Q: Since last typing at you I've been taking some musicianship, piano, composition, and harmony classes at a local college and I'm loving the challenges...and the learning. I also recently purchased two of your one-note ear-training books. Fanatic's Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing and Ear Training One Note Complete. I believe I understand the basic approach; that is, this information needs to be automatic, like the vocabulary and grammar of any language one hopes to speak; and, the best way to make this information automatic is through repetitive drills, at (eventually) a fast pace.
Does that sound right? Now for my questions: If I can eventually hear and immediately identify all the twelve notes in various octaves against a c major tonic background, what happens when I'm not in c-major? Will I still know the notes by their actual pitches or will I hear only their relation to that new key? In the latter case, shouldn't I be learning them as 1-12 instead of c-b? And of course many pieces purposely modulate through several keys. How will I deal with this? My hope is that I'll know all the notes regardless of key, maybe I'll just need to hear the c to orient before starting out. Probably there's no easy answer to all this but time and persistence (if those could be called easy). If when you get some time you could offer some wisdom on this subject it would be greatly appreciated.
A: You have the right overall approach to Fanatic's Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing and Ear Training One Note Complete. Of course it's difficult to tell a student all the different problems that one may run into when trying to perfect this type of ear training, but here are a couple of things to keep in mind.
1. You are trying to develop the right response method in your mind. This means that you should listen to the I IV V cadence, hear the note and immediately give a response even if you are just guessing. Over time you will guess less and less because you will remember the sound.
2. Never use the resolution tendency of a note to identify it. Students commonly will hear the following:
a. 7th moving to the root.
b. 4th moving to the 3rd.
c. flat 6th moving to the 5th
d. flat 2nd moving to the root
I believe most people have these tendencies and they are fine to have, just don't use them to identify notes because in reality any of those notes could move anywhere. Also, it takes too much time, and you want to eventually KNOW what the note is, not its nearest neighbor.
3. You will get the best results practicing this ear training in short periods many times throughout the day, as opposed to one or two long sessions This is best for both the singing and the listening. I find five 15 minute sessions to be a good amount. But even listening to two examples 20 times a day is excellent. Basically you want to keep these sounds in your short term memory until they move to your permanent memory.
4. Never EVER sing the tonic of the key or the note you are trying to identify, you may think you are "grounding" yourself but just like my warnings regarding resolution tendencies, this will just slow you down; its a bad habit to get into.
These are some of the things to watch out for. I think you can see that you just have to memorize the sounds over time and then speed up the response.
For your question about using this ear training in other keys. All keys have the same structure. Therefore if you heard E as the 3rd in C major when you are in the key of F# major you will hear A# as the 3rd. Some students prefer to give their response as degrees of a key rather than note names. I believe you should be able to do both. Obviously this will require you to learn your music theory quite well. But, on the other hand doing this ear training method will highly refine your music theory too. As far as your question goes, you could learn the notes as degrees rather than note names but really you should be able to do both in any key. If you are a guitarist I would recommend working through the Music Theory Workbook for Guitar Volume One and Music Theory Workbook for Guitar Volume Two to develop your ability to think notes and degrees in any key. There is also a one note version called One Note Ear Training Degree Method that gives the answers as Degrees so you can use that if you want to.
To answer another question that comes up often. You don't need to do this ear training in all keys but you do need to get your music theory to a point where if you are in the key of A major and you hear the flat 6th you will know that is F. Conversely, if you were playing in a band and you played an F and it sounded like the flat 6th you would instantly realize you where in the key of A. The book Key Note Recognition gives you exercises to further develop this skill.
As far as modulation goes that is covered in two note ear training. When you feel you are up to 80 to 90% on the one note advanced level, pick up the 1st volume of the two note method and that will explain the process. However, it's best to work through "Key Note Recognition" as a primer for the two note ear training series.