Key Context and its Importance in Ear Training
Key Context and its Importance in Ear Training
Q: I’ve recently begun working with your Ear Training One Note Complete Method and also just ordered the Fanatic’s Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing which I’m looking forward to. I feel like I’m getting a good handle on the concepts you’ve presented in the book and on your website, but still have some intellectual hurdles to cross as far as relating your ear training techniques to my knowledge of music theory.
For example, let’s say you’re improvising over a minor II-V-I in C. Theoretically, you could play D Locrian #2 over the II, G Altered over the V, and C Melodic Minor over the I. So in one sense you’re playing in the key of C, in another you’re playing the modes, and in still another you’re playing through the keys of F Melodic Minor, Ab Melodic Minor, and C Melodic Minor.
If I understand your material correctly, you would hear this entire passage in C provided the tempo is fast enough. However, from an intellectual standpoint it makes more sense to think of an E note played over the II as the natural 2nd (or 9th) of the chord, rather than the major 3rd of the key of C (which in this case is minor). On the other hand, it would seem kind of strange to sing with a movable ‘do’ system where you’re changing keys every two or four beats to fit the chords (especially at a brisk tempo). I imagine this approach would be even more tenuous with an atonal piece of music.
I guess I’m just trying to reconcile the fact that I’ll often think of the notes more in relation to the chord I’m playing over, rather than the overall key. My hope is that with enough practice and conditioning using your system my ear will become refined to the point where it will be able to sort out such ambiguities on its own. As such I’m not really too worried about all of this. However, I would like to hear your thoughts on the subject, if only to satisfy my curiosity.
A: It is unfortunate but understandable that many people think of notes more in relation to a chord rather than to an overall key center or key context. With thousands of schools, hundreds of books and musicians telling you otherwise I could understand your dilemma. I believe I’ve laid out a logical argument for believing in the key center over the chord but really the only thing that will convince a person is their ability to hear it for themselves. You wouldn’t be studying my system if the other one was working for you so I think you intuitively know that you need to at least try my method. The arguments I’ve presented that every chord isn’t it’s own world and that listening for intervals or for a note’s distance from another is dicey are already within the books you own or on the muse-eek.com website.
I think the important thing for you to think of now is that working towards my way of hearing will take discipline, keen deductive skills and an ability to think through your personal patterns of thought and recognition. I’m the first to say that this is not easy and this is why I’ve decided to not just write a book but to help people out via email. I know from experience that many questions will come up based on your previous conditioning and knowledge of music. I think my first suggestion would be to master the Ear Training One Note Complete and get a good bite into the Fanatic’s Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing. Think of the Ear Training One Note Complete like learning the alphabet. Learning how to make the letters of the alphabet into a coherent language will take much work and extra assignments from me that aren’t contained in my books but are talked about within the FAQs. The important thing is don’t figure because I gave one person a particular assignment that it’s probably good for you.
Although meeting a student in person is always the best, with many online students I’ve exchange hundreds of emails so I’ve grown to understand their needs over time and therefore make recommended assignments. So I urge you to take advantage of my assistance to help you answer the tough questions, self doubts and further paths of study. I find the students that do best with this method first practice very hard but think deeply about ear training and really want to reach a high place in music. I’m glad to hear you are taking the first steps and please stay in touch so I can help you with your journey.
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.