EAR TRAINING WHEELS
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The purpose of these articles will be:
1) To teach the beginner and intermediate improvising musician the basic aural (what you hear) and corresponding verbal (how you describe what you hear) concepts of music theory and ear training, while avoiding getting bogged down in traditional classical music concepts of voice-leading, etc, that are not essential or do not apply at all to todays popular style of music. (If you want this info, its available from any member of services, including myself, and youll understand it better by learning the basics first, anyway.)
2) By learning the above, to improve and expand your improvising skills (eg, soloing, creating interesting bass lines under a chord chart, crating interesting harmonies to the singers melody) by giving you a complete and comprehensive understanding of:
I. Chord types, chord structures, and, a little later on, chord function (which is really helpful if you write songs, or want to, and especially when you get stuck),
II. Scale types and scale structure,
III. chord/scale relationships (ie, what chords and scales sound good together; again, invaluable tools for the songwriter).
3) As most improvising musicians dont read music, to convey this information without the player having to spend a lot of time learning to read music, other than on only a very basic level; no sight-reading will be necessary, even as we get more advanced; it will only be necessary to transfer the very simple notation I will use from the musical staff to your instrument, at your own pace. (We do have to communicate somehow, you know.)
So, heres what youll need to know:
...consists of five lines and four spaces. To write notes that are higher or
lower than the staff, ledger lines are used:
If you play an instrument at all, Im sure you know by now that notes are identified by the first seven letters of the alphabet, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and that after G, you start over again at A, one octave above.
The CLEF identifies what notes the STAFF consists of. For convenience, we will use the Treble Clef only. Were learning to use our ears, not read music. (Bass players, trust me, Im one of you. Its easier this way.)
The TREBLE CLEF placed on the staff tells you the notes are placed as shown
(Bass players: middle C, the first note shown able, is the 5th fret on you G strings; transpose down an octave to the 3rd fret on the A string of 8th fret on the E string.)
SHARPS, FLATS, NATURALS
Since there are 12 notes between any letter and the same letter an octave above, but only letters, there are notes between some of the letters. (Im sure you know there are no notes between E and F and between B and C.) These notes are indicated by the symbols below.
The SHARP -- # (usually seen as #) raises the note a half step, in other words, to the next available note.
The FLAT -- b (usually seen as b) lowers a note a half step to the next available note.
The NATURAL -- (thats what it really looks like) cancels a previous Sharp or Flat. It is also used to confirm, in case of any doubts, that the note its in front of is, indeed, natural and not a previously altered (Sharp or Flat) note.
Work with this for a minute and youll see that, for instance, C# is the same at Db, D# is the same as Eb, etc. These notes are called ENHARMONIC EQUIVALENTS. So why is a note sometimes called one thing (eg, C#) and sometimes another (eg, Db)? MUSICAL CONTEXT! Well be discussing this very soon, so try to get comfortable with the idea that a note has more than one name.
Most of you probably already know more about reading music than Ive given here. Those of you who understand double-sharps (##) and double-flats (bb), please forgive the oversight, for now. They are rare, and I promised to keep it simple, just so we can communicate, and get everybody up to speed, cause we need to get to THE GOOD STUFF!
The least complex combination of sounds, of course, are two notes. The distance between these two notes, and the distinct sound associated with it, is called an INTERVAL.
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION OF INTERVALS:
Unison 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8va 9th - see graphic for placement
(Octave) (Octave & 2nd) - see graphic for placement
You can start from any note, but the traditional theory key is C, for a lot of good reasons; in this case, the reason is that it makes the chart visually easy, and it uses a ledger line so youll get comfortable with them.
What the above chart tells you is this: Any type of C (#, b or ) to ANY type of D is SOME type of 2nd. As I said, you can start anywhere; any D to any E is some type of 2nd (SECOND), as is any E to any F, and so on.
Any type of C to any type of E is SOME type of 3rd (THIRD); any C to any F, some type of 4th (FOURTH), etc. Keep this in mind; it will become important later.
The 9th (NINTH), and other intervals larger than an octave, are called COMPOUND INTERVALS. They have a very similar sound to the smaller interval they are compounded with, ie, a certain type of 2nd will sound very similar to the SAME TYPE of 9th, etc.
SPECIFIC CLASSIFICATIONS; THE BASIC INTERVALS
The names given to the intervals might seem somewhat arbitrary. They are traditional, and have to do with God, monks, and a guy named Guido. But they stuck around because they work really well (as we go along, you may be able to see why for yourself), so MEMORIZE them. When youre a top-notch player, your peers will understand you, and youll understand them; and communication, both verbal and musical, is what makes a group of individuals into a team, or in this case, a group of players into a BAND.
Again, it is important that you MEMORIZE these names; and now well get to your assignment for the month.
Memorize the names of the basic intervals (ie, unison through octave; well talk about compound intervals next month). As you memorize the names, play the intervals in block fashion, ie, simultaneously, and broken, ie, one after the other (it doesnt matter which of the two notes you start with in broken style, ITS THE SAME INTERVAL, cause remember, an interval is the distance between the notes.) If you play a single-note instrument, for block fashion record one note then play the other note over it (okay, if youre a Jethro Tull freak, hum one note and play the other -- hot dog!)
Work on memorizing the sound of two intervals each day, this way: 1st day, unison and 8va; 2nd day, m2 and M2; 3rd day, m3 and M3; 4th day, P4 and Aug 4; 5th day, P5 and dim 5 (same as Aug 4); 6th day, m6 and M6; 7th day, m7 and M7.
Since a unison and 8va are so similar, and were using the Aug 4 and dim 5 on two days, youll see there are really only 12 intervals to memorize the names and sounds of; and these 12 basic sounds are the basis of all chords and scales, the basic of all music. Everything will be built from them, and if you can identify these 12 sounds, you have all the tools you need to expand your musical vocabulary; youll soon have big ears.
Heres some hints to help you memorize the sounds: When youre working with any interval, try to think of a tune you know that has this interval prominently in it. For example, the Beatles Two Of Us (first song on the Let It Be album), starts with a Major 6th.
Cant come up with one? Try this: break down the melody of one of your favorite tunes, analyze the interval between the first and second notes of the melody, the 2nd and 3rd notes, etc, especially trying to find leaps in the melody, and after several melodies you should come across most of the 12 intervals. If you still dont find a couple, youll end up memorizing them anyway because they seem weird and youll come across them sooner or later, because we use them all, believe me; and well refer to them in our later lessons in chord structure.
Work hard, and have faith; these lessons actually get easier as we go along, not harder, and they may tear you down, but theyll put you back together with a stronger foundation, if you stick to them.
See you hear next month.
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