Discerning Modulation from Ear Training
Q: Thanks for the info. I’ve got the Direct Application CD Volume One Major and Dorian that I listen to, as well as the Ear Training One Note Complete and the Instrument Color series. I’m finding that for the alto and tenor sax the timbre of the instrument makes it harder to pick the degree than when the piano or trumpet plays it. I’m also working through Contextual Ear Training and Fanatic’s Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing. I purchased the Secondary Dominants book but I haven’t gotten very far into it. I have to sing the notes very slowly to avoid hearing them as a melody instead of the sound against a key center.
I feel like my ear only improves when I practice this stuff, but it can seem like there is no progress. I can’t discern degrees in real time music yet without listening to it repeated several times, although I’m sure that comes with more practice and getting better at discerning modulation.
I think I am getting better at discerning modulation, I heard the song “Jet” by Paul McCartney & Wings today and after some repeat listening it sounded to me like 1 1 2 b3 in B. After the intro it sounds like it modulates to A. Is that what you hear? I’m assuming it’s a minor vamp at the beginning so that puts my ear in B Dorian until the verse switches to A.
Thanks for your help
A: Thanks for the email. Since you mentioned earlier that you are having problems with Key Note Recognition I would suggest only transcribing things right now that are over a one chord vamp. Your ears are not strong enough to process progressions with other harmony going on in my opinion. Certain since you haven’t learned how to modulate yet which comes with the Ear Training Two Note Series you don’t want to be transcribing music with your ear that modulates when you don’t have the tools to be discerning modulation yet in your toolkit. You are only developing bad habits. You are still dealing with hearing things as melodies rather than pitches in a key and you haven’t develop a universal ability to hear “one note” ear training on any instrument because of the “color” of the sound so I’d stick to what you need to do first and not jump around and develop bad habits. It is good that you want to apply the ear training but I think you would be better off applying it to the Direct Application books and MP3s so you have a controlled situation where you can use the tools you have developed in earlier books and not be doing things that you are not prepared for yet like, perhaps, discerning modulation.
Also remember with any song where you want to know the right chords or melody you can look up that song on the internet. There are many resources for that if you really need to know something about a song that is beyond your abilities at the moment. In general I don’t go and transcribe songs for students that contact me through email. I will help though if you have found that a progression is “X” and you are hearing it in the wrong key etc… Usually though this mostly happens because students try to jump ahead of their current ability and very often start developing bad habits to compensate for their lack of skill and knowledge.
I would also highly recommend you get started with the Scale Analysis course. The overall idea of this course is to teach you how this ear training works when you have a chord progressions. Basically Scale Analysis teaches you how you will hear the scales that go over a chord progression. There are two sides to this course. One is filling in the worksheets and the other is doing the ear training exercises that accompany the course. If you could get started filling in the worksheets now and in 6 months or so start the ear training exercises when you get better at the “one note” ear training that would be the best approach. I’d like you to do one worksheet a week which will take about 20 minutes to fill out. There are 36 worksheet to complete in the course so that will take 36 weeks or 9 months to complete. If you can get to the point that you intellectual understand how this ear training works it will help you see what you are working towards and you will also start processing chord/scale relationships in the right way.
Hope that helps
Hope that helps let me know if you have further questions.
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.