Ear Training Guided Tour




I’d like discuss ear training for improvising musicians and what we do over at muse-eek.com.

There are many methods of ear training; some work some do not. We have found that the most popular ear training method i.e. the use of “intervals” will not help you to develop the skills you need as an improvising musician. Instead, we have found that an approach we call Contextual Ear Training will help you develop the skill to hear pitches. This method is based on hearing notes in relation to a “Key Center.” This important distinction will make all the difference in your ability.

First, doing ear training in the right way is absolutely crucial and will determine how quickly you improve. At muse-eek.com we have created many products to help musicians develop great ears. Along with discussing these methods below, we give recommendations on how to work through our products for the best results.

As mentioned we call our method “Contextual Ear Training.” Let’s look at some things involved in this approach:

1. Improvement in ear training comes through listening and singing. Obviously listening is basic but we have found that students improve faster if they also work on singing exercises. Since improvisational and compositional skills come from the same place in our mind, working on singing is extremely useful.

2. In order to improve ones ear training it is necessary to work on two aspects of memory; the short-term and the permanent capacity. Overall you need to first get a sound into your short term memory and then with repetition it will go into your permanent memory. This is why throughout this method we recommend doing the ear training exercises many times throughout the day to build your memory of the sound.

3. Since we believe that you learn in one “context” at a time you will need to change up your “context” in order to use our ear training in the many situations that come up when you are playing music in real time. For instance the exercise in ”Ear Training One Note Complete” where you hear a cadence, note and then a pitch is a great exercise but it’s only one of the many ways you might hear a note played that you need to identify. We therefore introduce many other books to change up the “context” so that a student can develop their skills in allthese different “contexts.”

4. In order to make ear training useful in a real musical situation you have to have instant access to it, so speed is important. When doing our ear training exercises we always recommend guessing the first thing that comes into your mind. If you over analyze an answer you will develop a habit of thinking too much which in turn slow down your ear training. It’s best to just react and not “think” too much. Although this might feel like you are just guessing, over time your accuracy will improve. Remember music happens in “real time” so you need an instantaneous reaction in order for ear training to be useful. This is why creating schemes in your head where you count intervals –or whatever– will never work when you are “in the moment” and need to know what notes are being played.

If you purchase a book from muse-eek.com you will have access to the author Bruce Arnold to answer any questions that might pop up as you work. You can find out more information on various aspects of our ear training products by reading our FAQs.

There are two books that we most commonly recommend to begin working on our ear training: (We recommend digital download for all books mentioned in this blog.) You will find the physical copy also available on each page.)

First we have the listening side of the ear training which is contained in the book Ear Training One Note Complete Book which also contains 3 CDs worth of audio. Each CD has the same exercise but is twice as fast because you need to first develop your recognition of each note within a key center and then you need to speed up the process. Many students with prior musical background start with the intermediate level and move up to the advanced level once they get 80% correct answers. The beginning level is of course recommended for beginning music students but also for those who start at the Intermediate level but find the speed is to intense. We recommend listening to the exercises at least 5X a day for 10 minutes; Obviously the more the better.

For the singing side of things we recommend starting with the book Contextual Ear Training. This book contains 300 audio files that have you sing a note after hearing a cadence in a major or minor key. You will then hear the correct answer. This type of exercise can also be found in the Fanatic’s Guide to Sight Singing and Ear Training which we will talk about shortly. The major difference between the Contextual ear training files and the exercises in Fanatic’s Guide is you hear the answer from the audio file while with the Fanatic’s Guide you have to play the answer on an instrument. Obviously hearing the answer from the audio file allows you to work on this singing method anywhere. Again you want to listen to the exercises at least 5X a day for 10 minutes.

Because we always learn in the “context” that we practice you want to diversify the type of exercises you do as soon as possible. We recommend that when you reach around 50% correct answers in Ear Training One Note, you start working with “Direct Application Ear Training Volume One.” Basically you have the same “one note” exercise but now you are doing it with real music. We also often recommend starting the “Instrumental Color Series” which gives you again the same “one note exercise” but is played by another instrument. Again our mind needs to change the “context” by hearing the sound on a different instrument. It’s important to realize that with the “Direct Application Ear Training” you can use your instrument and play along with the tracks. This again gives you another “context” because now you are improvising and playing your instrument while you are doing the ear training. There are also additional Direct Application Ear Training products such as the “Direct Application Book.” and the “Direct Application CDs” which will help you apply the ear training to many different kinds of real time, live situations.

We haven’t yet spoken about doing melodic ear training. When you are getting over 50% correct answers on the Ear Training One Note Complete audio files or the Contextual Ear Training exercises it is time to start the “2 Note Melodic Ear Training.”

Once you are getting around 80% with the “Contextual Ear Training” you can move on to the second singing book Fanatic’s Guide to Sight Singing and Ear Training. You could also add in the “Secondary Dominants” book. This book shows you how to hear chord progressions in one key center which is essential to understanding how you should think and hear music when you are playing. We can’t over emphasis the importance of this book. It’s also a great way to apply the melodic minor ascending scales so commonly used in contemporary improvisation.

Key Note Recognition will be the next level after you are getting 80% correct on the Ear Training One Note Complete Advanced audio files. Because again we are moving to another “context” it can be a tough going for a student, but over time you will get the correct answers.

There are many additional singing exercises in the Fanatic’s Guide to Sight Singing and Ear Training. Most important is the singing exercise found on page 17. Once you have mastered this exercise you can move on to the Key Retention Builder. Key Retention Builder concentrates on improving your short term memory of a key center which is important for working on all the ear training levels that will follow.

When you have completed Key Note Recognition there are a lot of other books to work through. These books will help you to hear chords, melodies and modulations.

1. Ear Training Two Note Complete is the beginning of developing your ability to hear two note chords and developing the ability to modulate.

2. “Melodic Ear Training.” with two or more notes will obviously help to you to identify the notes you hear in melodies and with our graduated study you can slowly build up your recognition skills.

3. Ear Training Three Note Direct Application uses uses the Arpeggiation of three notes to again put the ear training into another “context.”

4. Very commonly we get students who want to sing in choirs. The Lines Volume One: Sight Reading and Sight Singing Exercises is an excellent book for learning part singing.

There is an additional level for the Ear Training Two Note Complete. The Ear Training Two Note Advanced Volumes gives you harder two note combinations to prepare you for the next level.

As you can see this is quite an involved series of books. But we are almost through, and when you have made it this far you aural comprehension will be totally on another plain. Recognizing how you hear chord progressions and how you hear melodies is how you will decide what scales to use when improvising. This is just one of many benefits you will have with this ear training program.

We have created two series of levels after the Ear Training Two Note Series:

1. Ear Training Three Note Volumes containing 5 volumes.

2. Ear Training Four Note Volumes containing 5 volumes.

This completes our Contextual Ear Training offerings. Next we have the Perfect Pitch Training.

“Perfect Pitch Ear Training” is a completely different kind of ear training. You learn perfect pitch on one instrument at a time and in most cases you can learn one instrument in about 2 years of study when you work approximately 1 hour a day.

There are few more things we should mention. One is that your knowledge of music theory gets to be more and more important as you work into higher levels of ear training. We have some books to help students gain a better knowledge of music theory through the use of workbooks that require you to fill in answers to music theory questions. Remember music theory needs to be as quick as your ear training skills so that you can find the note you hear on your instrument in short order. We would recommend the following books:

For guitarists:

1. Music Theory Workbook for Guitar:Volume One or Music Theory Workbook V1 Video Course

2. Music Theory Workbook for Guitar:Volume Two

3. Music Theory Interval Recognition

For other instrumentalists:

1. Music Theory Workbook for All Instruments: Volume One

2. Music Theory Interval Recognition

We have also created a series of videos to help you understand the whole process of ear training

25 Tips for Developing a Master Musician’s Ear

Our latest creation is a practice tool that combines a metronome with a drone so that you can do ear training as you practice your instrument. This is called the MetroDrone which we highly recommend as a way to practice and improve your ear at the same time.

And of course we haven’t mentioned Rhythm ear training. We have two courses. First we have the Rhythm Ear Training Series that is really unique because along with getting a visual answer to each exercise you get the answer verbally. With this addition you can do rhythm ear training anywhere. We also have a video course called Rhythm Ear Training Video Course which helps you apply rhythm.

Overall the skill of Ear Training in all it’s different aspects is key to becoming a great musician. We have many more products on our website that can help musicians learn. We encourage you to come by and of course email us if you have any questions.

Posted by on 16. 08. 2010in Blog

49 Responses to “Ear Training Guided Tour”

  1. António Silva says:

    Hello Bruce, I’m really enjoying your ear training program. I’m working on ear training one note complete, contextual ear training and the fanatic’s guide. It seem’s to me that this type of ear training is very important and I hope I’ll get your program done (even if it takes me years to complete).

    I do have two questions:

    1 – Isn’t the traditional interval ear training also important? There are also people that seem to ear everything with that type of ear training. Is it ok to have the traditional ear training as a complementary program or do you not recommended it?

    2 – I haven’t got there yet, but your books with more than one note try to hear the notes seperatly. Will I be able to hear chords as a unit and recognise them? Will I be able to identify song progressions and the right quality chords?

    Thanks for everything.

    [Reply]

    Bruce Reply:

    Hi António,
    Nice to hear from you. I don’t see the utility in traditional interval ear training when applied to a real life playing situation. If you can think of one please give me an example. Certainly knowing the names of intervals is important but how does that apply to hearing music in a way that is useful? I also think that there are people who think they are hearing by interval when in fact they hear the quality of the sound in the key center. I often give the example of Mr. or Ms. Interval who hears all intervals perfectly. You are playing with them and they hear a musician play a 5th. Great which 5th is it? There are 12 of them. The only way they would know which one it is, is if they knew which key they were playing in. How would they know which key they were playing in? In most cases (unless you have very simple music) you have to hear the key based on the type of ear training I teach.

    In order to hear chords and modulations you will have to work with the 2 note ear training. As you move from 2 note to 3 and 4 note ear training you will be able to hear chord progressions. This hearing of multiple notes has nothing to do with chord quality. You hear the notes in relationship to the key center. Therefore if you heard an A-7 chord in the key of C it would sound like

    A = 6
    C = root
    E = 3rd
    G = 5th

    Again if you just hear chord quality you miss the picture of how the chords you are playing fit into the key you are playing in. Although this is common practice this vertical way of play in my opinion creates a very one dimensional sound because the improvisor/composer is never playing/composing to the bigger picture of the key center that flows through the piece of music. Take a look at 99% of most standard jazz tunes and you will find that they are composed from a key center, not chord to chord. You will also find examples of chord to chord improvisation. Giant Steps comes to mind but to apply that way of hearing/thinking to every tune is very limiting and doesn’t make musical sense nor is it the way most advanced musicians hear music. Even with Giant Steps I don’t hear the progression changing keys every chord.

    [Reply]

  2. Joshua says:

    Hi Bruce,

    Thank you once again for providing so much help for music students.

    Based on your article I’ve come up with a plan for ear training. It’d be great if you could let me know if it’s ok.

    1st phase: One Note + CETC + Fanatic’s
    2nd phase: Key Note Recog + Key Note builder + Fanatic’s

    Once these phases are completed I’ll move on to more advanced training.

    I’d like to ask whether there is a need to revise items in phase 1 once I hit phase 2. It strikes me that practising phase 2 will be sufficient, as phase 2 skills require the use of phase 1 skills, so skills from both phases will be practised at the same time.

    [Reply]

    Bruce Reply:

    Hi Joshua,

    Yep your schedule looks good. Usually in phase 2 I also have students start to directly apply their ear training skills to real musical situations. Here is a link to first direct application exercise

    Ear Training One Note Direct Application CD in MP3 format or Perfect Pitch

    Keep in touch and let me know how your progress is going.

    Bruce

    [Reply]

    Joshua Reply:

    @Bruce, Hi Bruce,

    Thanks for the reply. What’s the best way to use the Direct application CD? Start a single chord vamp, then attempt to match the notes played on my instrument?

    [Reply]

    Bruce Reply:

    Hi Joshua,
    Yes I would start with one chord vamps. Examples of which can be found in the member’s area of the Muse-eek.com website. Best to start with major chord vamps in all keys then move on to minor, dominant, etc… Sooner or later you can start using modal vamps. A modal vamp is usually two or more chords that stay in one mode. For example one measure each of C-7 and F-7 would create an Aeolian Vamp. After modal vamps I would move on to using whole tunes either jazz standards or any rock, folk, etc… tune that you want to know better.

    Bruce

  3. Josh Guitar says:

    Hi Bruce.

    Been working on hearing the scale degrees in my ear training and I have had great success. Ever since I quit trying to do things by interval I found my ear has improved greatly.

    Now that I know how I should be thinking with ear training, how should I be thinking when I am actually playing by ear or improvising? Is it supposed to be unconscious or should I be thinking about exactly what scale degree or note I am playing on my guitar?

    Thanks,

    - Josh

    [Reply]

    Bruce Reply:

    Hi Josh,

    Nice to hear from you. The better you get at the ear training the more engrained it will become and the more you will just know what notes people are playing rather than having to consciously think about it. I often use the analogy that you are sitting in a room and you know what color the walls are even though you are specifically thinking about that. Certainly as your ear improves you will be able to focus in on specific notes people are playing and know what they are but more importantly you will also begin to learn music based on how you hear it rather than as a group of fingering patterns etc… One place to start with the direct application of the ear training to real music is to start using the Ear Training One Note Direct Application CD in MP3 format. I usually recommend this for people that have completed both the Ear Training One Note Complete and Key Note Recognition. I would start with simple one chord vamps as a background vamp as you use the direct application and then over time more into more complicated chord progressions.

    [Reply]

    Josh Guitar Reply:

    @Bruce,

    Hey Bruce. I understand what you’re saying. I realize that as I get better I will be able to do these things without thinking about it. But at this stage should I be trying to play by ear without thinking about it?

    I ask because I had a major breakthrough with my sight singing when I started thinking about it the right way. A few months ago I would run into problems with my sight singing for one or two reasons

    1) I was thinking about it the wrong way (intervals)

    2) I was trying to do it without thinking about scale degrees, which I something I will be able to do eventually but at this stage I still have to make sure I’m learning those scale degrees properly.

    So should I practice playing by ear without thinking about what I’m doing or should I try to be thinking about it a certain way (like scale degrees). If thinking in scale degrees can have such a huge impact on my sight singing I can’t help but feel it might help playing by ear as well.

    -josh

    [Reply]

    Bruce Reply:

    Hey Josh,

    Yes you should be trying to play by ear without thinking about it. It will be more productive as your ear and theory knowledge improves. I would work on both ways i.e. play without thinking and also spend some time really policing yourself with the scale degrees. Think of music like a language as you know how to spell words and understand grammar you speak more eloquently and make more sense. Keep up the good work and you will reap the rewards.

    Best Regards,

    Bruce

  4. Joshua says:

    Hi Bruce, you say in your article “you could also work on exercises from the Fanatic’s Guide to Sight Singing and Ear Training at the same time as the Ear Training One Note Complete and the Contextual Ear Training”.

    How do you tackle the exercises in Fanatic’s which contain scale degrees one hasn’t learned in CETC. For example, if I haven’t learned the b3 scale degree in CETC, do I avoid all the exercises in Fanatic’s which have b3, or do I just go ahead and practise them anyway, as another opportunity to learn b3? If b3 occurs at the end of a six note sequence, do I start singing the melody again at the beginning if I can’t remember b3, or just 1-2 notes before?

    [Reply]

    Bruce Reply:

    Hi Joshua, You can work on Fanatic’s Guide to Sight Singing and Ear Training, Ear Training One Note Complete and the Contextual Ear Training at the same time. Remember that Contextual Ear Training is really just the 1st exercise in the Fanatic’s Guide. I created Contextual Ear Training as a way to help students practice the “one note” exercise anywhere. Fanatic’s Guide “one note” exercises requires you have an instrument present so it can’t be done anywhere. Also remember the more you do these exercises the faster you will improve. You are correct that even though you might not be concentrating currently on a certain note you should still listen or sing that note everyday. Your mind is trying to memorize the sound of 12 notes it really helps your mind to hear all of the sounds it’s trying to memorize each day even though you might be mostly concentrating on a few.

    Also if you are trying to sing a note and you don’t get it right play the and then re-sing it and move on to the next note in any given sequence.

    Hope that helps

    [Reply]

  5. i think you have to start with the basics and train your ear to at least figure out if a note is lower or higher than the previous one in a sequence. then, move on to intervals.

    [Reply]

    Bruce Reply:

    @ugo capeto ear training, If you need remedial work with just knowing if a pitch is higher or lower I would recommend this download:

    http://www.muse-eek.com/digital/mp3/BPC_V1.html

    [Reply]

  6. Alex says:

    Joshua, that’s a good question.

    [Reply]

  7. saraiabrams says:

    i am playing piano and knowing how to play by ear and sight read are very important skills to have especially when playing with other musicians or in a band.

    [Reply]

  8. piano chords says:

    in playing by ear, how do you identify if the play piano chord is a minor, aug, or dim? is there a technique?

    [Reply]

    Bruce Reply:

    @piano chords, You hear the chord and let’s say it’s minor and the one chord of the key. You would hear the root, b3 and 5th. If it was the four minor chord of the key you would hear: four, b6 and one. That’s what is cool about this! You know the chord type but you also know how it’s functioning in the key center.

    [Reply]

  9. Bruce,
    Your ear training system seems very cool. Wish I had a system like this when I was first coming up!

    [Reply]

  10. Chris says:

    In the Instrument Color Series. I’m assuming the initial cadence is still played by the piano? Then, as you said, we have to identify the note played on a trumpet, for example.

    [Reply]

    Bruce Reply:

    @Chris, Hi Chris, Yes the cadence is played by a piano and then you have various instruments; i.e. Trumpet, Trombone, Acoustic Bass, Tenor Sax, Alto Sax play a note that you need to identify. Finally you get my nasal little voice telling you whether you were correct or not :)

    Here is the link for the whole bundle with all instruments:

    Instrumental Color One Note Ear Training Bundle

    [Reply]

    Chris Reply:

    @Bruce, Haha! No worries. Thanks for the reply.

    [Reply]

  11. Esben says:

    Hi Bruce

    Thanks for your great eartraining products! A couple of years I had a lot of time on my hands and worked thoroughly through both one note and pretty far into two note and fanatics. I also worked a lot with the series, where you hear a key center and have to sing a certain scale degree, which I found very usefull along with the one note series.

    It has really helped my ear tremendously, and I can much more easily figure out licks in my head without having to sit with the guitar. Besides that I has helped me to build a link between my visualisations of the fretboard and actually hearing what I visualize. That may be the most important gain so far. So thanks a lot for that:-)

    I want to get started again but I am not sure whether it is usefull for me to go through the two note series, because one note and the singing of scale degrees in different keys seems to have helped me the most. I have a couple of questions:

    1. If I go for the two note, how can I use it in a live musical situation? It seems to me, that it takes a very high level of two note skills to actually do that, while one note is easily usable.

    2. It seems to me that the new melodic series would be of great practical use for me, so I think I will go for that. Besides that I have purchased the secondary dominants package and direct application one note, because the application part seems like the way to go for me. How do you think I should divide my time between the three?

    Best regards Esben Madsen, Denmark

    [Reply]

    Bruce Reply:

    Hi Esben,

    I’s nice to hear from you and I’m glad the ear training has been helping you with your music. Two note ear training is important in a few ways:

    1. It helps you to learn to modulate and know when you have modulated. This is indispensable when dealing with music where the key center changes — and even when it doesn’t change. Here is an example from the Secondary Dominants Book: If you had a progression C Major to Eb7 to D-7 to G7 and that progression was moving quickly you will not modulate to Eb when you play the Eb7 chord. You will have to change scales though but you should think of the scale for Eb7 in the key of C. So you would have a C major scale for C Major Chord. A C Dorian b2 (C, Db, Eb, F, G, A, Bb) for the Eb7 chord, and then a C scale for the D-7 and G7. Of course if you slow that progression down at some point you would hear each of these four chords as a key center. Then you would have a C Major 7 chord which would use a C major scale, an Eb7 which would use a Eb Lydian b7 scale (Eb, F, G, A, Bb, C, Db), a D-7 which would use a D Dorian scale and a G7 which would use a G Mixolydian scale. As you can see the scales are really the same in both instances but it’s how you are hearing them that has changed. This is crucial to learning how to play over changes. 2 Note Ear Training helps you understand how you hear multiple notes which is pivotal to the process I just described.

    2. As you improve with the 2, 3 note (and more) ear training you will also get so you can hear what all the notes are in chords as they go by. This takes a lot longer but it will happen eventually. Since identifying 4 notes at once as a chord progression whizzes by can overload your brain, what makes more sense is to just listen for what notes are not in the key center. Let’s go back to our previous example C Major, Eb7, D-7, G7, and let’s say this is flying by fast. All I hear when the Eb7 sounds is that a flat 2, flat 3 and flat 7 have been added, so I switch my C scale to include those notes which ends up being a C Dorian b2. Otherwise my ear just hears that every other note is just in the key of C so I just continue playing a C Major Scale.

    As you can see 2 Note Ear Training is a real necessity for playing over chord progressions and will help you to understand how you are hearing them. Both the 2 Note Ear Training Series and the Secondary Dominants are a basic step in this process.

    The new 2 Note Melodic Series is important too. It starts you on the path of hearing multiple pitches in succession over a simple major and minor key center. This not an easy series so I would suggest getting the bundle on this. The Beginning Level gives you plenty of time to hear each note. With the Intermediate Level the notes are going by twice as fast. In the Advanced Level the notes are again twice as fast so you really have to have your “One Note Ear Training” together to be able to quickly recognize these pitches. If you follow the links I’ve given for the Two Note Melodic Series you can hear some examples.

    As far as how to divide up your time. Let’s say you typically practice ear training 5X a day for 5 minutes. I would just do a different ear training exercise for each of those 5 minute periods. In addition if you are using the Direct Application Series or the Secondary Dominants Book you can do this ear training while you are playing your instrument. So that should add some more ear training time to your daily schedule.

    I hope this explanation helps, but let me know if you have further questions.

    [Reply]

    Esben Reply:

    @Bruce,
    It really helps! Thanks a lot, Bruce:-)

    May I ask you, how much time a day have you used to develop your incredible ear?

    All the best, Esben

    [Reply]

    Bruce Reply:

    Oh Boy, Well I’ve gone through periods where I was practicing 12 hours a day. As far as practicing goes.

    1. You need to really want to practice.
    2. If you want to increase your practice time you need to add time slowly over a few months.
    3. You need to not only be there physically but mentally.
    4. Practicing should not seem like work. Yes you may be exhausted afterwards but their should be an enjoyment in the process. I always feel like I’m building a house and just want to get another piece of it done each day.

    Hope that helps

    Bruce

  12. Esben says:

    Hi again

    I have an additional question about the Secondary Dominants Series.

    I will start by working my way through the altered dominant scale, because it seems like the most useful one to me.

    My question is about how I hear the scale in a real dominant or secondary dominant situation. Looking at the exercise in the pdf for the Altered Scale I can hear the steps as they are (1, b2, #2, 3, b5, #5, b7) but if I’m using it with the dominant chord in the key of C i.e. “starting on step 5 the scale “G”.” would I think of this as (5, b6, b7, 7, b2, b3, 4) in the key of C? Should I practice hearing and thinking of the Altered Scale in both these ways?

    Also if that is correct should I practice with the Altered Scale on other degrees? For instance if you have a secondary dominant D7 in the key of C and I wanted to put an Altered Scale over that chord would I think of the notes in the key of C too? Just wondering how to organize my practicing especially if I’m going to take your ideas through many secondary dominants and superimpose other scales.

    Best regards Esben

    [Reply]

    Bruce Reply:

    Hi Esben,

    If you are playing an Altered Scale over the 5th degree of a key center. In other words you are playing a G7 chord in the key of C and more importantly you are hearing that G7 in the key of C then yes you would think of the G Altered scale as b2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7, 7 in the key of C. I think of this scale as a Phrygian scale in C without the root but it could be thought of in many ways. Seems weird because you are thinking of a “C” scale but there is no “C” in the scale. But if you develop your ear using my books you will see that this in fact true. You do hear the scale this way.

    You will see over time that this situation happens in a few places in music. The most common other one is the Symmetrical Diminished scale. (1, b2, b3, 3, #4, 5, 6, b7) if that is used over a V7 chord and you are hearing that V7 chord in the key of C then you would think and hear the Symmetrical Diminished scale as: (b2, 2, 3, 4, 5, b6, b7, 7) This is really the 3rd diminished scale. Remember there are only 3 possible diminished scales: The Diminished (whole, half scale), Symmetrical Diminished (1/2, whole scale) and the 3rd Diminished in C would be (b2, 2, 3, 4, 5, b6, b7, 7).

    If you start superimposing scales over other chords and continue this process of hearing the superimposed scale in the overall key center then you will get a collection of either hybrid scales or just other scales that you already know.

    For instance if you put an Altered scale over a D7 in the key of C you would have the notes (D, Eb, F, F#, G#, A#, C) if we spell that enharmonically and in the key of C (C, D, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb) we see that is simply a C Locrian Natural 2 scale (some call it a Locrian #2 Scale).

    If we look at an A7 chord that you hear in the key of C and superimpose an “A” Altered scale we get the notes (A, Bb, C, C#, D#, F, G) which in the key of C would be (C, Db, Eb, F, G, A, Bb) which isn’t a naturally occurring mode in Major, Melodic Minor Ascending or Harmonic Minor so I call it a hybrid scale. I think of it as a Phrygian scale with a natural 6th but could also be though of as a Dorian scale with a b2.

    Superimpose an Altered Scale over E7 in the key of C you get (C, D, E, F, G, Ab, Bb) which is a Mixolydian b6 scale the 5th degree of the Melodic Minor Mode.

    So you can see that in some cases the scales can take some practice but in many cases these superimposed scales become something you already know (or something you should already know :) ). This makes playing over chord progression and/or superimposing scales very easy. Once you learn your modes of Major, Melodic Minor Ascending, Harmonic Minor and three symmetrical scales: Diminished, Symmetrical DIminished and Whole Tone you are ready for fun if you have also developed your ear at the same time. I commonly recommend the Essential Scales: Twenty Two Indispensable Contemporary Modes Book for any instrumentalist that wants to learn their modes and understand the beginnings of these distinctions.

    I don’t think this is how you should start working with the Secondary Dominant Book. I would work through and sing through the all the examples in the book. Then I would start superimposing scales after you have finisned the book. I’ll start covering these various superimposed scales in future books but I think you get the idea on how it all works. It really all goes back to learning how you hear chord progressions and whether you have modulated or not. By working through my series of ear training books you will learn all this. It’s a lot of work but I think its crucial to understanding music.

    [Reply]

    Esben Reply:

    @Bruce,
    Thanks a lot Bruce! You are really generous with your service and advice:-) Maybe that is a part of why I own 10-20 of your products:-)

    It makes sense to do it that way, but I just had to be sure before digging in to it. That alså makes it more clear why you want me to go through all the modes of the melodic minor ascending in one key before moving on to another key (as opposed to working with one mode through all keys before moving on to another mode)

    Thanks a lot again!

    Best regards Esben

    [Reply]

    Bruce Reply:

    Thanks Esben,

    It’s not easy to find this information. I know I looked hard for the answers to many of my musical questions and was lucky to run into some great teachers like: Mick Goodrick, Jerry Bergonzi and Charlie Banacos. All of those guys were very generous with their time so it’s my turn to pass the baton.

  13. Rob says:

    Hey there, sir Arnold! Got the new emails and thought I’d use it as an opportunity to ask a question or two. I’ve been doing all kinds of eartraining for about 12 years now (sadly nowhere near where I feel I should be but I do have a better than average ear). I started with Burge’s perfect pitch and then relative pitch courses. The relative pitch course did wonders for my memorization of interval and chord spellings but also got me in an insane habit of interval recognition. He does cover the degrees of the major and minor scales but only briefly mentions the possibility of learning to hear all 12 notes against a key center. The vast majority of his course is hardcore interval/chord quality recognition. At the time I felt that it was doing me a lot of good, but it wasn’t until I discovered your method that I really honed in on contextual eartraining and made new strides in my ability to follow ACTUAL music.

    As I mentioned I’ve also been working on perfect pitch with a fair amount of success for all of those years.

    Basically what I’m saying is I have a strange combination of excellent interval/chord quality recognition (which I don’t really mess with anymore since discovering your method – what’s there is there and I hear it because it’s thoroughly ingrained but I don’t waste time ‘training’ it anymore), a fair amount of absolute pitch recognition (for example, at least 50% or more of the time I know the key of a piece of music simply by ear without need of a reference i.e. it just ‘sounds’ like A or C or Bb or what have you).

    Just before discovering your method, I found a program called ‘functional eartrainer’ which was actually written based on your method. I essentially got all I could out of it which amounts to mastering hearing all 12 notes against a key center pretty much instantly. Then, I found the muse-eek site and got Fanatic’s Guide and began putting the CD to intense use doing loooots of singing – hours a day for months. I was trying to take each note combination and take it through all 12 degrees, but really get it down pat. I think this caused me to get sort of get stuck on just the 2 note combinations. I would meditate really intensely on singing and ‘feeling’ each combination.

    As a result of this, however, when I purchased the 2-note eartraining bundle, I realized I pretty much heard everything in C (or whatever key you might start with, I remain in that key). This made me wonder whether I was really approaching things correctly.

    As an example, take the 5ths. I remember early on when I first listened to the 2-note CDs, there were some instances where I heard the C as seeming to have modulated. I believe it was in the case of the A/E combo and the B/F# combo (in the lower octave, naturally). I’d hear the C as the b3 with the A/E combo and b2 with the B/F#. I found, however, that as I worked more at singing those 5ths in fanatic’s guide, I just began hearing it all in C. I wondered whether this was the intersection of my interval impulse with the new perspective or what?

    Or maybe in a way, I was TRYING to train myself to hear everything that way because even though the one note concept was essentially mastered (so nowhere to go but 2 note), the 2 note concept was a little uncomfortable so I just laid back on trying to further crystalize the one note concept. For example, you could, after learning to hear one note, begin taking each note combination in fanatic’s guide as a chord and learning to hear all 12 forms of it against a key center just like with one note (like with the 5ths, you have a Do/Sol 5th, a Ra/Le 5th, a Re/La 5th etc., and I was trying to learn them all). So I was working on that with all of the 2 note combinations – and figured I’d eventually do it with all of the 3, 4, 5 and 6 note combinations.

    I guess what I’m getting at is my current eartraining regimen which I do 3 times a day (I’m a single dad, tough to get much more in) is a kind of splicing of perfect pitch with one-note eartraining. In short, I’m using the ‘Cuddy’ method which involves setting one pitch as your key center and learning all other pitches in reference to that key center (which essentially involves using the contextual method of listening) until that particular pitch is internalized. I plan on doing this with all 12 pitches so that I have referenced every pitch with every other pitch absolutely and relatively (contextually).

    I also mastered the key note recognition CD, so I don’t know where to go further with that. Like I said, I got the 2-note bundle but I pretty much hear everything in C (essentially because I trained myself to methinks!).

    So do I move onto 3 notes (once I can afford the mp3s – broke as a joke currently)? The explanation of how to do the 2-note and more eartraining seems straightfoward but I feel like maybe I’m making it more complicated than it is somehow. I’ve always fancied myself a good little eartrainer but suddenly something seems amiss and I feel like I’ve gotten bogged down in the one note thing because maybe the 2-note and beyond situation seems ‘scary’. The stability of hearing everything in one key is so simple, but opening up to the world of modulation is like the rug being pulled out from under you!

    Oh, also I lost my fanatic’s guide CD somehow (considering it was like a prized possession for a couple years there!). Is there a discounted price for replacements?

    One other thing:

    I don’t know if maybe someone has already pointed it out, but in the fanatic’s guide in the 6-note combinations, the group of combinations that would include the whole-tone scale is missing. On page 58 of the copy I have, measure 21 on that page should technically be 024678 and go from there. Instead, it skips to 024789. For myself, it’s not a big deal cuz I kind of get off on writing out all of the combinations myself on graph paper in serial form but most students probably aren’t quite that nerdy :op

    Ok, I think that’ll be all. Sorry about the length of this. I hope all the details are helpful in assessing things and not just confusing!

    Rob

    [Reply]

    Bruce Reply:

    Hi Rob,

    Nice to hear from you and thanks for the in-depth history of your ear training studies. The first thing I’d like to say to you and anyone who reads these posts is you can’t just get any ear training method and proceed to follow it blindly. You need to interact with an expert so that you don’t go driving your ear training off a cliff. There is no book or software that you can download that is going to know you personally and be able to guide you through developing your ear. I offer free advice to students that use my products because that is the only way they will really reach their goals. More importantly it will stop them from doing things that will either hinder their growth or create bad habits. Take the Functional Ear Training software; there’s no problem with it except the author doesn’t give you support. I can’t even count how many people have used that system and then show up at my doorstep and wonder why this or that aspect of their ear training isn’t working for them. There are the “exercises” that you do for ear training and then there is the “how” you are doing the exercises. I could list 50 ways that students work with the Functional Ear Training incorrectly. It’s not the software’s fault, it’s the student’s misconception that they will just naturally do the exercises correctly. In most cases this is just not true. So the bottom line is, it’s worth it to pay a little more money. It’s not expensive to get started with my method, and way less than Burge’s method for sure. Get help from me and you won’t spend years undoing bad habits, tearing your hair out and wasting time.

    Another general observation. The idea of kicking around a bunch of internet sites and interacting with people you don’t know, who don’t know you and thus have no way of knowing whether what they are saying is correct or relevant to your situation, is a not a good idea. With anything you might want to study in music keep the following in mind:

    Does this person offering a product or advice have a body of work that you can listen to in order to know if they are doing something relevant with music? Do you think you should blindly follow someone who can’t play, compose music or has nothing available to prove to you that they can? How would they know what you need to learn to hear or to play music if they have no experience?

    Has this person taught anywhere or are they just a person with a website and an idea on how to make money through the internet. Not that you have to teach at a slew of famous colleges but in general people with something important to say get invited to either teach, lecture or at least do clinics at colleges. If you see none of this I’d be very suspicious.

    Does the person offering the course of study give you private interaction either for a fee or gratis? If not then you’re asking for trouble. No course or software can know you and know how you are thinking and get to the bottom of why you are having problems. I’m always amazed how people will throw themselves into a free ear training course, and work countless hours on it, only to be disappointed in the end and possibly damaged with bad habits. I don’t understand why people don’t care more about their personal education. I’m guessing they do care but haven’t thought it through.

    Also I’d say that many students love exercises, but exercises are not real music. Intellectually you can come up with a billion exercises but unless you are basing these exercises on real music and how what you are learning truly fits into a playing or listening situation what is the point? Which again is a reason to get the bigger picture on how your ears work in different musical situations before creating exercises and to work with things like my Direct Application Series so that you are using ear training in a real musical situation.

    Just another point which may apply. A lot of students develop this idea they need to get 100% accuracy for every book or download I tell them to study before moving to the next level. And this is not true. The reason I say move on when you have 80% correct answers is from my years of experience with students who:

    1. Develop bad habits when they try to master that last 20%. This again goes back to context and to the human tendency when overly concentrating on something to overlook the bigger picture of what they are trying to learn.

    2. Need to master ear training in many contexts. So what they mastered in one context they need to master in many contexts and then when they go back to an old context they most likely will find that they are getting near 100%.

    3. Need to move through many levels of ear training so that they see how it all fits together and is interfaced with real music. Let’s look at your situation as an example. Not fully realizing how music modulates caused you to overly concentrate on Fanatic’s Guide and not move on to see how your Fanatic’s Guide abilities fit into the bigger picture. You didn’t realize that yes, you need to know all 2 note combinations but there is a crucial step between all 2 note combinations and real music. One of the crucial steps is being able to modulate.

    4. Don’t realize that mastering something means mastering it in all contexts. You say you have mastered the “One Note” ear training. If that was true then you would be able to hear any melody in any key and follow its modulation. You would have the ability to hear any chord progression and recognize modulations if they occur. Because although “One Note” ear training is how you learn all these different skills, it’s how you use the “One Note” in all these different contexts that allows all this to happen. Context is what you’re missing.

    5. Don’t understand their own personality and how that might be affecting their ability to learn something. I studied with the great teacher Charlie Banacos and he used to say that learning music is like doing 10 years of psychoanalysis. You need to understand yourself to understand why you aren’t improving in certain areas of music.

    All that said let’s look at your specific situation. I think you are having a problem modulating because you are over concentrating on some of my exercises, and probably working on a host of other exercises without seeing the bigger picture and not interacting with me enough to make sure you aren’t going off target.

    Key Note Recognition is the first step in learning to modulate but there is a large learning curve between that and getting 2 note modulations together. You need to learn to follow your ear, which will make you realize many aspects of understanding music like:

    1. The longer you hear a pitch or group of pitches the more likely you will fashion a key center around these pitches in some way.

    2. You ear can jump back and forth between two key centers for quite some time until you are able to follow it, and realize that is what it is doing.

    3. You ear can change over time and perceive the same thing differently. Having the ability, flexibility and the consciousness to realize this is crucial.

    4. The octave that a note falls into will greatly affect which key center you hear.

    5. In real music the notes that come before and after any other note will affect how you hear those notes.

    6. The rhythm both macro and micro will affect how you perceive pitches

    7. The ability to deconstruct a group of pitches to get at the individual notes is your goal.

    So here’s what you can do to remedy your situation.

    1. I would concentrate on 2 note combinations that have a very low note that will help you to modulate.

    2. I’d get a real book or other fake book and start singing melodies and playing the chords and writing down how you are modulating through the tunes. (Play them slow which will make you modulate more)

    start with:

    Donna Lee
    All the Things You Are
    Alone Together
    Giant Steps

    3. Work with some 3 note ear training examples because they will define a key center better and make you modulate. Here is the first volume of the 5 volume series.

    Ear Training 3 Notes V1

    As I’ve mentioned in other private emails with you a Fanatic’s Guide Replacement CD is available on the Muse-eek.com website as digital download for 4.99. About the cost of a coffee and donut. Not that I think you should be working on Fanatic’s Guide at all at this point.

    [Reply]

    Rob Reply:

    @Bruce, Hey, Bruce! Just wanted to take a moment to tell you thanks a million for your reply. I got all psyched to get my 2-note CDs back out as well as my “Real Book” I bought a couple years ago (you advised me to in personal emails). Sadly, I’ve been unable to locate either one of those books. I found the keynote recognition book but not the CD. I also don’t currently have a way of paying for any of the mp3s online!

    No car, no job, $14 to my name. So I’m doing what can with what I have. I DO have some recording software and I could maybe make some examples myself with my guitar.

    I also noticed you have a post of Donna Reed on the members section of your site. I’d been wanting to learn that tune anyway, so maybe I’ll draw from that.

    Also, over the years I’ve definitely become aware of all of the numbered points you mentioned. It’s interesting especially how rhythm effects your perception of pitch. You tend to group pitches together based on rhythmic pulse.

    Have you heard of Arnie Berle’s “Patterns scales and modes for jazz guitar” book? I used to work with that and when I discovered your method I began trying to work on hearing the notes in those melodies contextually. Not having done any modulation stuff, I had a lot of trouble with just the first melody because it was a set of arpeggios that, while essentially in one key (G), used a V7/V at one spot. The melody, starting from the 3rd fret/E string G (and using ‘/’ for up to the next note and ‘\’ for down) was something like:

    G /B /D /F# | \E /G /B /D | \C# /E /F# /A | \G \E \C# \A | */D*

    Right there where it goes from the A in the A7 chord to the D, my ear always heard it as a tonic. But then, starting from that D and continuing on is: | D \B \G \F# | /A \F# \D \B | /G \E \D \B | \G

    So that D, even though I’m hearing it as a tonic flows right back into a GMaj7 chord and the whole melody ends on G. So looking at the melody as a whole and how I seem to be hearing it, it starts in G, just sort of gives a slight ‘taste’ of D then goes right back into G.

    I suppose I could work with it more at different tempos and see if it ALWAYS sounds that way.

    I guess what I’m also thinking is if my key retention was decent enough (I also bought the key retention builder book but couldn’t find it either!), in a melody like that at a medium tempo, a V7/V should still be heard in the primary key and not a modulation – especially when it’s only so briefly ‘mentioned’ in the melody.

    I guess that’s all I have to say for now. Does it sound like I’m veering in the right direction with my observations and everything?

    Rob

    PS: Listened to tracks from Affinity Quartet last night. MAN, that stuff is inspired! I’ve always dreamed of being able to be part of jams like that someday.

    [Reply]

  14. Rob says:

    Oops, that would be affinity sextet. Sorry.

    [Reply]

  15. Pasquale says:

    Hello MR. Arnold,
    I have been studying off your book One Note Ear Training, I started from level 1 and doing the exercise around two hours a day and in about a week I got to the 3rd level and was able to recognize the pitch right away now and it is definitely helping me a lot but I have a question.
    I found myself playing a bunch of Jazz and RnB gigs where I have to be able to pick up changes right away, I guess it is the harmony that throws me away and being on the spot that my brain shuts down.
    I have been exercising on finding the changes as quick as possible listening to songs but still i need to go through the changes 3 or 4 times before I am able to recognize it.
    Could you give me some suggestion on how to be able to catch changes right away and making this process faster?

    Thank you so much and can’t wait to hear from you. Definitely your book brought me already to another lever of perceiving things and I am really grateful to you for that.

    Pasquale

    [Reply]

Leave a Reply

Get a Gravatar