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  1. #1

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    I have been focusing a lot of my time and energy on ear training lately. Does anybody want to share there thoughts or experiences with ear training software. I have a gathered a whole bunch (and some Web sites) like Ear Master, Solfege (free) and so on. I have made definite and massive progress on basic things like interval recognition and even some chord recognition. At the same time, maybe I am just impatient , I feel like it's not really accomplshing much of anything in real-world terms. I would appreciate any thoughts on ear training in general as well.

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  3. #2

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    You may need to consider why you are trying to develop your ear. If, like me, it is to be able to hear a tone in your head (or from an external source) and then play that tone on the fretboard then ear training software may not be the solution for you. I tried some of the on line versions of ear training software and decided it was a waste of my time.

    Now I practice this simply by improvising continously (develops your ear and fretboard knowledge at the same time) and also by trying to copy any melody I hear that sounds interesting to me (such as from the television or radio). Another thing I do that helps is to try to construct a song yourself from memory. Christmas carols are a great way to get started with this because the melody content is so strong and memorable in them. Just pick out the melody. Then try to harmonize it until you get something that sounds right to your ear. I did this today before work with a portion of Satie's Gymnopedia. The more you practice these things, the better you will get at it, and you'll notice an improvement in not just your ear, but your ability to play what you hear, sing, or think.

    Also, by always noodling and improvising you start to embed a lot of changes into your ear. If you just sit down and try to play with various chords and make the progression go somewhere, you will naturally begin to stumble upon the elements of real songs. After a while, you'll begin to be able to recognize ii V I cycles and other commonly used movements in songs you hear on recordings or the radio.

    My cable television company has many music stations as well that play continous music in various styles (blues, jazz, classical, etc.). I often will just turn on the blues or jazz station, then try to play along with every song. This helps develop your ability to recognize keys and after a while you start to be able to antipate a lot of things and sort of know where they are going.

    Anyway, those are some of my general ear training ideas that I've made progress with.

  4. #3
    First of all, thanks for the reply, Goofsus. Actually, I have just recently been working a little bit on the sort of thing you are talking about: taking simple or even complex melodies that I know in my head (standards, Christmas carols,pop tunes, etc) and finding them on the guitar in whatever key. I've noticed some improvement, but it takes time obviously. I usually can get the melodies if I manage to remember them clearly enough. I often get frustrated because I don't remember some melody clearly enough and that throws me off for a an hour or so. ); But I suppose l can just skip to something else and stop beating myself on the head.

    As for improvising and noodling, I am always doing that in any case. I have a lot of the Aebersold tapes and play along to those. Sometimes, I will try to pick out chord progressions on the jazz radio stations. This is what I want to be ablt to accomlish at some point. It is extremely challenging and often frustrating as heck. But, then again, that is probably a good thing! I guess I basically know what I have to do, but I have to stick with it and keep DOING it.

    Thanks again for the insight and encouragement.

  5. #4

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    Franco said
    "It is extremely challenging and often frustrating as heck. But, then again, that is probably a good thing!"

    I think one thing we sometimes overlook in jazz guitar is just how good some of our heroes are. I'd like to play like Jim Hall but I probably never will. So I will enjoy the journey. If I wanted to play like Clapton I'd already be there. We'd all look pretty slick if we just played the same 5 Creedence songs for 20 years, without trying to grow.

  6. #5
    Ha! Yes, I absolutely agree. Not to put down Eric Clapton or other styles of music, but jazz and classical are, from my view, in another category of sophistication and complexity.

    When I was a kid, I use to think, probably like everybody at Berklee, that I would be the next Pat Metheny, the next Wes Montegomery, John Scofield, etc.. I'm a little older and a lot wiser now (thouhg I still fantasize from time to time (0 Now, I think we just do the best we can with what we have or don't have and try to sound the best we possibly can. Period. Also, we should play strictly because we love the music and playing, and not because we want to be "superheros" or someone else that we can't be.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by franco6719 View Post
    I have been focusing a lot of my time and energy on ear training lately. Does anybody want to share there thoughts or experiences with ear training software. I have a gathered a whole bunch (and some Web sites) like Ear Master, Solfege (free) and so on. I have made definite and massive progress on basic things like interval recognition and even some chord recognition. I feel like it's not really accomplshing much of anything in real-world terms. I would appreciate any thoughts on ear training in general as well.
    Hi Franco,

    I've also been spending a lot of time and energy on ear training.

    The method 'Goofus' described is similar to how a child learns a language and it sounds very practical. Unfortuanately that method hasn't worked for me, perhaps it does for someone with more inate ability. So I've gone in a different direction.

    I'm taking the ear training courses at my local community college and these classes are really difficult for me. The instructor has told us that we need to spend at least 2 hours a day on ear training and sight singing exercises. There is a drop out date around half way thru the class; almost half the class dropped out in the 1st semester class! So like I said it's really difficult for most. (However, there are a few students that find it relatively easy so far.)

    If you can I'd recommend taking the college courses in ear training. Having an organized course, deadlines and tests has been the key to me putting in enough effort to really improve.

    I remember the first test, we had to sing a major scale one on one at the teachers office, and we had to recognize the intervals M3 P5 and P8 on a written test in the classroom. Now about a third of the way thru the 2nd of four semesters we are tested on all the intervals; chord identification of root and 1st inversion of major, monor, diminished and augmented; hearing chords in series, the I ii IV V and iv chords (in major and minor keys); cadences, melodic dictation with leaps up to a 5th in major, melodic minor, harmonic minor and natural minor; and we are taking dictation on 8 measures of 4 part Bach chorals (at this point we only have to get the soprano and bass, the alto and tenor are extra credit); our sight reading tests include major, melodic minor, harmonic minor and natural minor with leaps up to a P5.

    I'm happy with that progress but... in real-world terms it doesn't enable me to sit-in on a jazz bandstand and quickly hear and know the melody and chord progression of a song I've never heard (the equivilent of writing it down without touching your instrument). My instructor says figure on 10 to 20 years of work to get to that point. So this is a long long road and one needs to enjoy the process and the little accomplishments on the way. You've got to learn to crawl before you learn to pole-vault.

    For the class I'm taking we're using the software Practica Musica which I highly recommend, take a look on their website.

    Also, for me sight singing is the best ear training for accomplishing real-world skills. If someone can't sight sing or take melodic dictation, can they truly improvise? It seems that sight singing and melodic dictaion is much easier than improvisation and a step towards improvisation.
    Last edited by fep; 03-03-2009 at 11:00 AM.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep View Post
    If someone can't sight sing or take melodic dictation, can they truly improvise? It seems that sight singing and melodic dictaion is much easier than improvisation and a step towards improvisation.
    A good sense of relative pitch will let you improvise freely. The ability to read a note in standard notation and sing that specific note is fabulous, but not necessary for musical improvisation on an instrument. Unless, that is, you are defining "improvisation" much differently than me.

    To me, improvisation only means that you can listen to accompaniment and create a spontaneous musical phrase that responds to the accompaniment in some aesthetically pleasing manner (obviously that depends on taste). Good relative pitch, coupled with good fretboard knowledge will allow one to improvise quite well.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Goofsus4 View Post
    A good sense of relative pitch will let you improvise freely. The ability to read a note in standard notation and sing that specific note is fabulous, but not necessary for musical improvisation on an instrument. Unless, that is, you are defining "improvisation" much differently than me.

    To me, improvisation only means that you can listen to accompaniment and create a spontaneous musical phrase that responds to the accompaniment in some aesthetically pleasing manner (obviously that depends on taste). Good relative pitch, coupled with good fretboard knowledge will allow one to improvise quite well.
    Let me take the liberty to expand on your definition...

    Improvisation means that you can listen to accompaniment and create a spontaneous musical phrase that responds to the accompaniment in some aesthetically pleasing manner by

    1) Using your music theory and guitar chops (and maybe your ear or maybe not) to play variations of scales and/or arpeggios and/or chords that you already know

    and/or

    2) hearing/creating original motivs, melodic phrases, or chord phrases in your head and spontaneously playing them on your instrument.

    I don't believe you have to do both 1 and 2 to be improvising which is why I wrote 'and/or'. I've heard some true experts (Pat Metheny for instance) say that on a good night 70% of the time they are improvising as described in definition 1 above. But how about that other 30% of the time i.e definition #2.

    Let's break down what happens under definition 2 and compare that to the skills required for melodic dictation or sight singing:

    To hear/create original motivs, melodic phrases, or chord phrases in your head and spontaneously playing them on your instrument you need to:

    1) Create the idea in your head
    2) Quickly/spontaneously formulate in your head what the notes are
    3) Quickly/spontaneously find the notes on your instrument
    4) Have the music chops/technique to perform the notes

    To take melodic dictation or sight sing:

    1) You don't have to create the idea
    2) You slowly have to formulate in your head what the notes are (using relative pitch)
    3) You slowly have to write the notes and rhythms down on paper (or in the case of sight singing, sing the notes)

    So given you understand music notation, then doesn't it follow that melodic dictation and sight singing requires similar skills to improvising? Similar but shouldn't melodic dictation be easier than improvisation (definition #2)?

    ___________________

    You could be a great improvisor under definition 2 without understanding music notation.

    For those that don't understand music notation they could do melodic dictation by just writing the note names or using tab. Or just take familar melodies you know but don't play (Tom Dooley, Old Susana, etc) and in slow motion play them on your instrument, but you only get one shot at it. That would be similar to the ear skills you use for melodic dictation or sight singing and... for improvisation under definition 2.
    Last edited by fep; 03-03-2009 at 03:37 PM.

  10. #9

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    I just misunderstood you I guess. The way you phrased your remark, it sounded like you were suggesting that if you couldn't sight sing that you couldn't "truly improvise," which I didn't feel was true at all.

    But your clarification makes sense. You are basically saying that you can improvise with an existing palette of notes (scale or arp) that you are familiar with. Or, you can just imagine a melody and then actually envision the notes, in the key you were imagining, and then just play those notes on the fretboard instantly and accurately.

    The latter is certainly more sophisticated than the former.

  11. #10
    "I'm taking the ear training courses at my local community college and these classes are really difficult for me. The instructor has told us that we need to spend at least 2 hours a day on ear training and sight singing exercises. There is a drop out date around half way thru the class; almost half the class dropped out in the 1st semester class! So like I said it's really difficult for most. (However, there are a few students that find it relatively easy so far.)

    If you can I'd recommend taking the college courses in ear training. Having an organized course, deadlines and tests has been the key to me putting in enough effort to really improve. "

    I did indeed take two years or so of formal ear training at Berklee: completely worthless. I hope I don't offend anyone by saying this (it was about 20 years ago now and I doubt the same instructor is there nowadays), but it depends to a great extent obviously on two things: the seriousness and motivation of the student and the discipline of the teacher/ trainer. At the time I was there, we had a teacher who used to just sit around and tell stories about the history of jazz (seriously!!) and then assign some little piece of "sight-singing" that most people had memorized beforehand. An abomination, if not a crime, considering all the money spent.

    Now, I am confident that this approach can work, of course (assuming the ability to read music, which I can still do fairly well). Unfortunately, it's not practical for me. I live in the boonies in the south of Italy and the nearest university is at Naples. I have to help take take of my mom and so on. In sum, anything I study at this point has to be self-study at home. Hence, the ear training software and other approaches like those mentioned by Goofsus.

    As you also point out though, it takes a loooooooooooong time if your not born with the natural ability. As I noted in my first post, I stopped playing (and practicing obviously) for close on 15 years. So, I'm trying also trying to make up for an enormous loss. But, all things considered, I think I'm making more progress in this area by myself, in the last year or so, than at Berklee in three years time. I also now appreciate the importance of a musical ear much more than I did then.

    I will check out the software you mentioned.

  12. #11
    First off, I just want to make it clear that I am NOT affiliated with this site and not trying to sell anything here. But, since we are on the topic of ear training, here is an interesting site that you guys might want to look into (or some other people like me who are just checking everything possible for self-education). The site developer is apparently a trumpet player, but he focuses a great deal on ear training. He has a couple of programs that focus on different areas. One is the more "traditional" approach: intervals, short melodies, etc.. and the other is a sort of random tune generator.

    <a href="http://www.iwasdoingallright.com/"> Here </a> is the link.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by franco6719 View Post
    I did indeed take two years or so of formal ear training at Berklee: completely worthless. I hope I don't offend anyone by saying this (it was about 20 years ago now and I doubt the same instructor is there nowadays), but it depends to a great extent obviously on two things: the seriousness and motivation of the student and the discipline of the teacher/ trainer. At the time I was there, we had a teacher who used to just sit around and tell stories about the history of jazz (seriously!!) and then assign some little piece of "sight-singing" that most people had memorized beforehand. An abomination, if not a crime, considering all the money spent.
    Wow franco, that has really affected me, immediately reshaped some of my opinions.

    The high and mighty Berkley... and the ear training class was an abomination.

    I go to a low and unmighty community college in San Diego (part of the California Community college system)... and my teacher (who does have a PHD for whatever that's worth) and the class is intense. The teacher takes the class very seriously. We meet twice a week, 1 & 1/2 hour classes. She gives us a few tips and then spends the entire class drilling us or testing us. Including what is torture for me... To make sure we spend lots of home practice on sight singing, she regularly has us get up individually in front of the class and sight sing (true sight singing - music we've never seen). And I thought speech class was frightening...

    Tuitiion for this one unit class: $20 (books $140)
    Last edited by fep; 03-04-2009 at 11:14 AM.

  14. #13
    Wait a minute now. First, I don't mean the high and mighty Berkeley as in Berkeley, California. I went to BerkLEE school of music in Boston. High and mighty, I'm not so sure, but it was pretty expensive and I finished paying of the loan for that about 10 years later!

    But all of that was 20 years ago (another lifetime). I don't meant to rag on Berklee. That's where I was first exposed to jazz and was eventually playing constantly with other musicians. I learned more that way than anything else. If I hand't gotten sick and stopped playing.....who knows?

    There were some excellent teachers and some awful ones. Back then, they didn't have auditions and standards. Hopefully, they have changed some things over all that time.

    Anyway, you got me way off the topic. Communist colleges are great. They just don't happen to exist in Italy and the only Uni is too far for me to reach. So I have to do it all myself.