Let’s face it: You don’t really want to study ear training.
You want to sight read with confidence, learn songs quickly and accurately. You want to respond intuitively to the music you hear, you know…you want to ‘play by ear’. Even if you don’t play improvised music, you want to personalize the music you play, to make it your own. You want the skills Performance Ear Training provides.
You want to be versatile and highly adaptable so that you can get to actually playing music instead of stuck in the learning stage forever.
Performance Ear Training is an ear training course based upon a collection Study Concepts that help to develop your innate physical response to the sounds you hear.
I found my passion and stride as an educator in the ear training department at Berklee College of Music.
This was quite ironic since as an undergraduate at Jersey City State College, ear training turned out to be my most challenging course. To my dismay, the bulk of the in-class activity involved singing increasingly difficult melodies that sounded nothing like the music I routinely heard. Our professor, Dr. W. sat erect at the piano like a constipated toad croaking out names of his victims one by one. The instructions were clear: when you were called, stand and sing. Dr. W. never sang himself; instead, he barked syllables at his victims and in spite of being a virtuoso organist, banged out every missed note on the keyboard with a stiff index finger. Each correction, whether I was in the hot seat or not, felt like a dagger in my throat. I was always surprised that my knees supported me when I had to stand for my turn. With a shaky voice and blurred vision, I bared my soul for the critical toad and his other doomed prey. Seconds later, I’d be sitting in a pool of shame and terror at what I believed was a glimpse into a dismal future.
Somehow I got through…
…and my experience in Dr. W.’s aural skills class ended up serving as a negative model for me many years later, as a fresh faced Berklee College of Music faculty member. Whenever a problem arose, I’d smile and ask myself:
“What would Dr. W. do?”
And then I’d do the opposite.
Ear training as a one dimensional activity
Yes, my first exposure to ear training was presented to me as a one-dimensional activity, pretty much singing solfège melodies from a book. Over the years as a teacher, I realized memorizing melodies to pass a quiz just wasn’t enough for the modern music student. I used my memories of frustration as an undergrad to shape my lessons and concentrated more on the process of developing a musical ear. As service to the college, I did ear training ‘experiments’ with many young people who came for help which enabled me to develop a collection of concepts that eventually formed the basis for my text, Performance Ear Training published by Advance Music.
So… what is Performance Ear Training?
It is a collection of time based Study Concepts designed to teach you specifically how to study in order to develop an innate physical response to musical sounds and their relationships.
As implied, the exercises and Study Concepts of P.E.T. are executed with a loose sense of time, in effect, limiting the amount of time to respond.
It works because you have to slow down in order to perform with a minimum number of errors.
Performance Ear Training uses two primary systems:
Solfege syllables and the Movable DO system.
The Movable DO system designates the scale degrees in relation to one another in a tonality. Do – 1st degree, Re – 2nd degree, Mi – 3rd etc… The DO, that is which note is considered DO, is determined by the key center. So, if you’re in the key of F major; the note F is your DO. For the key of D minor (or major); the note D is your DO. Thus the term, ‘movable DO’.
Movable DO is a useful tool for developing ‘relative pitch’. Fixed DO, has its uses but I use primarily movable DO. In essence, fixed DO substitutes the names of the notes with solfege syllables.
Performance Ear Training is for music teachers…
…who want a systemized way to teach aural skills, one that is flexible and can be easily and creatively inserted into existing lesson plans.
It’s for performing instrumentalists & vocalists who want to:
Learn music quickly
Sing better in harmony
Learn complex melodies with less hassle
Recognize chord progressions
Keep place while sight reading
Sight read & memorize with ease
Inner Hearing – Using your imagination to develop your musical ear.
Sing Then Play – A technique to sensitize you to fine differences between notes and improve intonation by setting up expectation in the ear.
Harmonic Basslines – Singing lines that accurately convey the harmony of a progression.
Straight Line Exercise – Performing stepwise lines through chord changes.
Tendency Tones – using the natural tendencies of notes in the context of key to learn note colors.
The Concept of Continuance – Sight singing technique for training to never lose your place.
More info about the Study Concepts can be found at:
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