Best ways to go about ear training?

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by gnoll, Jan 19, 2018.

  1. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    Hi guys.

    What are your favorite ways to develop a better ear for picking out intervals, chords and melodies? Any good tips for someone trying to get better?
     
  2. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear

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    Sing lots. Improvise vocals over a droned texture or chord and learn what the intervals feel like. Learn them on the fretboard and slowly improvise on the guitar, singing what you intend to play first, and correcting it if it's wrong. If you have an Apple device, check out the training app from mDecks, it's great! (So are their other apps!)
     
  3. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    Hm, yeah, makes sense. I also wish I could sing well so some practise wouldn't be bad I think... I have a program that I think has a function where I can sing into a mic and it'll tell me if it's right or not. Will try that I guess, but I just don't have any confidence when I sing. Even though I know how it should sound, it sounds terrible, lol.
     
  4. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear

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    Don't worry about sounding bad :) Even singing out loud is not the point - just imagining the note/interval in your head before you play it would do!
     
  5. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    OK I cannot tell chords with a raised or lowered fifth from eachother, I CANNOT do it. I KNOW how the intervals sound but in a chord context I just CANNOT tell which one it is. And my computer program won't let me get to the other chords unless I get 90% or better on this exercise, GEEZ!!! I don't even care about these stupid chords I just wanna get to the other stuff?!

    *FRUSTRATION*

    Edit: Found out how to skip exercises, so fuuuuck those chords :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2018
  6. Eptaceros

    Eptaceros Wayfarer Contributor

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    Those exercises you're skipping are what you need to get to the next level. Like anything else, ear training requires lots of mindful practice, even when it feels like what you're doing is redundant. The only way to familiarize your mind's ear with intervals is by drilling them into your head while being engaged in the exercise.

    I learned the fundamentals of ear training in high school through books and piano, so unfortunately I cannot point to specific exercises online. I've heard that musictheory.net has a solid section on ear training. If you're looking for something other than your current program, try googling "melodic and harmonic dictation" and see what comes up.

    Melodic Dictation is the form of ear training that plays notes in a sequence (should be only 2 notes when you're starting) and you must identify the interval being played.

    Harmonic Dictation is the same, except the 2 notes are played together (in harmony).

    Try to find an exercise that switches between both of these and keep doing it until your brain feels like it's melting, for weeks. Then when you're feeling pooped, try taking a stab at learning a simple acoustic piece by ear.

    And yes, singing along with these exercises is 100% necessary if you want to see an improvement. When you sing during ear training, do not focus on the quality of your voice, or your breath, or anything you're supposed to do for "proper" singing. Play a sustained 2 note chord and alternate which note you sing. While you're singing, try to continuously hear/think of the other interval that you're harmonizing with.

    The more ear training you do, you will eventually get to the point where you don't have to sing anything to identify simple chords. All of that singing will have helped your mind's ear remember what certain chords feel like. Sounds weird, but it works!
     
  7. Rizzo

    Rizzo SS.org Regular

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    I recommend Troy Stetina's Fretboard Mastery. Great *applied* theory exercises, and also ear training ones
     
  8. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear

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    I would definitely not recommend skipping, as said above. Diminished (lowered 5th) chords should be some of the easiest to recognise for their dissonant sound. The tritone is perhaps the easiest interval to identify in my opinion. So if you are struggling with it, definitely keep at it !
     
  9. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    I dunno guys...

    Honestly like I wrote, the intervals are fine, the chords arpeggiated are fine, it's just when they're played harmonically on a piano without any sort of context, it's really hard. It's the same with sus2 and sus4, but even worse. Can you guys honestly say that if you hear a random sus2 or sus4 chord (played harmonically) without ANY context, that you can confidently say "that's sus2" or "that's sus4"? I'd be pretty impressed. Unless you have perfect pitch of course.
     
  10. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear

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    When you get into chords with more voices it gets harder for sure. But yes totally those two along with the other triads are fine for me. I don't really find them much different to simultaneous intervals (i.e I find 1+2+5 or 1+4+5 not much different to 1+2 or 1+4 alone). The 5th is such a pure interval that it's just kinda..there. Until it isn't (diminished/augmented) when it really stands out. Just keep practicing :) Don't feel bad about it and think that anyone has a greater natural ability than you. More experience is all. Honestly do a little every day and you'll have all the triads down in a couple of weeks I'm sure !
     
  11. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear

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    It occurs to me that you say "random" and "played harmonically" - not exactly sure what you mean by this but if you are talking about them in other voicings without context then yes they CAN be very ambiguous because they are actually inversions of each other. If you don't know the root, then you could get them mixed up easily. C F G is a Csus4.... F G C is Fsus2!
    But hearing them as a stacked triad or a voicing with a clear root is quite easy for me yes.
    In a case where they could be inversions of each other that's an instance where you'd be thinking more about internal interval structure (i.e. are you hearing a 2nd followed by a 4th like F G C? Or are you hearing a 4th followed by a 2nd like C F G?). Of course they can be either a C or F chord depending on context but that doesn't really matter - it's about the ability to hear the internal interval structure - that will come with time.

    Start thinking about chords and voicings as stacked intervals rather than just interval names from the root :)
     
  12. Lasik124

    Lasik124 SS.org Regular

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    Sure you can! If you familiarize yourself enough with those sounds of course, take it one step at a time. Try playing those two chords on a guitar until that sound is really inside your head.

    I'm not sure if this will get mixed replies, but figured I'd share. I've had one of my college theory teachers tell me that Sus4 chords can simply be called Sus chords. The 3 moving up to a 4 is the definition of a suspension. Sus2 chords were referred to as 5/2 chords. I've never heard this information anywhere else besides his class, but thought it was interesting :)
     
  13. Eptaceros

    Eptaceros Wayfarer Contributor

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    Sus chords in particular pop out to me, because of the combination of the 4th and Maj2nd intervals. Both of those border on dissonance and create a very ambiguous texture.

    Like Winspear said, don't focus on the proper name of a chord, as there is more than one way to look at identifying a chord, based on the context of the piece. Instead, you should be focusing on the way certain intervals sound. As you familiarize yourself with intervals, you'll start noticing that certain intervals have a certain "character".

    Also, gnoll, I do not have perfect pitch, I just drilled this stuff into my head year after year. It's actually been about 10 years since I've started ear training. Here's some covers of mine that I worked out by ear, so you can see that a normal person with no familial musical background can basically learn anything if you put your mind to it:





     
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  14. Lasik124

    Lasik124 SS.org Regular

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    ^ Jeez bro, I don't want to get this thread off topic, but those covers were awesome.

    I've got a decent ear but I feel like learning an Ulcerate or Castevet song by ear would be quite the task.
    Do you go into those knowing what tuning they use or figure it out as you go? What tuning did you end up using for both? Do you have to sit with headphones and pick out note by note for a while or does it come pretty naturally?

    Last but not least do you deal with any wrist pain? I have tendinitis from making chord shapes like those for many years...be careful!

    Okay, sorry to derail the thread. Cool covers man, I subbed to your channel :)
     
  15. Eptaceros

    Eptaceros Wayfarer Contributor

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    Thanks for the kind words!

    I knew the Ulcerate tuning beforehand; they tune to Drop B on that album. Honestly, I don't know what happened that day, but I was able to get the whole song transcribed in under a day. Back in those days, I would mostly pick things apart note by note. I use this program called Transcribe! that's basically a tool to slow songs down and manipulate the EQ in order to isolate the guitars. You can do all this in any DAW, but Transcribe! has a super easy-to-use interface, so your workflow is totally streamlined.

    Nowadays, I'll still do note for note analysis, but much less. I have a better understanding of chord voicings on guitar, so I can identify things quicker. For example, with Castevet, I knew they had to be in a drop tuning because of all of the extended chords with a power chord or stacked 5ths chord (root, 5th, 9th) on the bottom. I checked the lowest note in the song (D), so I tuned to Drop D and everything checked out.

    Regarding wrist pain, when I was 19, I was diagnosed with tendonitis and carpal tunnel (probably from years of Counter Strike and terrible guitar technique). I've since stopped playing CS and reworked my guitar playing to be as relaxed as possible, without losing any force or attitude. I rarely have any pain in my wrists/arms now.


    Anyway, I also don't want to derail the thread, just wanted to show that anything is possible with endless hours of practice. Especially ear training. Lasik, if you still have questions or anything, send me a PM, I'd be happy to answer.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2018
  16. justin_time

    justin_time has terrible gear

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    Dude, those are amazing covers! I was wondering if you also spent/spend time learning rhythm dictation and any advice you might have to offer on that. I am having a harder time with tabbing out the correct rhythm than I am the actual notes and chords. I have never played drums or own a drum kit and I wonder if a drumming rhythm book and/or online resource would be the best place to start.
     
  17. Eptaceros

    Eptaceros Wayfarer Contributor

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    Thanks! I studied rudimentary rhythmic dictation around the same time as melodic/harmonic. I don't believe you need to take up drumming or read any drum books to get a solid grasp on rhythm. After all, it's a vital part of playing any instrument, whether it's percussive or melodic.

    The basic method is counting (out loud) the subdivisions while listening to a rhythm. If your rhythm is in 8th note syncopations and your time signature is 4/4, you would count out loud "One and two and three and four and", each number signifying a quarter note beat. As you count, listen and mark down when a hit joins your count.

    My best advice is to familiarize yourself with how rhythms look when they're written out in musical notation. Having that visual aid can help solidify the shape of a rhythm in time. For me, when it comes to transcribing rhythm, it's largely mathematical. You start off with a time signature and you take it measure by measure, beat by beat. You have x amount of notes in y amount of space. You find the main accents and fill in the gaps with subdivisions. But, when it comes to listening to music, all of that goes out the window, and you just enjoy the rhythm by feeling it. Hope that helps!
     
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  18. justin_time

    justin_time has terrible gear

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    Gnoll, justinguitar.com has a basic starting course on Transcribing which I found useful in providing initial direction in identifying types of chords and recognizing intervals.

    I second using the Transcribe! Software tool, it is amazing!

    Thanks a ton for the helpful response, I really appreciate it. My goal in playing guitar is not to be in a band but to be able to tab and learn to play technical metal songs I love, I know I have a long road ahead of me.
     
  19. Santuzzo

    Santuzzo SS.org Regular

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    learn to sing all intervals, scales, chords/arpeggios, root movements of chord progressions, etc.
     

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