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  1. #1

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    Ear training pedagogy seems to be split into two camps; the traditionalists, who work up from studying intervals in isolation, and the functional/contextual camp who say that studying intervals outside of the context of a key center is, at best, useless and possibly even detrimental to one's progress. Which is it to be?

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  3. #2

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    Hmmmm.... both? And maybe all the other ways too? Yeah, I say all of them.

  4. #3

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    Both!!!

    Ultimately sight singing is probably the fastest route to the promise land.

  5. #4

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    In the book Jazz Ears, Thom Mason drills both: you drill the half step (and major seventh) of ti-do and mi-fa, then the whole steps, then the minor thirds, etc. I'm finding it much more beneficial than isolated intervals.
    Last edited by dingusmingus; 03-15-2016 at 10:26 AM. Reason: typo (Thanks destinytot!)

  6. #5
    So, is it useful to differentiate between methods that work with a fixed root, or key center, and those that drill intervals in isolation, i.e. with a floating root? Surely with accumulated volume you've had enough exposure either way. Is it not like the blocked practice verses interleaved practice argument?

  7. #6

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    Sure Stu. I would never advise anyone NOT to be aware of what they're working on and how they're doing it. I have some ear training practices that are related to the two things you're talking about, but different... and fill their own space in the categorical organization in my mind. I think what's most important is just that you take this stuff personally. Don't make it about replicating anyone else's thing. Not in the long run at least. You might need to start there, but eventually you want it to just be a part of your personal thing.

    We all have plenty of people in our lives that could call us on the phone and say one word, and we would just know who they were based on the sound and tone of their voice. Real ear training should be about getting our musical ear into that level of intimacy.

    So yeah, if you want to categorize different methods, sure... why not? But the more you spend time and energy on your ear, the better you will become as a musician. Whether you're using intervals for those methods or not. I might recommend doing some interval and some other things too.

    Honestly, I'm not familiar with "blacked practice verses interleaved practice" so I have no opinion there and can't comment. What is that?

  8. #7
    destinytot Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by dingusmingus View Post
    In the book Jazz Ears, Thom Mason drills both: you drill the half step (and major seventh) of ti-la and mi-fa, then the whole steps, then the minor thirds, etc. I'm finding it much more beneficial than isolated intervals.
    Sorry, dingusmingus, but is that a typo? (Did you mean 'ti-do'?)

  9. #8

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    Knowing intervals automatically (simple and compound) regardless of context enables you to hear root movement easily and many other things. To me this is not a debatable issue, learn both. Really.
    Last edited by smokinguit; 03-15-2016 at 05:56 AM.
    "If I don't practice for a day, I know it... for two days, the critics know it... three days, the public knows it." -- Louis Armstrong

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by destinytot View Post
    Sorry, dingusmingus, but is that a typo? (Did you mean 'ti-do'?)
    Yep, thanks!

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stu Foley View Post
    Ear training pedagogy seems to be split into two camps; the traditionalists, who work up from studying intervals in isolation, and the functional/contextual camp who say that studying intervals outside of the context of a key center is, at best, useless and possibly even detrimental to one's progress. Which is it to be?
    I think the latter camp are the traditionalists, if by traditional you mean that is what has been taught for around a thousand years.

    I don't think the functionalists would say there is anything wrong with knowing intervals, but no one teaches sight singing that way.
    Last edited by christianm77; 03-16-2016 at 07:32 PM.

  12. #11
    Learning intervals out of context is good for solf grades. Nothing to do with real life. When given context and trying to identify the intervals without any such training beforehand, it's something completely different. It's possible to mess up even your min and maj 2ths.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stu Foley View Post
    Ear training pedagogy seems to be split into two camps; the traditionalists, who work up from studying intervals in isolation, and the functional/contextual camp who say that studying intervals outside of the context of a key center is, at best, useless and possibly even detrimental to one's progress. Which is it to be?
    I really think it depends on the goals of the student. For myself, I've always taken the "more is better" approach and studied intervals in isolation as well as in the context of key centers. I can, for the most part, hear any tonal melody and play it back on the instrument or write it down without many mistakes. When I'm doing this, I personally never, ever, think of it as a series of intervals. I can go back and think of it that way, but that's not the process I'm using to hear and remember the melody. I say this because if a student told me their goal was to hear a melody and play it, I don't think interval identification would be the first recommendation I'd make.

    That said, there is a lot to be said for Modus Novus style bulletproof singing of intervals: if you study sight singing of pure intervals via Modus Novus or similar, you'll be able to sing a minor 6th against anything, and I think that does have some value.

    For me, the single most valuable ear training exercise has been singing against a drone, so I guess that puts me pretty firmly in the "tonal center" camp. Most jazz is, after all, against a tonal center, even if that center is shifting throughout the tune. That said, I've always worked to hear (and sing) every note and understand its relationship to that center.

  14. #13

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    When I went to school (only a two year degree) for jazz they only taught the interval method and did not even introduce solfege or relative pitch style ear training. I believe if I would have been introduced to this I would have been 10 or so years a better musician than I am today. It was not until 10 years after my degree that a saxophone player from University of Idaho taught me about relative pitch and sight singing and I grew by leaps and bounds. The next big step was to stop analyzing my lines chord by chord and using key centers through progressions to allow my ear to match what I was thinking on the guitar. Wish I had these ahha moments earlier... sometimes I feel a bit slow on the uptake! I'm 40 and improving faster than I did in my 20's!

  15. #14

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    When I went to school (only a two year degree) for jazz they only taught the interval method and did not even introduce solfege or relative pitch style ear training. I believe if I would have been introduced to relative pitch style ear training I would have been 10 or so years a better musician than I am today. It was not until 10 years after my degree that a saxophone player from University of Idaho taught me about relative pitch and sight singing and I grew by leaps and bounds. The next big step was to stop analyzing my lines chord by chord and using key centers through progressions to allow my ear to match what I was thinking on the guitar. Wish I had these ahha moments earlier... sometimes I feel a bit slow on the uptake! I'm 40 and improving faster than I did in my 20's!

  16. #15
    I wish to have no more ahha moments. Getting close to 40 also

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stu Foley View Post
    Ear training pedagogy seems to be split into two camps; the traditionalists, who work up from studying intervals in isolation, and the functional/contextual camp who say that studying intervals outside of the context of a key center is, at best, useless and possibly even detrimental to one's progress. Which is it to be?

    I would say you need to work on both skills.

    Now for a third school of thought that Jazz hang I get to be a fly on the wall at the old cat running says serious Jazz players have to develop Absolute pitch. He says he has taught people how to develop absolute pitch, but have never said what that process is. To his this is all part of developing the mind, body, ear connection, which is key to playing jazz. He also says singing is a necessary part of the mind, body, ear. He say if you hear or think a note your fingers should automatically be moving to the fingering for it with or without the instrument. But he's a horn player so doesn't have to deal with guitar where same note is in more than one place on the neck. He say all this relates to improv you can play whatever you think of or hear. Does says practicing singing a improv line, then playing it should be part of daily practice. One to work on the mind, body, ear connection, but also to spend some time daily on pure improvisation and playing something you've never played before.

    So there's some street view of ear training.
    No, I'm not going to give you the answer to your question. I don't want to deny you the pleasure you'll receive when you figure it out yourself. -- Bill Evans talking to his brother.

  18. #17
    Intervals hm. It's quite straightforward and doable thing to practice. But I found out that scale degrees are way trickier. I guess them 100% correctly... only when there is a familiar thing to indicate the key. And started to worry about it only about a year ago. Jeez. It wasn't an "ahha" moment. It was a "@#%" moment. Not a moment, a gradual sinking frustration. And this was never mentioned in those 12 school-years. 4 of them in jazz department.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by docbop View Post
    I would say you need to work on both skills.

    Now for a third school of thought that Jazz hang I get to be a fly on the wall at the old cat running says serious Jazz players have to develop Absolute pitch. He says he has taught people how to develop absolute pitch, but have never said what that process is. To his this is all part of developing the mind, body, ear connection, which is key to playing jazz. He also says singing is a necessary part of the mind, body, ear. He say if you hear or think a note your fingers should automatically be moving to the fingering for it with or without the instrument. But he's a horn player so doesn't have to deal with guitar where same note is in more than one place on the neck. He say all this relates to improv you can play whatever you think of or hear. Does says practicing singing a improv line, then playing it should be part of daily practice. One to work on the mind, body, ear connection, but also to spend some time daily on pure improvisation and playing something you've never played before.

    So there's some street view of ear training.
    Not sure if it's possible to develop perfect pitch in adulthood but Bruce arnold seems to think so....

    In terms of going for the note, do a Moreno and play everything in 3rd position? ;-)

  20. #19

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    I've been persevering with the Banacos/Arnold intuitive scale degree thang and I am slowly getting better. I notice it when I play too....

  21. #20

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    I'm not sure what to make of this ....

    If I hear a melody that's not filled with unusual leaps, I can usually play it without mistakes. But, if you ask me what the notes were, I have to think about my fingers on the neck. That is, I can play the stuff, but it seems to avoid the linguistic part of my brain, so I can't name it.

    That's a weakness -- because I can't immediately hear what another player is doing and know, from the key, what the starting note is. I have to fumble, find the first note, and then I can play it.

    Another weakness is that I can do this with melody but I'm way worse with chords. So, for example, I can know a tune well in one key and not even have to think much about the changes, but then playing it in a distant key will be difficult.

    Anybody have a thought about what sort of ear training would remediate these deficits?

    Sometimes, I can comp a tune without actually thinking about the names of the chords. Sort of like playing a melody without being able to name the notes. I would love to be able to expand that ability. My guess (this was another recent thread) is that players who can comp a zillion tunes are not usually thinking in roman numeral shorthand. Rather, they aren't thinking chord names at all and their fingers find the next chord by the mental image of the sound coming up.

    How do you develop that?

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    Another weakness is that I can do this with melody but I'm way worse with chords. So, for example, I can know a tune well in one key and not even have to think much about the changes, but then playing it in a distant key will be difficult.
    when I studied with Jack Wilkins, he told me to take tunes that I knew the melody to, and play them in different keys adding a bass note underneath the melody. I remember he said there's no need to try to go fast, just take your time and focus on really hearing the bass note against the melody and getting that right.

    so I'd probably recommend taking that melody that you can play in any key, and playing it in an unusual key, but just adding the bass note. Interestingly, now that I think about it, Bill Frisell recommends the same approach in one of those old instructional videos from the 90s, talking about solo guitar.

    I wouldn't view the inability to name pitches/intervals/chords as a shortcoming. When I took a class with Joanne Brackeen, she clearly thought of most tunes this way: I remember she'd have to jog her memory a couple times when naming a harmony because her fingers would just naturally go to the change. Specifically, I remember her not being sure whether to call the second chord in "It could happen to you" a Cdom or Edim, but she was completely clear about it when playing it.

  23. #22
    I'm a noob. So far I can play comp for a few pieces without being manically worried about chords and can even "do stuff" there. With those, the progression (letters, functions) are just "ticking" in the back of my head and doesn't need attention really to keep in track. When feeling an urge to jump, then it needs a second to think about where we are currently and no problem. But most tunes I kinda have to drag my mental finger on the mental paper with chord names, keys, functions. This sucks kinda, but to be honest, I haven't put too much effort to comping just yet. Still, knowing how to learn to play properly with the example of those very few, is quite a relief. The goal is there and I sort of know how much and what should I do to get there with other tunes.

    So, can't give any good suggestions but to play a lot, do try to think a lot about what's going on there and the end result should be that you can play your eyes closed and ears locked on the soloist/group but still being aware what's going on .. theory-wise. I looked up the recordings of my chosen tunes with nice and clear old-school solos and just was playing comp. Mostly ignoring piano.

    I also tried to train to play chords blatantly by ear but no real success in many many months. 3-finger-chords - almost, but nowhere near solid enough to "go for it".

    Posted this just to encourage to not drop "minding the theory" part. It doesn't take too much brain-time when its well learned. A bit of multitasking ain't gonna hurt.

    ---
    Hope this made some sense. I've been up for 36 hours, watchin "The last man on Earth" show and getting well earned laughs between ear trainings.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    I'm not sure what to make of this ....

    If I hear a melody that's not filled with unusual leaps, I can usually play it without mistakes. But, if you ask me what the notes were, I have to think about my fingers on the neck. That is, I can play the stuff, but it seems to avoid the linguistic part of my brain, so I can't name it.

    That's a weakness -- because I can't immediately hear what another player is doing and know, from the key, what the starting note is. I have to fumble, find the first note, and then I can play it.

    Another weakness is that I can do this with melody but I'm way worse with chords. So, for example, I can know a tune well in one key and not even have to think much about the changes, but then playing it in a distant key will be difficult.

    Anybody have a thought about what sort of ear training would remediate these deficits?

    Sometimes, I can comp a tune without actually thinking about the names of the chords. Sort of like playing a melody without being able to name the notes. I would love to be able to expand that ability. My guess (this was another recent thread) is that players who can comp a zillion tunes are not usually thinking in roman numeral shorthand. Rather, they aren't thinking chord names at all and their fingers find the next chord by the mental image of the sound coming up.

    How do you develop that?
    I can't do that but I know a man who can. He says he knows what the chord that he wants to play sounds like, and he knows how to play it. He also knows how it functions and what it is called, but when I ask him what he is doing he has to think about it because he says it is all by ear, analysis is just for description. He can comp and play chord solos on tunes he doesn't know, I've seen him do it, but he says he has to hear the bass player or he finds it hard! However it isn't magic as he is 73 and spent most of his life arranging for big bands. However he has opened my eyes (ears) to possibilities I didn't know existed.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by plasticpigeon View Post
    I can't do that but I know a man who can. He says he knows what the chord that he wants to play sounds like, and he knows how to play it. He also knows how it functions and what it is called, but when I ask him what he is doing he has to think about it because he says it is all by ear, analysis is just for description. He can comp and play chord solos on tunes he doesn't know, I've seen him do it, but he says he has to hear the bass player or he finds it hard! However it isn't magic as he is 73 and spent most of his life arranging for big bands. However he has opened my eyes (ears) to possibilities I didn't know existed.
    There's a Jazz Piano course called the Sudnow Method, which teaches you to play jazz piano completely by ear. It's kind of fascinating. The guy (Sudnow) worked it out allegedly in collaboration with Bill Evans. The premise is that modern jazz standards contain every common harmonic relationship in western music. You learn by memorizing 10 or 12 standards; they start with Misty, then I think Autumn in New York, etc. You have a series of tapes (yeah, tapes) and a book that has for all intents keyboard tablature that shows you where to put your fingers. They are all well known songs that it is assumed you already are familiar with (so this isn't using songs you don't know -I think that's an important part of it), and they aren't basic chord forms, they're real, legit Evans-type voicings. What it's doing is training your ear combined with muscle memory to hear and automatically move in certain patterns, with no theory whatsoever (although the lessons encourage you to learn to read music as well as theory because it's a good thing to do).

    The cool thing is that you don't just end up with 10 or 12 nice sounding tunes you've memorized. You've trained your ear and hands to recognize where any song is likely to go because 'this sounding chord' will probably to go 'here, or here, or here', and 'that sounding chord' will likely go 'here or here', etc. and your muscle memory just goes there. WHen you've completed the course, you supposedly will be able to play any jazz or pop song completely by ear. That's sort of what your friend's hands do without thinking about it or consciously knowing what is going on theoretically.

    I started this decades ago but never got past tune number 2, because, not unlike any other method, it takes LOTS of daily practice, and I had young kids. But it's just listening and repetition. It seemed valid, but also like something would need to have a different life to put enough time into to work.

    Anyone ever hear of this?

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhythmisking View Post
    There's a Jazz Piano course called the Sudnow Method, which teaches you to play jazz piano completely by ear. It's kind of fascinating. The guy (Sudnow) worked it out allegedly in collaboration with Bill Evans. The premise is that modern jazz standards contain every common harmonic relationship in western music. You learn by memorizing 10 or 12 standards; they start with Misty, then I think Autumn in New York, etc. You have a series of tapes (yeah, tapes) and a book that has for all intents keyboard tablature that shows you where to put your fingers. They are all well known songs that it is assumed you already are familiar with (so this isn't using songs you don't know -I think that's an important part of it), and they aren't basic chord forms, they're real, legit Evans-type voicings. What it's doing is training your ear combined with muscle memory to hear and automatically move in certain patterns, with no theory whatsoever (although the lessons encourage you to learn to read music as well as theory because it's a good thing to do).

    The cool thing is that you don't just end up with 10 or 12 nice sounding tunes you've memorized. You've trained your ear and hands to recognize where any song is likely to go because 'this sounding chord' will probably to go 'here, or here, or here', and 'that sounding chord' will likely go 'here or here', etc. and your muscle memory just goes there. WHen you've completed the course, you supposedly will be able to play any jazz or pop song completely by ear. That's sort of what your friend's hands do without thinking about it or consciously knowing what is going on theoretically.

    I started this decades ago but never got past tune number 2, because, not unlike any other method, it takes LOTS of daily practice, and I had young kids. But it's just listening and repetition. It seemed valid, but also like something would need to have a different life to put enough time into to work.

    Anyone ever hear of this?
    That sounds AMAZING!

  27. #26

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    For me ear training is largely contextual - I can hear changes I play a lot much better than random chords I haven't.

    I am far better at rapidly transcribing bop lines than intervallic chord scale stuff.

    Likewise when I am sight singing (which I do very occasionally) there are some things I can sing right away and other things I have to work out.

    It's really not a linear process.

  28. #27

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    To me ear training is an attitude, sort of an always present background goal, rather then a specific daily exercise routine.
    I've gone through some books in the past, used ear training software/websites and still do occasionally. Learned to recognize intervals, chord qualities and such. They are useful but it's easy to get good at a particular drill only to find out that it helps you very little in real musical situations. They do help you to get the big picture and get the ball rolling.
    What I find helps now is to have an "ear training mode" in my head that comes on periodically when an opportunity present itself in a more musical situation. Some examples of these are:
    o- When I'm transcribing a lick or solo, I sometimes first identify the intervals before playing them on the guitar.
    o- I hear a chord in the background during the solo I'm transcribing that comes out very clearly, I set out to figure the chord out. Or try to hear individual chord tones and pick out the third etc.
    o- When I'm signing a tune in the shower and such, I stop and try if I can transcribe a couple of bars (relative to the tonic center as I don't have perfect pitch) then check it in the instrument after.
    o- When I'm practicing chord inversions, sometimes I just strum an inversion and try to sing each chord tone in ascending order.
    o- Sometimes I run a software that plays random chords and I try to play them on the guitar. Or I close my eyes strum a 7th chord somewhere on the neck, then try and play the matching dominant scale somewhere else on the neck.

    These are just some examples, I always have an eye open for finding fun drills. I do most of these as short breaks during my practice without a prior plan. I also try to sing what I play to the detriment of my girlfriend. Now sometimes I don't even realize that I do it.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 07-20-2018 at 10:41 PM.

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    To me ear training is an attitude, sort of an always present background goal, rather then a specific daily exercise routine...
    What I find helps now is to have an "ear training mode" in my head that comes on periodically when an opportunity present itself in a more musical situation.
    This approaches how I do it, but being an exclusive ear player, for me it is always present as the primary goal and comes on full for the duration of the practice, transcribing, composing, rehearsal, performance or whatever I'm actually doing with the guitar... it's all ear training.
    "Bent my ear to hear the tune and closed my eyes to see."

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I've been persevering with the Banacos/Arnold intuitive scale degree thang and I am slowly getting better. I notice it when I play too....
    When I was studying with CB, Bruce was too. Every week for 5 minutes, Charlie would have me stand with my back to him. He would be at the piano and play I-IV-V-I in C, followed by 1 of the 12 tones. I would have to name the tone. After 3 years I was still stuck with the 12 tones! This one week I arrived early. I listen to the student before me doing his ear training. Charlie plays a cadence followed by a god awe full chord, think of something like a A#^b3#5b7#11, you get the idea. The student not only named the chord, but, he named the notes in order! I wanted to leave, but Charlie saw me sitting outside LOL. Turns out the student had won the Monk Institute Award. I may still struggle with naming the notes, but I can find them really quick on the guitar, so I guess that counts for something.

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strbender View Post
    When I was studying with CB, Bruce was too. Every week for 5 minutes, Charlie would have me stand with my back to him. He would be at the piano and play I-IV-V-I in C, followed by 1 of the 12 tones. I would have to name the tone.
    Thanks to Bruce you can now have this on your iphone.

    I must get back to this. At the moment, I've been applying that stuff to real music, although I think there's a lot to be said for just crunching through the exercises. You get better in real time, don't you?

  32. #31

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    Possibly relevant:

    I have found that "ear training" is more than one thing.

    For example, if I hear a line or know a melody (and it isn't too complicated) I can usually play it without mistakes. I might miss a half step here and there, but I can pretty much do it. My fingers find the notes without conscious direction.

    However, if you ask me to name the notes I just played, I have to think about my fingers and laboriously figure out the names of the notes.

    If I know a melody, I can play it in any key. One key is as good as another. But, I have never been able to do that with chords, except for very simple things.

    Occasionally, I find myself in a situation where I have to solo on a chord sequence I've never heard. If I play behind the chord change, meaning I hear the chord first and then play a note, I can usually do it. OTOH, if someone starts playing a tune that I don't know, I'm slow to figure out the changes.

    I know musicians who can tell you the name of a chord you played by mistake and unrelated to the harmony of the tune. I can tell it's wrong, but I can't tell what it is. Not by name and not by my fingers somehow finding it on their own.

    I don't know much about ear training. I used Ear Master for a while. I've never heard of an ear training approach which assesses what you can and can't do, and then tailors the approach. Does it exist?
    Last edited by rpjazzguitar; 08-23-2018 at 10:17 PM.

  33. #32
    "not one thing" is very true. It's different even withing simple task of playing from memory or repeating what was just heard (kinda same thing, kinda not). Could focus on intervals only, could try to focus on chord tones, scale degrees, or the khm.. meaning/emotion. All feel different. Like night and day different. And this is just one thing to do and train. One from zillion.

  34. #33

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    I spent about a year of my lunch breaks doing ten mins here and there with an app doing intervals and contextless melodies. Then perhaps another year doing solfege type thing with context on another app on the train to work.

    What I will say is that both made me realise how little i was hearing before i started the process. posted this before somewhere, but it also really helped with musical memory, as it felt less like i was groping for ideas. they were clearer in my mind

    The ear training with some context however rapidly felt like it developed me faster than any thing else i had worked on. but I dont know if i could have done that without the previous ground work up from essentially tone deafness. (this was yeaaars into playing guitar too)

    with simple melodies now that i sing away from an instrument , i can definitely identify what chord tone is what etc and that is helping me learn the fretboard a lot quicker than before.

    with a bit of beginner knowledge of how chords are constructed i found it really made working out progressions loads easier

    i dont do either now cos it is pretty bloody boring after the initial buzz wears off. I also really neglected rhythmic training, and now realising how rhythm deaf i am too. more work needed there