Minor Key Ear Training is a subject that comes up often and this blog post is dedicated to some of the 1st steps you can take to fix this problem.
It’s true that a lot of students have problems with minor keys. They either have a lot of problems hearing One Note Ear Training in a minor key or they always hear a minor chord as a relative minor. Example: when an A minor 7 is played, they hear “C” as the root. I find this most often with musicians who have a strong classical background, and also with students that don’t have a lot of experience listening to or playing contemporary styles such as Jazz, Blues or Rock.
Fixing this issue can be difficult, and the best thing is to stay in contact with me as I recommend different exercises and courses to fix this problem. Almost always, a student needs more experience hearing and playing along with minor key progressions to improve their aural recognition skills.
For this I recommend the Chord Workbook for Guitar Volume One, because it comes with audio files so you can hear the chord progressions at 3 different tempos. The book includes both chord charts and exact chord voicings for each progression.
Common Minor Key Ear Training Assignments
Here are some of the common assignments I give students with these minor chord problems:
1. First some background information. Go to page 137 and look up the chords for the C minor blues progression.
Notice that many of these voicings are “drop 2” i.e. Drop 2 chords (or drop 2 voicings) and that means taking a closed-position (closed position means that it is stacked up 1,3,5,7 etc.._) chord and dropping the second-highest note down an octave in order to create an open-position chord. See if you can play these chords on a piano or guitar or arpeggiate the chords. Have a MetroDrone going in the background when you play these chords.
a. Arpeggiate the chords on your instrument but also sing these chord voicings using the notes as seen below or on page 137 of Chord Workbook for Guitar Volume One,. In some places you many need to leave out the lowest note because of the range of your instrument or voice.
b. Use solfeggio to sing or play guide tones (3rd of one chord to the 7th of the next chord or vise versa.) Other chord tones are also used. Most of the time you are trying to get a descending line (A much deeper understanding comes from the Guide Tones course) as a way to understand the voice leading from a linear perspective. For instance, C Major Blues page 131. One guide tone line would be:
C-7 = Bb or Tay
F-7 = Ab or Lay
C-7 = G or So
C-7 = G or So
F-7 = F or Fa
F-7 = Eb or May
Ab7#11 = D or Re
G7b13= D or Re
C-7= C or Do
G7#9= B or Ti
These guide tones can be used to improvise, so use the structure above as a template and then mess around with adding a few notes here and there both as a technique on your instrument as well as for your voice. Start with 1/2 notes and whole notes then start changing the rhythm.
I would take one or two progressions a week. Some will be harder, like the Ab Minor Blues and you may spend a week just on that progression. I’d spend about 15 minutes writing out a guide tone line and playing it, then improvising around it each day. I’d also read through the chord voicings and arpeggiate the chords, which will probably take a minute or two.
This is a lot of stuff but you need to seriously address your Minor Key Ear Training Skills. It can take about 6 months to totally change your way of hearing, but keep in touch and let me know your progress; that will help me help you
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