Singing Correct Pitches over a Drone
Singing Correct Pitches over a Drone
Q: I had contacted you about a year and a half ago with ear training questions. I'm progressing with everything. I'm studying with Garry Dial the "Charlie Banacos lessons". My question relates to using a recent assignment as an additional ear training exercise. The assignment is called "tension chart". It lays out all the possible permutations of the extensions of every chord type. There are 2 ways to practice it: as block chords and arpeggiating up and down each chord. I was thinking it would be a good idea to sing the arpeggiations as an additional separate exercise, but wanted to check with you as to how to go about it in line with the contextual method. I'm currently working with one-note from Fanatic's Guide to Ear Training Sight Singing, Ear Training One Note Advanced, and Key Note Recognition. So... the tension chart. Should I practice 1) singing over a drone focusing on each pitch of the chord and how it relates, 2)singing up and down the chord while sustaining the sound of the entire chord, 3)singing up and down a cappella? If I sing over the drone, how do I decide which pitch to sing over? For example with Cmaj13:C, E, G, B, D, F#, A, it's simple enough to to use the C, but one could also use B and have it be a bIImaj7 in the key of B. On, say, C7(b9,#11,13): C, E, G, Bb, Db, F#, A, would I sing the chord over an F drone, a B drone, a C drone? I'm sure one can do all these different ways, but which way would you recommend starting, or would you say I'm not ready to do this particular exercise until I've mastered one-note Fanatic's Guide to Ear Training Sight Singing I'm working on 5ths (I, unfortunately took a long break out of frustration... lesson learned...) I hope I've been clear in my question(s) and look forward to your response. Have a great day!
A: Nice to hear from you. It's unfortunate that few people actually understand what Charlie Banacos's ear training exercises where really trying to do. Yes of course you want to hear notes in a relationship to a key center but what do you do when chords become part of a chord progression? That's when it gets complicated when you start practicing anything from scales to arpeggios to extended groupings of notes that form chord tones and tensions or other forms over chord progressions. First the easy part. You can of course use a drone and then try singing correct pitches up and down a grouping of notes whatever they may be. I usually recommend the MetroDrone to do this because you can slowly speed up the tempo and you just have one note not a chord playing the drone. This is of course useful when you have a one chord vamp that you want to solo over. Once you start adding in chords to a progression and then start singing the notes that changes everything. You might check out a few things to see how I set this up. Look at the exercise on page 17 of the Fanatic's Guide to Ear Training Sight Singing that is one exercise using a blues progression.
Another would be to look at the whole Secondary Dominant book for ideas on practicing singing correct pitches of extended chords. You refer to this problem when you talk about a bIImaj7. If you were to sing a bIImaj7 in the key of C the notes would be Db, F, Ab, C and you would sing those with solfeggio, Raw, Fa, Lay and Do. So as you can see this is a huge undertaking to sing every chord against a MetroDrone much less every chord in and how it relates to a key center. Personally I took all 7th chords and used the exercise on page 17 of Fanatic's Guide to Ear Training Sight Singing and I was singing correct pitches through 24 permutations of every chord and substitute chords with that exercise. Took me about a year. Made a huge difference in understanding and developing my ear. Yes this stuff takes a long time and most importantly you can't get frustrated that just prolongs the inevitable. You have to do this stuff if you want to hear correctly. If you aren't hearing correctly then whatever exercise you are working on, even if you are singing correct pitches, is in my opinion a waste of time. "Think the way you hear" should be your mantra. If you always keep that in mind you will see your playing really blossom. It's too bad most musicians don't realize this fact it seems like many think this will magically happen at some point. I have not found that to be the case.
It is also recommended that you read Bruce Arnold's Blog at his artist site. It contains more discussion of the musical topics found in these FAQs as well as other subjects of interest. You will also find the "Music Education Genealogy Chart" located here which shows you the historic significance of the music education products found on the Muse Eek Publishing Company Website.