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Ear training

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by jimmysquid, Apr 20, 2001.

  1. jimmysquid


    Jul 5, 2000
    Hi Steve,

    I've enjoyed reading your responses to the various posts.

    I was wondering if you could give me some ideas for ear training exercises? When I just sing a phrase or scat ideas come much more freely than they do if I'm playing the bass. What are some ways to improve this?

    btw- I think you're the only person on TalkBass that has ever mentioned Jonatha Brooke. I'm listening to her new CD right now and marvelling how someone can come up with as many UNBELIEVABLE hooks as she does. What do you think of her new CD?

    Take care!

  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    ear training has had a rather strange mystique built up around it, but is largely about interval recognition and phrase vocabulary, as far as I can see. With that in mind, any of those ear training programs that gnerates random intervals that you then have to recognise is going to give you some practice, but just sitting down with a Cd player and your bass and working things out is probably the most integrated place to start. As you get good at it, you'll need less and less tries to get the lines right, and when you start to get better at that, try writing the lines down without the instrument there. Then, move on to trying to play things completely from memory - listen to a tune, then a couple of hours later, try playing it.

    Another thing that has really helped me is free improv with other musicians - I don't mean just hitting any notes, but more 'spontaneous composition' - listening and reacting in real time...

    As for Jonatha's 'Steady Pull' - it's brilliant, as is everything she's ever done. She's also worked with two of my biggest musical heros - Bruce Cockburn and Michael Franti. jonatha can do no wrong! :oops:)

  3. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    You suggested one of the best ideas I have ever heard in ear training. You said listen to a song, then try to play it strictly from memory several hours later.

    That is so vital an aspect of ear training and would work on one of my "weakest links", music memory. Doing that self-drill you suggested would hone in on that better than any other ear training drill I have ever seen, because it works on that specific skill...keeping music in your brain for an extended period of time.

    How many times have I heard a thrilling peice of music in a movie or in a concert, but went home and had no clue what I'd heard?

    It also is far more active than just music recognition. I can recognize music when I hear it again...often in the first few notes...but to reproduce it hours later with no sample to hear...that is a challenege.

    Thank you so much for that advice. I will start that practice today and make it a daily part of my life.

    Jason Oldsted
  4. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    I love it when a throw away comment can inspire something like that - well done for picking it out. It is something that I do fairly regularly, and a skill that comes in more and more useful on gigs, whether for quoting tunes in other contexts, of just for cutting down the time it takes to learn a set for a wedding gig or whatever. If you 'know' the tune in your head, and can get pretty close just from memory, it only takes one listen to the tape to clear up bits that you're not certain about to have it down.

    Do report back on how you get on,


  5. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Well I tried yesterday and failed, but I think I know why. I went to see "Driven", the new Sylvester Stallone film about Grand Prix Formula One racing. It is really just a remake of "Rocky" and "Top Gun" with a change of venue and machinery. It is also essentially a two hour music video.

    I started out trying to remember a cool riff I picked up at the very start, but the aural bombardment of one loud song after another resulted in audio overkill. In other words...too much competeing information. I don't think even Mozart, himself, could have remembered what he had heard after he left that movie/cum music video.

    But I am unbowed and unbeaten. I plan to try again today (with a CD, not a whole movie.) Your idea has given me new enthusiasm, because you are the first person to have suggested a way to develop and fatten music memory.

    jason oldsted
  6. I find it good to watch original bands play and try to remember a particular hook line(and the chord change it goes over if any), and play it on bass when I get home.
    that's actually become my acid test of whether a new band is any good - if there is a hook line in any of their songs that I can remember later.
  7. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Sounds like a good drill. I like that.

  8. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    nice idea to try and play things that you've only heard once...

    as an acid test of a good band, i'd suggest that it's perhaps a little limiting in terms of what can be classified as 'good' music. Limiting artists to things that are memorable and hummable after one listen would mean that complex structures, longer form melodies, ambient music, free improv and many jazz forms would be discounted, or classed as 'less good' just because they aren't as catchy as 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand'... there's great music across the whole music spectrum - One of my favourite albums of last year was 'It Goes Without Saying' by The Dum Dums, which sounds like a greatest hits package, the tunes are so catchy. conversely, I also bought a duo CD by Gary Peacock and Bill Frisell that is rather free, involves some passages of full on 'noise' and takes many many listens to get a handle on. Neither are intrinsically good or bad, just different.

    ...just a few thoughts...

  9. erm, I really only apply that "acid test" to indie or rock bands.

    tonight I watched three bands play-the band led by the brother of the drummer in my originals band, and after that two nearly identical Muse clone bands:rolleyes:. (strangely enough last year at the same venue it was Stereophonics clone bands....

    unfortunately I can't remember any riffs from any of the bands...........maybe it was the alcohol:oops:
  10. update- I now remember one riff from the first band.

    and funnily enough I picked up a book called "Ear Training and Sight Singing" by Maurice Lieberman for 49p in a charity shop today.
  11. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Another great way to develop your ear is through singing. I have had ear training using the Zoltan Kodaly method, which starts you off with basic intervals and pentatonic scales, so you can get accostumed to the sound of intervals, such as major seconds, perfect fifths and the like. You can sing and accompany yourself on your instrument, singing with the sol-fa method (Scale names do, re, mi, fa sol la and ti) or with letter names (In c, c, d, e, f, g, a, b)

    You could sing, for example, Ode to Joy as follows:

    mi mi fa sol sol fa mi re do do re mi mi re re

    mi mi fa sol sol fa mi re do do re mi re do do

    or in letter names, (If in C)

    e e f g g f e d c c d e e d d

    e e f g g f e d c c d e d c c

    Analyze each interval and think of a song that starts with that interval. "Auld lang syne", for instance, starts with a perfect fourth, and so on.

    Good luck.

    Will C.:cool:
  12. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Thanks for that Will - Solfege is something I've been meaning to learn properly for years. I use the same ideas but without the names, though that would make sense to learn... :oops:)

    ...guess I just set myself some homework there... anyone recommend a good book/website/CDR for learning this stuff? I'll start with Ed Friedland's excellent article in Bass Player a few months back...


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