even think to do.

    Good suggestion.

    Steve
     
  15. K-man

    K-man Member

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    Thanks Steve that makes sense. Something I need to start working on.
     
  16. alotawatts

    alotawatts Member

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    If asked at a random place and time to sing/hum/whistle a given note/pitch can anyone do it ?

    I can usually nail D. So for other notes I think about the pitch (D in my mind ) and then go up or down the scale accordingly (in my mind) to find another pitch then I can provide it outloud...so to speak.
    My method....weird. I'll wait for replys then explain more.
     
  17. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    You're describing "perfect pitch". I recall Gene saying he has it. I don't have it.

    However, if you give me a starting pitch and ask me to sing a scale off of that I can do it. This is called "relative pitch" and is more commonly found in musicians and can be developed by just about anyone.
     
  18. Natural Mystic

    Natural Mystic Member

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    IMHO I think perfect pitch is a myth. When you think about it everything is relative isn't it? I'm sure there are people who have an amazing harmonic memory, or memory of pitch... who can tell you when one note sounds like a "D#" or "A" above middle C. But if you throw 440hz out the window as a reference pitch, can they actually tell you what note they here if you use 435hz or even 415hz as a reference pitch for the 49th key of the piano? Of course not! There is no such thing as an "A" note, or "B" note, there is only the meaning we associated with it within our notation of 12 tone equal temperament. Thus it all becomes relative to the calibration of your temperament or intonation.
     
  19. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    Our 1st year music theory professor recognized this problem, if indeed this is the same problem you describe here.

    His solution was to first get us used to sight singing material that was tonally centered - that is, music that has a clear key signature and is faithful to that key signature for the duration of the exercise. I found that this first step of simply getting people to sight-sing even simple melodies written in standard notation was actually difficult for instrumentalists who had spent years reading on their instruments - by rarely singing their sheet music, they had to play their instrument before they could hear the music.

    Once the first hurdle was overcome, we arrived at the one you describe - how do we sight sing music that does not have a strong tonal center? His answer was this book:

    Ear Training for 20th Century Music

    BTW, I have heard several vocalists - mostly those performing works written in the 20th or later century - sing atonal lines without accompaniment.
     
  20. dsimon665

    dsimon665 Supporting Member

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