A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Posts tagged “Ear Training

Ear Training: How to Play What You Hear in Your Head

Here’s a great video from Andrew Wasson of Creative Guitar Studio about developing your ear and internalizing pitches so that you can more easily play phrases that you have in your head. He demonstrates this using two short pieces on guitar, but its applicable to all pitched instruments.

Ear Training: How to Play What You Hear in Your Head

I like the adage that he mentions towards the end, “the only musical instrument is the mind of the performer, joined with the mind of the listener.” It makes a lot of sense to me and transcends specific instruments, because virtually any song can be played on any instrument, and theory is theory regardless of what you’re making music with.

Ear training ties in directly with interval training, and one of his exercise recommendations, playing a phrase using only one string, is also something that I read in one of the first chapters of The Advancing Guitarist, from Mick Goodrick. I only read the first few chapters of that, but it really impressed me.



Awesome Ear Training Exercise For Bass Players – Scott’s Bass Lessons

Here’s a video from Scott Devine, of Scott’s Bass Lessons, that has an ear-training exercise for bassists – although it can probably be used with most instruments. It basically calls for the person practicing ear-training to sing solfege or just sing something in the same pitch as the interval that’s being played. The video focuses on notes of the major scale, but it can, obviously, be altered to any scale, and any pitch or tone.

I’m glad that Scott’s about as good a singer as I probably am, which means I’ll have to practice this in my closet at night through a handkerchief, and its fun to hear that his wife actually IS a singer. That Coursera course that I’m about halfway through now has included ear training for 2 intervals each week for the past 3 weeks now. I haven’t gotten to watch the Lesson 4 videos yet, so I don’t know if it will continue. We covered Major 2nds & 3rds in Week 1, Perfect 4ths & 5ths in Week 2 and then Major 6ths and 7ths in Week 3. I don’t see any intervals in the Lesson 4 titles.

Awesome Ear Training Exercise For Bass Players (L#151)

Coursera – DYM Lesson 1 Peer Reviews 2

Here are some answers from 10 additional students’ first week‘s homework assignments for the Coursera Developing Your Musicianship class.

Lesson 1 Peer Reviews

These are the 5 questions that we had to answer:

  1. Write in your own words the definition of harmony.
  2. Write in your own words the definition of ear training.
  3. Write in your own words the definition of interval.
  4. Identify three songs in the key of C major. Feel free to use a search engine like Google to find song titles.
  5. Write out the C major scale by hand.

Here are answers to the first 5 reviews I got. I’m not including the comments I made to the students in this post though. Its already a bit long.

1. Write in your own words the definition of harmony.

  1. Harmony is the study of the mixing of sounds and melodies that are pleasing to the ears
  2. Harmony is the interaction of different notes across intervals, the quality of sound they make together. In particular, it involves notes that occur at the same time.
  3. Harmony is the study of melodies, scales, chords and chord progressions, which have an important relationship with the song key.
  4. Harmony means the chords, which go into a piece of music, and the traditions governing their use, during different era’s. It involves studying scales, as well as how to write melodic lines.
  5. The study of chords, scales and melodies. Study it well can make the music which you make become pleasing to the ear.
  6. Harmony notes that produce a combined sound
  7. To me harmony is a relation between notes that together define the base of the song during a specific time. Usually when I think of harmony is not just one note (like single voice melody) but instead the notes or chords that define specific moment in a song, the melody is also part of it. Knowing about harmony helps for example to know which notes I can confidently use in my instrument and which maybe I better avoid. I can use also harmony knowledge to add colors in specific moments, tension, etc. One example I could give is a song where the harmony is C major in a specific moment, in that scenario the bass could be playing the note C, the keyboard can play C major chord (C,E,G) or some of its notes, the guitar also the C chord or a few of its notes in a different register and the singer a C note or a note that belongs to the C major chord “harmony”. I think understanding harmony would allow me to know the “rules” or “options” I have at a given time to sound good with others.
  8. Harmony is the study about music relationships between melodies, scales, chords etc.
  9. Harmony deals with 3 musical features –
    1. How like-minded notes gather together as in tents called chords.
    2. What tents(chords) and what notes(melody) are allowed in what camps(scale). A tonal center could be termed the camp master.
    3. How the sequencing or ordering of tents(progression of chords) by the camp master (scale/tonal center) keeps the camp/tents safe, consistent and an enjoyable musical outing
  10. Chords, scales and melodies are studied by Harmony. Harmony also studies chord progressions and the key a song is in.

What I noticed from this is that Professor Russell’s broad definition did confuse some people, and others went back to the definition that they understood from outside of the class, which has to deal with the sounding of multiple notes at the same time, or using notes/chord tones from the same scale. Its nice to see that other students stuck to what they know to answer this, like I did.


Coursera – DYM Lesson 1 Peer Reviews

Peer review for the first week‘s homework assignment for the Coursera Developing Your Musicianship class began yesterday (Thursday). I didn’t get to look at any of the assignments until about 30 mins ago. We have to review 5 assignments by Sunday and submit them. That basically gives us the weekend to finish (less for me, since I work on Sundays). For the review, we can grade each answer with one of 3 scores:

0 = Disagree
5 = Somewhat agree
10 = Agree

Along with providing a score for each question, we have the option to include a comment as well. Under each comment field, a tracker lets us know how many words were written in our response.

Lesson 1 Peer Reviews

Here are the 5 questions that we had to answer:

  1. Write in your own words the definition of harmony.
  2. Write in your own words the definition of ear training.
  3. Write in your own words the definition of interval.
  4. Identify three songs in the key of C major. Feel free to use a search engine like Google to find song titles.
  5. Write out the C major scale by hand.

Here are answers to the first 5 reviews I got and what my comments were (in italics). I’m going to try to do additional reviews later:


Ear Training: Major 2nd & Major 3rd

Just a quick update:

So, last night, after thinking about how miserably I’m doing when trying to name the correct interval while testing myself on Major 2nds and Major 3rds, I found a way to drill the sounds into my head during practice. I’m running the Cycle of Fourths and playing each interval (2nd & 3rd) along the Cycle. I think its helping a bit, but its kind of boring as well. For some reason, its just more fun and more pleasant-sounding to run the Cycle with 5ths than it is with 2nds & 3rds. I think I need to get this done though, before moving on to the Perfect 4ths and Perfect 5ths from Lesson 2 of the online Coursera class.

Its interesting to notice that the notes sound a little different to me when I play them faster or when I play them slower and hold the note. What’s useful to me is that I can also start on the 2nd or 3rd and go to the root, so I can hear the sound both forward and backward. I don’t know if the movement is the same though, or if it varied based on direction, like how in the Cycle, moving one way is a 4th and the other is a 5th.

Coursera – DYM Lesson 1 videos (9)

Video #9 is the last teaching video in Lesson 1 of Coursera’s Developing Your Musicianship class. In this one, Professor Russell takes about a minute and a half to discuss the first homework assignment and then plays that major scale song again.

9. Lesson Review and Assignment Overview (2:50)

The Professor begins by telling students what he wants them to work on during the week and about the homework assignments. He asks us to define ear training, harmony and intervals in our own words. I spoke about this a little in my post about Lesson 3, but basically, this is the definition that he provided us with:

Harmony: the study of chords, scales, melodies and how we hear them when music is played.

That doesn’t quite seem to be harmony to me. My understanding is that harmony is about notes being played together at the same time, and is mainly about chords. His definition seems to add in other items, like melody. The homework assignment is completed online. There’s a web page in which questions appear and can be answered, mainly through typing, although one question requires an image upload. I gave my definition of harmony in the answer box and added in my thoughts about the contrasting definition he provided. As the homework is peer-reviewed, I’ll have to see what other students in the class think about this.

One interesting thing, to me, is that we have to each peer-review at least 5 other students’ assignments. We can do more if we’d like. I intend to do more, because I’m curious about what everyone else is writing, and I want to see what I can learn from it. Students who took other online Coursera classes said that they did the same and were able to learn more this way.


Coursera – DYM Lesson 1 videos (8)

The tonal center video is the longest one in Lesson 1 of Developing Your Musicianship. Its the main focus of the ear training exercises – even more so than the two major 2nd and major 3rd videos.

8. Tonal Center (7:51)

The video opens with 1 minute of a piano song, after which Professor Russell begins to define what a tonal center is. He says that its the dominant tone that a person hears when playing a progression or song – like ground zero or the anchor note that’s played or heard. Other students on the forums confirmed that this is the root note of the song.

He then goes on to say that what he played on the piano was in the key of C and shows/sings what the tonal center was. I wasn’t completely certain about whether he was referencing his left or right hand, or both, though. He goes from there to play another song and sings a note to show that the tonal center is. Again, it wasn’t completely clear to me. This might be because I’m not used to piano songs, or it could be because I’m not adept at clearly discerning the pitch in which he’s singing. I thought I had the right one on the example he played about 3 mins in, but I don’t know for sure. I think I was listening for it in the bass part, but when he sang it, it was higher, so it might have been up an octave. I don’t think I can easily tell the changes via human voice yet.

After those exercises, the Professor reveals that the tonal center is the key that a song is in. I think that this corroborates what the students on the forums said about it being the root of the song. He then introduces students from Berklee who he later uses to help illustrate his ear training exercises. They all came from different backgrounds, probably to illustrate the variety of musical applications that this knowledge can be applied to. The students were each one of the following: a music business marketing major/vocalist, piano principle/music therapy major, vocalist/songwriting major, professional music major/vocalist, and a music education major whose principle instrument is voice. So, we have musicians, marketing, therapists, music educators and what I’m assuming is a music business student.

With the student introductions out of the way, the Professor goes on to play 3 short songs and the students sang the tonal center for each, illustrating their proficiency in ear training. He told them that he’ll probably play the center at the beginning of a measure and they basically found it within 10 seconds for each song. Students were able to identify the tone that “seemed to work with every chord that was being played“, the predominant sound that was being heard. His advice was to look for the note that fits every chord that’s being played.

After the 3 songs, he says that another way to say tonal center is to ask what key a song is in. Onscreen text then showed “The tonic or ‘Do’ of the scale, or scale degree 1“. He humorously (to me) then reiterates that “the tonal center is the center of the tone.” When I hear stuff like that, I always think back to the 90’s, to my online BBS days, and reading taglines like “circular logic is good because its circular“.