As a young(er) musicology student I spent hours and hours in ear training lessons and in practice sessions training on hearing and singing intervals up and down. It took me ages to learn and I was never able to use it much to create or to transcribe music. I never really understood why, because it was part of the curriculum at the university where I studied, and all the teachers there emphasized the importance of being able to hear and sing intervals. So, eventually with enough practice I did learn, but only after teaching guitar full time for years. Now I’ve been able to figure out why this method is ineffective and how to train your ear to actually get results. In this article I will tell you why you should not waste your time practicing intervals and what you should do instead.
What are the reasons we practice ear training? It’s pretty simple. We want to make better musical choices, be able to transcribe music, and play the music we hear in our heads. In short, it helps us be more competent musicians. The problem with intervals is that the distance between two notes without the musical context in which you hear it means nothing. So you are actually spending your time practicing stuff that doesn’t have much to do with real music. What makes a note good or bad, a melody beautiful or ugly is not the distance between notes, but those note’s relationship to the root of the chord over which it is played or heard. I know this might be a bit hard to follow, but stay with me. Let’s take the major and minor chord for example. Both of them contains the same two intervals, a major and a minor third. So why is there a distinctive difference between the sound of each chord. The reason is called note functions. The major chord contains the root, MAJOR third and the 5th (defined by their relationship/distance to the root not the distance to each other) and the minor chord contains the root, MINOR third and the fifth. So it’s not the distance between individual notes, but the relationship to the common root note, that gives a chord its sound and this is a crucial difference that effects the way we should train if we want to get good, and who doesn’t want to improve?
Instead of practicing intervals, you wanna practise listening to the individual note functions. This is the way we hear chords and melodies so practicing this way will make you able to actually use your improved ear to make music. Also, you’ve been training this your whole life without knowing it simply by listening to the music you love. So, what does a major third sound like, what does a minor sixth sound like and so on. This will help you be able to play whatever is in your head, transcribe extended chords and instantly recognize melodies. I know it works, because I do it with my students all the time. Give it a try and save yourself years of wasted time practicing intervals.
About the author: Janus Buch is a professional guitar teacher teaching in Bredballe near Horsens in Denmark. If you are looking for top quality guitar lessons Bredballe Guitarskole is the place to go. The students there progress fast and without frustration because Janus is an expert at what he does. If you are ready to finally get your guitar playing up to speed, contact Janus right now. Bredballe Guitarschool offers the best value for money guitar lesson in Horsens
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