Ear training – Where To Start
One quick note before we start here – I use ear training to HEAR the rhythm of a passage, to HEAR the COLOR of a chord passage, to HEAR the movement of the melody line. Without Ear Training – I could NOT write all these arrangements for you!
I start a new arrangement with the written music (which is someone else’s “interpretation”), then I LISTEN to ALL the You Tube links to the different “covers” of the song – and MAKE the sheet music SOUND like the original.
We are all initially drawn to music with our ears, however for most us, we begin learning music with our minds. Scales, theory, chords, triads, time signatures, modes… these are the things we encounter in our very first music lessons. Almost instantaneously, that magical thing that we loved to listen to is turned into this jumble of confusing abstract information. We still avidly listen, but as we continue down this educational path, our understanding of music moves further and further away from the sound itself.
After awhile, we forget how to use our ears to analyze sound. We can still hear those melodies and chord progressions, we’re just stuck inside our heads trying to figure everything out. Sadly we don’t even give our ears a chance to get better.
Ear training is the number one thing holding most aspiring improvisers back. Not that they have bad ears, they just have ears that have gone undeveloped for years. Their ears have been ignored while allowing their minds to do the work for them.
If you continue to ignore your ears, improvisation will always be this difficult mystery that you’re fall short of solving time and time again. Transcribing will be this long, painstaking task. Identifying chord progressions and melodic fragments will remain an elusive pursuit. Learning melodies from the CDs will take hours instead of minutes.
- The solution is easy. Start by incorporating some ear training exercises into your daily routine. There are numerous articles about ear training at these links:
Pick one and put your ears to the test. Remember to start simple, though. You may mentally understand concepts like tri-tone substitutions and altered dominants, but our ears are often lagging behind our brains, stuck where we left them years ago.
You don’t want to be this emotionless robot or giant brain that is analyzing chords and computing scales in real time. Improvisation should be that moment in time where everything comes together to create – the mind, the body, and the spirit. Even though you may not realize it, there are melodies inside of you that are unique to you – turn on your ears and give them a chance to come out.