Key Retention is a common problem that all ear training students encounter. This article will explain some of the hurdles a musician needs to get over and some books and exercises that will help to improve your key retention. I've created many courses that will help various aspects of your aural comprehension which I talk about some of these in this article. Mostly I'd like to bring your attention to a new series of books I've been releasing called the Harmonic and Melodic Equivalence Series.
Although this series can be used to develop your ability to play more modern melodies in your improvisation I also recommend using the Harmonic and Melodic Equivalence Series for ear training because they can really help you with your Key Retention. First let me explain what key retention is, and why it is important. Many students tend to modulate (change keys) way too much when they are listening to music. The more you modulate the harder it is to understand and hear music. That is not to say that you shouldn't modulate ever, but most students modulate for instance, on every chord of a chord progression. This isn't ideal for hearing music and if you can develop the ability to not modulate as much, and to stay grounded within the key center you will find it easier to hear and play over various types of music. I originally put out a course called Key Retention Builder to address this issue, and it has helped many musicians to stop modulating so much. Think of the Key Retention Builder course as a "clinical" way help you avoid modulating at the drop of a dime (or chord change). While this book gets you going in the right direction you also need to apply this ability to real music. To address this I released a series of direct application courses called Practice Perfect Applied Ear Training which so far contains the following series:
- Practice Perfect Applied Ear Training Series
- Practice Perfect Applied Jazz Ear Training Series
- Practice Perfect Applied Jazz Standard Ear Training Series
- Slash Chord Series
- Practice Perfect Applied Classical Ear Training Series
Those courses require you to practice listening and singing exercises over real music to improve your key retention as well as to apply your One Note Ear Training skills. All of these courses go a long way toward helping you build your key retention but there is one missing factor in all of this. You see, when I studied with Charlie Banacos he strengthened my key retention by giving me singing assignments with various types of compositions from jazz standards to jazz solos to classical compositions, all of which I had to sing for him every week. One series of exercises that I found to be especially hard was singing melodies that were common in one key center, but singing them in a different key center. For instance, singing the diatonic chords of C major in the key of Gb Major. Your ear wants to you to pull yourself out of the key of Gb and into the key of C. With practice this exercise will strengthen you ability to stay in the key of Gb while singing a melody commonly found in C Major. In the long run I found this kind of exercise to be one of the most valuable Charlie gave me.
It can be tough to find musical examples that help you with this issue, but you will find them in abundance in the Harmonic and Melodic Equivalence Series. And this is particularly true with the 19A, 19B and 19C volumes because they deal with two major triads, a major and minor triad and two minor triads a whole step apart which of course happens in many places in a major and melodic minor ascending scale. So a good thing to do is take a page from each of these books and sing through it first in the original key, but then in other key centers. For instance, sing the C major exercise in F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, B, E, A, D and G. As you get further way from the original key you will find it increasingly hard to stay in the key center. This is an excellent way to slowly built your key retention and to find out where your weak points are.
So these Harmonic and Melodic Equivalence Series books are excellent choices for this important part of developing your ear training skills and it's why I have them listed in the Ear Training section on the muse-eek.com website. Adding these exercises to your daily routine won't take up an extreme amount of time if you limit the number of pages and measures that you tackle each day. So add this into your daily practice and you will find that all music will get easier to hear as your key retention improves.
Bruce Arnold Music Education Genealogy Chart
You might enjoy checking out the “Music Education Genealogy Chart” located on my artist’s site. You will clearly see the historic progression of pedagogy that is the basis for Muse Eek Publishing Products. Great musicians throughout history have been studying the ideas presented by Muse-eek.com which derives its content from a a lineage that stretches back to Scarlatti!