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ear training

Posted by iamanders 
ear training
August 09, 2015 12:01AM
Hi!
I am now into ear training. Recognising pitches, hearing a G and saying it's G, is difficult for me and I have questions.

1.is this all about memory? In order to name that note as A you have to remember how A sound and thus it's all about memory?

2. Would this be difficult if the instrument isn't tuned to A=440?

3. When you depress a key on the piano there will be overtones sounding as well. So you will hear other pitches than 440hz sounding as well. Am I thinking too much or is this good thinking?

4. When learning ear training you are supposed to sing the pitches. Why should you sing pitches when learning ear training? Isn't singing for singing lessons?
Re: ear training
August 09, 2015 03:29AM
There are two types of pitch perception: Absolute pitch, which is more commonly (but less accurately) known as perfect pitch and relative pitch.

Absolute pitch is the ability to recognise pitches without reference to any other pitches. It's what you're describing in your opening sentence. It's the equivalent of being able to recognise a colour instantly without comparing it to any other colour. Very few people have this ability when it comes to recognising pitches. Those who have it are either born with it or acquire it at a very early age. There are plenty of Internet ads claiming to teach it, but I've yet to meet anyone who has ever acquired it in later life.

Relative pitch is the ability to recognise pitches by comparing them to other pitches. The vast majority of people (including the vast majority of the world's greatest musicians) have relative pitch perception to a greater or lesser degree but not absolute pitch perception. Relative pitch is the type of pitch perception taught in all music schools. It's an essential skill. Absolute pitch isn't essential and its usefulness is debatable.

Think about how you sing a tune. You sing the first note (any note will do) then you sing the next note, and it's the correct pitch (in relation to the first note). How could you possibly know what the correct second note is? It's because you have relative pitch ability. You can sing a whole tune simply by judging the relative pitch differences between the notes - in real time with no delay. If you had absolute pitch but not relative pitch, you would have to rely on reading the notes in front of you or else by consciously memorising all of the pitches beforehand (like remembering the cards in a shuffled pack).

You, personally, like most of us, don't have absolute pitch or you wouldn't be asking the question. You have relative pitch ability, and that's what you have to develop to a high degree. Forget about overtones, they're irrelevant. And forget about A440 (unless you're tuning a guitar or something to a tuning fork). Relative pitch (unlike absolute pitch) works equally well with all tuning standards.

Singing combinations of notes reinforces your perception of the intervals between them and makes recognising and naming them easier. That's what you need to develop as a musician.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/09/2015 03:59AM by Fretsource. (view changes)
Re: ear training
August 10, 2015 08:47AM
Why is absolute pitch a way better term than perfect pitch?
I've only recently started with ear training and it's more difficult than I first thought.
I thought, as a piano player, that I remembered the sounds of the different notes but I was too wrong.
One of the exercices was figuring out a melody. This is obviously more difficult as you need to remember all of the notes you just heard being played. It's the same problem with rhythm exercices. How do you remember all of what you just heard (so that you can write it down after hearing it)? And isn't figuring out song by ear a also a bit different since you have more things going on at the same time? Btw, how much is music theory involved in playing songs by ear?
Re: ear training
August 10, 2015 09:52AM
iamanders Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Why is absolute pitch a way better term than
> perfect pitch?

AP is the scientific term. "Perfect" is not a very scientific adjective! ;-)

> I've only recently started with ear training and
> it's more difficult than I first thought.
> I thought, as a piano player, that I remembered
> the sounds of the different notes but I was too
> wrong.

Sounds like you're talking about absolute pitch, which you needn't be concerned about. Musicians don't need it,and it can actually be a hindrance.

> One of the exercices was figuring out a melody.
> This is obviously more difficult as you need to
> remember all of the notes you just heard being
> played.

Ear training exercises should start simple. For example, in early grades you only need to identify certain broad aspects of the melody, or to identify differences between two performances of the melody (ie the second one with a note changed).
Moving on to identifying each note, you'd start with a melody consisting of just 3 notes, maybe only a couple of bars long, nursery rhyme simple. And you'd be told the first note.
The whole idea is to develop your relative pitch, being able to identify elements of the music in comparison to a known reference.

So remembering a melody becomes an exercise not in remembering individual notes, but in remembering how high or low each one was relative to the last one.
You should be able to sing a short melody back, without knowing what the notes are. Identifying the notes would then be a process of calculation.
Eg, if someone played you Twinkle Twinkle, you could easily sing it back to them. (Yes?). You wouldn't have to know the names of all the intervals, let alone all the notes. You can hear how it goes, and you can hear when it's wrong.
But a little ear training would enable you to identify the first rising interval as a "perfect 5th".
If they then told you the first note was F, you'd then know (from your musical education!) that the higher note was C.
IOW, you don't have to identify the first note with no reference. But you should know the sound of a perfect 5th, so you can reproduce it either by singing, or on your instrument.
Naturally, it's harder when it's a tune you don't know! But enough repetition of it - if it's simple enough - can still allow you to copy it.

I once attended a "theory" class at a jazz summer school, and it consisted of the tutor playing us a 4-bar lick on saxophone and asking us to play it back to him! Of course our jaws all fell open (wtf, I'm in the wrong class...!). But when the lesson had finished (90 minutes later) we all had it down. He just kept repeating it, section by section. We didn't have to identify notes or intervals verbally, just find them on our instruments. It was like ear training boot camp, and I'd never have thought I'd be able to do it. (I don't have a great ear.)

> It's the same problem with rhythm
> exercices. How do you remember all of what you
> just heard (so that you can write it down after
> hearing it)?

Again, the exercises should start simple. You should start with things you CAN do! Even if that's only a 2-bar rhythm in quarter notes and rests.
And then work up from there.

> And isn't figuring out song by ear a
> also a bit different since you have more things
> going on at the same time?

Sure! You have to isolate the elements you're listening for. The melody, usually, or the rhythm, or maybe a bass line.
For chords, it's often a note-by-note process.
With good relative pitch, you can identify a chord type - say a dominant 7th.
Or you'll be able to hear that a particular chord change is a I-IV. So when you find out the key (by playing along), you only need to identify the I. You can work out the IV from that (and of course check by ear).

> Btw, how much is music
> theory involved in playing songs by ear?

It helps you name what you're hearing - "major 3rd", "dom7 chord", etc - and can also help you predict the chords involved.
Eg, theory will tell you that a minor key usually has a minor iv chord and a major V. So if you manage to identify the key chord as (say) Am, then you can expect to hear a Dm and E somewhere (and probably C and or F too).
I.e., theory gives you a set of ballpark guidelines.
Of course, that cuts both ways! Let's say that A minor key song has a D major chord. Your theory knowledge might prejudice your hearing - you might think "that must be a Dm, there's something wrong with my ears!" Or you'll be sure that it is, in fact, a D, but then you'll be confused because you think that's "wrong", so maybe the key can't be A minor after all?
So you need not to take the theory too seriously. It's like a map of a strange country. Just because a certain landmark doesn't appear on the map doesn't mean the landmark shouldn't be there, or that you're seeing things! It just got left off the map for some reason. (Probably it would appear on a more detailed map... ;-))



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 08/10/2015 10:00AM by JonR. (view changes)
Re: ear training
August 19, 2015 08:55AM
Howdy!
I found this song [www.youtube.com]
and wanted to figure out what the saxophone is doing in the intro. Since I do nor have absolute pitch there is ni way for me to just hear what notes the saxophonist is playing by just hearing the notes.

JonR:"The whole idea is to develop your relative pitch, being able to identify elements of the music in comparison to a known reference."
and how do I apply that to the song?
Re: ear training
August 19, 2015 10:49AM
iamanders Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Howdy!
> I found this song
> [www.youtube.com]
> and wanted to figure out what the saxophone is
> doing in the intro. Since I do nor have absolute
> pitch there is ni way for me to just hear what
> notes the saxophonist is playing by just hearing
> the notes.
>
> JonR:"The whole idea is to develop your relative
> pitch, being able to identify elements of the
> music in comparison to a known reference."
> and how do I apply that to the song?

The way I'd work that out would be to play along and find notes that sound the same. I can rarely do that at full speed, so I'd use software to help - [www.seventhstring.com] - not just to slow down, but maybe to loop short sections (even single notes) while I hunted for the same note on guitar. I say "hunt", but it only takes a few seconds.

IOW, my "known reference" is my guitar. It would also work with piano, of course, or whatever instrument you play. (In fact Transcribe has a virtual piano keyboard you can click notes on to check.)

The (slight) difficulty in this case is that the horn intro is harmonised - there are (at least) two saxes there. So I'd be hunting for both notes - each one being a little obscured by the other! Even so, you soon get used to what the options are. I'd be working out other parts of the song too, to find the key, or the opening chords, which narrow down the options for the sax notes. (And vice versa: work out the sax notes and that would strongly hint at what the underlying chords are.)

If you want, I will happily work out those notes for you, and describe the process I use (and how long it takes).

EDIT:, in fact, I've just done it. Took me 3 minutes with the help of Transcribe. The intro is C7 to F, 2 bars each, and the sax line is harmonised in 3rds from the F major scale. (I do know the notes if you want them.)
I'm not saying you could do it as easily or quickly (although some people could do it a lot faster than me, and without software assistance), because it takes experience to get faster at it. But it's hard to make a mistake if you use the software, even if it takes you a while to find the notes in question. (There's only so many wrong ones before you find the right one.)

A common problem is that the tracks are sometimes a little out of tune (with concert pitch), so - if your instrument IS in tune - nothing you play sounds right. So either you detune your instrument to match, or (with the software) tune the track to concert. (In this case, the track was very slightly flat. The software confirmed that for me - via its display, not in so many words!)
Re: ear training
August 20, 2015 03:24AM
"The intro is C7 to F, 2 bars each, and the sax line is harmonised in 3rds from the F major scale. (I do know the notes if you want them.)"

But I did actually only show you the live version (so how can there be two saxophones?)?

And what thirds are you talking about?
C7 to F? In blues that would be I7-V but in other genres it could be V7-I (using secondary dominant). I'm a bit confused.
C is the key signature of the song?
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