ear training

Playing By Ear

It's around this time of year that music students and music teachers alike feel a bit brain dead. I try to change things up a bit so that my students are learning, but learning music in a different way - playing by ear. Playing by ear is a great way to practice your ear training and brush up on your music theory.  My ConCan students would tell you that this is just a step up from their Keyboard Harmony and Transposition requirements for their piano exam.

Shortly after Halloween, my students started working on Christmas music. A couple of my older students wanted a bit of a change, so they opted for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa music. One week, I asked them to pick out the tune to one of their favourite songs. Subsequent weeks involve adding the harmonies. Then, if they wanted to sing along with their song, I would ask them to transpose the song into their range. It doesn't have to be seasonal music. Popular music is great for this exercises - the melodies have narrow ranges and most likely, you only have four chords to deal with. The one thing I've noticed with songs I've learned by ear is that I tend to remember them longer than pieces I've learned primarily through note reading and repetition.

Musings on the First Week of of the Fall Term

Since everyone is adjusting to their fall schedule, my main priorities this week were to reconnect with returning students, to get to know new students and assess who did their homework (and who needs extra review). I gave all the kids some origami that I made over the summer. Their first homework assignment is to compose or improvise a short song about one or both of their origami. It will be a musical carnival of the animals, with songs about whales, seals, fish and various birds.

Terrific Thursday Link #3

Thanks to Liam, a student, and his mom for this week’s link. www.musicstudy.com has ear training and music theory software programs to help students of various levels. Check out their free demos. © 2006 by Musespeak™, Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

Friday Fun Link #3

This week, I’ve directed several students to www.musictheory.net . Ricci Adams, the site’s creator, has done an excellent job at preparing tutorials to musicians. The Flash presentation on rhythm has helped at least one of my students. My favourite part of the site is the Trainer section. Where was this when I was studying? The Interval Ear Trainer is set up like a game. The Trainer will play an interval (the distance between two notes) and the student must identify what the interval is. The Trainer even keeps score. The Scale Ear Trainer and the Chord Ear Trainer are set up similarly.

The Note, Key, Interval and Triad Trainers are like online flashcards.

It’s a great way for students to practice their ear training and note reading when they don’t have a study partner.

There is even a staff paper generator for those who want to try their hand at composing.

Check it out.

(c) 2005 by Musespeak(tm). All rights reserved.