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stewblack

Ear Training

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On 16/11/2020 at 20:37, stewblack said:

Is there any way to learn to recognise intervals if you can't sing? 

 

I think the most important thing is to be able to hear the intervals internally and recognise the sound - singing is the best way to verify that, because if you can't hear an interval or a phrase in your head then it's very difficult to sing it with any accuracy. If you can't match pitch with your voice then that's a very unhelpful observation...

My preferred methods of ear-based torture are apps like Functional Ear Trainer and Chet, both of which turn ear training into a game and exploit your brain's attraction to novelty and reward. If you happen to be competitive (even just with yourself) then these are excellent ways to train your ears without realising it.

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Thank you, @TKenrick, I will investigate.

I can see how the song method works. Sing the opening three notes to Happy Birthday, and there's your interval. In my case those three notes would be different every time I sang them. 

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The song method gets banded about a lot, but I don't think it's the best way of thinking about common interval sounds...

@stewblack from seeing your progress with transcription I know you have a decent sense of pitch, so it's my suspicion that you probably have much more vocal ability than you give yourself credit for. A possibly painful suggestion - record yourself matching pitches on your bass (piano works well, too) and see if you're in the right ballpark. Being a good singer isn't really necessary, it's about being able to hum/sing/grunt at the right pitch.

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1 hour ago, TKenrick said:

The song method gets banded about a lot, but I don't think it's the best way of thinking about common interval sounds...

@stewblack from seeing your progress with transcription I know you have a decent sense of pitch, so it's my suspicion that you probably have much more vocal ability than you give yourself credit for. A possibly painful suggestion - record yourself matching pitches on your bass (piano works well, too) and see if you're in the right ballpark. Being a good singer isn't really necessary, it's about being able to hum/sing/grunt at the right pitch.

Grunting I can do! 

Thanks for the kind words. I transcribe at least a few bars most days and sometimes more. I must confess it is becoming easier and taking less time to pick out the right notes. 

Bizarrely I often get tripped up with unison. Searching with increasing bewilderment for the note only to discover that the bass player stayed on, say, a G, while the chord changed to C. 

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Hey, maybe this will be of some help - it's something I really looked into when trying to find ways to improve my ears. It's very variable what people are blessed with naturally and some musicians don't have to think about it much. I asked around trumpet players and singers, as they have to actually generate notes in pitch, and I personally felt there's a difference between interval recognition (like the ear training apps) and generating the interval yourself.

So here's what I've been doing.. Use a drone to get a background note. Ingrid Jensen talks about a shruti box here, I'm hoping to get one but in the meantime use a website called dronetool.com

I go for A as orchestras tune to A and I usually have a tuning fork in A with me. I'll then sing a small list of scales and arpeggios. I also looked up chromatic solfege syllables (moveable-do not fixed) and Kodaly hand signals, which vary a lot and there's a lot of criticism but usually it's from people blessed with strong ears. The hand signals give you a physical link to the scale degree, like practicing it on a piano and getting used to scale motions. It's a slow process:

- think about the next note (say you've just done Do, think about what Re), try to hear the pitch clearly in your head relative to the drone. I try not to rush through this step, as learning to hear the note clearly is my aim really. 

- move your throat to the right position to sing the note you're hearing. I got this from a singer, when I jump straight into singing a note it's usually shaky but just this small step usually fixes that.

- sing the note and get used to how that sounds with the drone, you might feel a bit of resonance on certain notes, then look down at a tuner and see how you did, adjust accordingly if needed 

I'm not sure where this will take me long term, but it gives some confidence to slowly improve at something that I knew was a weakness. 

Caroline

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46 minutes ago, Caz said:

Hey, maybe this will be of some help - it's something I really looked into when trying to find ways to improve my ears. It's very variable what people are blessed with naturally and some musicians don't have to think about it much. I asked around trumpet players and singers, as they have to actually generate notes in pitch, and I personally felt there's a difference between interval recognition (like the ear training apps) and generating the interval yourself.

So here's what I've been doing.. Use a drone to get a background note. Ingrid Jensen talks about a shruti box here, I'm hoping to get one but in the meantime use a website called dronetool.com

I go for A as orchestras tune to A and I usually have a tuning fork in A with me. I'll then sing a small list of scales and arpeggios. I also looked up chromatic solfege syllables (moveable-do not fixed) and Kodaly hand signals, which vary a lot and there's a lot of criticism but usually it's from people blessed with strong ears. The hand signals give you a physical link to the scale degree, like practicing it on a piano and getting used to scale motions. It's a slow process:

- think about the next note (say you've just done Do, think about what Re), try to hear the pitch clearly in your head relative to the drone. I try not to rush through this step, as learning to hear the note clearly is my aim really. 

- move your throat to the right position to sing the note you're hearing. I got this from a singer, when I jump straight into singing a note it's usually shaky but just this small step usually fixes that.

- sing the note and get used to how that sounds with the drone, you might feel a bit of resonance on certain notes, then look down at a tuner and see how you did, adjust accordingly if needed 

I'm not sure where this will take me long term, but it gives some confidence to slowly improve at something that I knew was a weakness. 

Caroline

Wonderful stuff! Thank you for sharing this. 

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Get a keyboard. Seriously, it’s the best possible way to learn ear training, harmony, melody, the works. All classical and the majority of good jazz musicians learn something on the piano to improve their understanding of harmony. It doesn’t matter if you can’t play a note - bang out some basic intervals and get used to the way they sound (bass is too low in pitch in general). Then move onto triads and finally 4 and 5-note chords. Each one has its own sound, and a keyboard helps you to hear that sound in its various inversions. You don’t need to be able to sing the interval but you do need to be able to hear it. Plus it really helps when transcribing to have a keyboard to hand - when I got a keyboard I started working out the chords to songs a lot more.

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On 03/12/2020 at 09:50, stewblack said:

Wonderful stuff! Thank you for sharing this. 

No worries, happy to share and I really hope it helps. I think the other more traditional ear training methods are useful too, interval/chord recognition etc, but in a slightly different way. I just found that there wasn't a very good link with what I was playing and what was happening in my head. I studied jazz (with drums first instrument so wasn't always dealing with pitch) with second instrument piano. So I was taking lessons on piano, playing piano in harmony classes and also playing piano in a jazz orchestra. Some people seem to have a natural link up between what they're playing and the sound in their head and this wasn't happening as much for me which meant I was relying on the technical side and this became quite limiting. I'm not sure if you're the same or not, but taking your example of happy birthday - out of a group of people some will just be able to sing it because they've heard it, some won't be able to sing it well but can hear it, and I think some people if they're really being honest struggle at a much more basic level. This is different to recognising happy birthday, which everyone can do - I think this is the route most interval recognition apps go down.

When I started playing bass last year I tried to improve what I'm hearing whilst playing. Most of the ideas are from Training The Ear by Armen Donelian - but I found that book a bit too intense so simplified parts into a daily routine. The results have started showing, I think it's going to be worth all the work. If you try it out let me know how you get on. If anyone else has any tips for improving at hearing/singing pitches, I'm all ears :)

Caroline

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Thank you Caroline, this, to me, is the real gold where Basschat is concerned. 

People sharing experience and ideas which help broaden and deepen my musical experience. 

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Playing arpeggios - major, minor, dominant(though not for triads because there's no 7th), half diminished -  daily appears to have helped. It kinda sinks in like osmosis.

 

I find it difficult to hear the difference if playing quickly, so I tend to let the note that's different ring out more. For example, for 7th chord arpeggios I will play the major arpeggios(root, 3rd, 5th, 7th) and then the dominant(root, 3rd, 5th, flat 7th) arpeggio, but I will let the 7th ring out a little longer because that's the note that's different. I will then play the minor(root, flat 3rd, 5th, flat 7th) arpeggio followed by the half diminished(root, flat 3rd, flat 5th, flat 7th), but let the 5th ring out longer and with emphasis.

 

Stew, I definitely recommend trying to sing the note as you're playing it when practicing arpeggios(chord tones being much more important than scales for us bassists) and scales so that you can hear the collection of notes where the chord toens comes from. Even if you have to go into a soundproofed room. Many of us feel the same way about our own voices.

Edited by TheLowDown
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On 20/11/2020 at 08:54, stewblack said:

What the actual f.......?? 

Boggle...

 

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I used the Tenuto  app at uni to help train my ears to recognise intervals and chords. definitely works, I got 100% on the aural exam. 

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@stewblack I second using the Functional Ear Trainer app, it’s brilliant.  

You might also be interested in this free masterclass on ear training that is happening this Friday. It’s hosted by a friend of mine and his stuff is always great.  

It’s free but you need to register for it:

https://bit.ly/3ozK9sb

8111F5B6-B270-4878-8B35-C3322A92F062.png

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Thanks Greg, I have zoom meeting on Friday evening, but appreciate the link. 

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18 minutes ago, stewblack said:

Thanks Greg, I have zoom meeting on Friday evening, but appreciate the link. 

No worries.  I think there is a free 24 hour catch-up for the masterclass. 

Good luck with the ear training, whichever direction you decide to go. 

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Charlie Banacos, one of the greatest jazz educators that most people haven’t heard of, had some great exercises for ear training. (He trained Jerry Bergonzi, Mike Stern, Jeff Berlin, Joe Hubbard, and a billion other greats).

When I was explaining them to folks on Scott’s Bass Lessons years ago, I made some simple (now very dated) YouTube videos on them. 

They’re not the end, but they’re a solid beginning. 

 

His methods are also gone into by a former student in an excellent and very interesting dissertation. 

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Edited by funkle
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I meant to say, I did the first ear training exercise 20 mins a day for about 6 months, and it worked. 

The second exercise is relatively straightforward after the first. 

The real challenge of the first ear training exercise is getting it above one note. I started two notes simultaneously, but did not persist that well with it, I ended up doing other things. Many Banacos students have made it much further, 7-8 not untypical I think and I have heard tell on the Banacos FB group of ?11. 

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On 18/11/2020 at 09:27, stewblack said:

I can see how the song method works. Sing the opening three notes to Happy Birthday, and there's your interval. In my case those three notes would be different every time I sang them. 

Can't you play them then?

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