Q: I have recently purchased one of your Ear Training One Note Complete. It's refreshing to find a well written music book. Thanks!
I've just begun to try your ear training technique and had a few questions. I was hoping the book would answer them but it did not.
First let me say I have no formal ear training. I listen to your CD on the way to work and back (1 hour+1 hour daily). I was in band in elementary school and have taught myself guitar over the past 10 years. I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. Even though I sing and play guitar, it seems I really can't even tell if a note is in key unless the chord is playing in the background simultaneously with the note. Is this common? On your CD I can usually recognize if the note is either C or G, but don't know which one it is. The rest of the notes all sound the same to me. Is there anybody that has tried in earnest to train his or her ears that just can't do it? How long does it usually take before I will start to recognize the notes?
Thanks in advance. I will let you know my progress if you're interested.
A: Your experience is very common with beginners who are trying this ear training method. Fortunately I have never met a person who didn't eventually get this ear training if they worked on it patiently, and didn't get upset if they weren't improving as quickly as they wanted.
I think first you need to understand that your perception and identification of sound is probably distorted, possibly from a lifetime of neglect or misperception. This may sound like an incurable situation but it isn't. Really all you need is the will to change it, the mechanisms to re-learn are still inside you. It may require a lot of work on your part but the rewards are immense.
In order to change your perception of sound you are going to have to set up a regimen of practicing which will allow you to keep the sounds of pitches in your short term memory as much as possible. Practicing to and from work is a good start. Learning this type of ear training is a lot like how you learned words when you were a baby. After you were born, your parents would say a word over and over to you over many weeks or months until by the time you were two or so, you were ready to start really talking. This is the type of learning process you need to use with this ear training. You need to keep the sound of these pitches in your short term memory as much as possible so they can sooner or later enter you permanent, long term, memory. It sounds complicated but really it's just about you doing this ear training as much as possible throughout the day even if it's for 2 or 3 minutes. Remember you're not really using the "intellectual" side of the your brain with this-- you are really trying to develop a natural response to something you have heard so much that you just remember it. So don't spend too much time trying to find the hidden sound of each note that will allow you to identify it-- just try to be positive and welcome each note as an interesting sound that you will eventually memorize over time.
There are two sides to the ear training process. The listening, which you do with the Ear Training One Note Complete audio files and the sight singing which is done with either the Contextual Ear Training audio files or the Fanatic's Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing "one note exercise" found on page 13. Your progress will be greatly enhanced if you can work with both listening and singing every day. For instance, one of your current problems is that a lot of the notes sound the same to you. This is because you have weak "key retention." In the Fanatic's Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing the 1st exercise is called the "one note" exercise. The Contextual Ear Training book is really this "one note" exercise blown out into 300 audio files where you are asked to sing various notes. I usually recommend people start with the Contextual Ear Training book rather than the Fanatic's Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing because the Contextual Ear Training gives you the answer, and the files let you listen anywhere. It also gives you major and minor cadences which is great. That said I may recommend both books depending on a student's needs. For instance if you are working with a choir and need to work on your sight reading and ear training at the same time then you really should get Fanatic's Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing because that has exercises with notes on a music staff. But you could use the Contextual Ear Training audio files when you are commuting, to further ingrain the sound of each note. Whichever book you use you will begin to build your key retention, which in turn will help you to hear the difference between each note.
Usually it takes a few months of work before you will start to notice that your recognition skills have improved. Don't try to rush the process. Usually by trying to improve too quickly students come up with little tricks and gimmicks to help them identify notes. This will only hold you back in the future. Try to approach this as a process of memorization of sound which will take time and concentration but most importantly approach it with a positive frame of mind. Don't beat up on yourself if you get something wrong. Be positive and realize that these sounds will eventually become familiar to you, just like speaking.
Yes, please keep in touch and let me know your progress. You are attempting something that is very difficult and needs a lot of guidance. Feel free to contact me as you work to make sure you are doing everything correctly.
Good luck and thanks for contacting me.