Q: I've just received my copy of Ear Training One Note Complete and Fanatic's Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing. I have two questions, I'll start with the easy one: in the ear training CD I can't help listening to the fundamental at the end of the cadence: the last chord is in root position, so the fundamental sounds longer, which makes it even harder. Is there any trick to correct this problem?
Now for the twisted question: in the Fanatic's Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing you teach the solfeggio syllables Do, Di, Ra, etc. To my understanding, these syllables are used to identify a relative pitch rather than a specific note, so if I asked you to sing 1 #1 2 in the key of Ab, you would sing "Do Di Ra", which would actually be Ab, A, Bb. However, I happen to be French. We don't use the letters C, D, E, F, G, A, B for the notes. We actually call them Do, Ré, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si. Which gives me almost the same syllables both for fixed note names and floating relative pitches, and a lot of headaches in prospect. I don't think I could unlearn the french syllables (they are very instictive), so what I would be inclined to do is transpose the solfeggio syllables, thus 1 #1 2 in Ab would be "Lay La Tay." Have you ever had French-speaking students in your classes? If so, how did they cope with this problem?
A: You should be concentrating more on an overall sense of key rather than focusing on the root of the key. This will take time to achieve but one thing you might try is to listen the the intermediate or advanced CDs because the cadence is quicker and doesn't last as long so it may prevent you from concentrating on the root at the end of the cadence.
What is also probably happening is you have weak key retention so you concentrate on the root to help you hold the key center. This is a natural reaction but over time you want to just have a sense of key rather than concentrating on one note. The Fanatic's Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing singing exercises in general will help to develop your sense of key. But you could also consider doing some exercises in the Key Retention Builder Book. I would also recommend the MetroDrone audio files to use with either the exercises is the Fanatic's Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing or more importantly using them as you practice scales or other exercises on your instrument. Having this constant drone going on as you practice your instrument will really help you to build your ability to remember a key center naturally. Also keeping a steady practice schedule every day is very important. This is especially true if you can do the listening and singing multiple times throughout the day. This will really help to build key retention quickly. I guess with all things there are little tricks but really the majority of what is going on here is that you are changing your perception of sound, and that just takes time. Sometimes you will feel like you're getting nowhere and then other times you will have a breakthrough. The important thing is to keep a positive attitude, while you also "observe" your mind and the process you are going through to make sure you aren't developing bad habits.
I have never had a French student that had any insurmountable problem changing their solfeggio. It's like learning anything new; it will take time. Overall I think you need to develop some patience with yourself and faith that you have the capability to control your aural recognition destiny.