Q: About a year ago I made a commitment to myself to work on my ears everyday. I decided to start by learning intervals. I knew that some people were hearing intervals by association to the beginning of songs. Like you, I figured that it was not the best way to go at it. I then started to learn each interval like if I was learning a "colour," as you put it. I listened to each interval long enough that when I hear one, I just know what it is (no crutches, just plain recognition). When I got on your site, I was excited to read the way you approach music. I bought the Fanatic's Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing and the Ear Training One Note Complete Book. I read all the information in the books, and all the information from your website. I was excited to get to the CD exercises even if I knew it would take me years to master (because my ears are not well trained and because it took you one year and a half to get only one note). I was so surprised of my success that I am sure I am doing it wrong (I have done the first CD with about 85% of good answers within about ONE HOUR !!!).
OK...here is how I went about it: You say "listen to the progression and get a sense of the key" - Well, for me, a sense of the key means the root. So, when I listen to the progression I hear and hold the pitch C in my head. After the progression, you play a note... Well, for me it is just like when I was practicing my intervals with my ear training software, but now it is even easier because the first pitch of the interval is always C.
Am I thinking about it the wrong way ? If yes, why is it wrong...I mean... I get all the good answers after all.
A: You're close in your assessment of the ear training, but I think it's important to make a couple of distinctions. After you hear the cadence in the key and hear a note, don't think about the key or hold the C in your head. You are already in a key, so trust yourself and just listen to the note that you need to guess. You don't want to think the key or the note C, but just allow your memory of the key or the note C to be the focus. The reason for this is the conscious retaining of the key or the note C adds an extra conscious mental step into the ear training process which will slow you down. Many times students find that it's easier if they hold on to the key center in their mind when doing the ear training. This is because they have weak Key Retention (the ability to retain a key center after the sound of the key has died away). By working on the singing exercises in the Fanatic's Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing your key retention will improve over time. You could also work on some exercises from the Key Retention Builder Book. Key Retention Builder has some targeted exercises that specifically deal with building your ability to retain a key center. So if you have an extra 15 minutes a day you could add that into your practice schedule.
Just remember that when listening to the Ear Training One Note Complete CD you just want to hear the note, guess what you think it is and trust that over time your internal sense of Key Retention will help you hear the unique quality of that note against the previously heard key center chord progression.