ear training part 8
This series on relative pitch was not designed to be rushed through in an evening. I have tried to give some foundation and the bare minimum info on what you need to know to work out all these pitch puzzles.
I have tried to illustrate how to progress to the next levels. Get to the point where you can trust your reference note. Get comfortable hearing and singing notes relative to your reference pitch. Get comfortable hearing half steps and steps past an octave.
Can one turn this into absolute pitch? I am not sure. Personally, I have worked on this and could get very close. By that I mean I could trust my ears 99 out of 100 times. I studied every instrument and how they produced sounds and where their weaknesses and strengths were sonically. Does a grand piano sound different playing in Gb than in the key of E? The answer is yes. Here is an easier one. If you cannot tell the difference between an open string guitar chord or a chord where all the strings are held down, then start playing an acoustic guitar and hear how an open B string sounds differently than the same octave B played on another string. Stringed instruments, even modern electric stringed instruments have characteristics that you can use to can help you figure out keys and notes if you cannot trust your ears 100 percent. instruments that have flaws built into them are a bit harder to guess. Some types of double reed instruments are inherently out of tune and the player constantly adjusts. Added to that they may come in different sizes and different keys. But if you needed to, you can hear what keys they are in and what notes are being played.
Why does one go through all the trouble to do this?
I have a band I write for and play in and run the rehearsals and front the performances. I want to know instantly if a player is lost, or just playing a wrong note. I want to save time by hearing everything everyone is playing and determine if I need to stop and point something out or let it go. A wrong note is no big deal unless it is written that way, but being lost is another thing and the reason why it happens has to be addressed. I can hear everyone’s notes and where they are playing on the chart. I can hear all the notes in chords they keyboard player plays and remember if wrong notes are repeated in the same place. That would mean there is another problem.
Someone wants to learn a solo off of a recording. You can see how relative pitch works in this example. Or transcribing a complete arrangement off of a recording, or just write out a lead sheet, that is written music with the melody and chords.
Or compose a song without playing an instrument. Your reference note may not be correct, but everything on the page will be right in relation to itself, even though it may be in the wrong key. ( if you were thinking in the key of A and then find out later that the A was actually C , your composition will still be correct, just in the “wrong” key.
Hear what is written on a page of music. The melody, or chords, or both, or an instant arrangement in your head or hear what this would sound like with a piano trio, or a vocal group or an Irish band or whatever.
I do not have perfect pitch. But have worked on developing my ears so I can do all these things.
I will leave this series with this tidbit. I mentioned that with these techniques you can start playing songs you have only heard once. If you are a vocalist, there will probably be lyrics involved, and this technique doesn’t work for that. But it will with melodies and chords. There is a bit more to it than just knowing the steps between the notes, and I may write a bit about that in the future.