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  • Ear training and intervals, oh my.

    If I start on the low E string, 5th fret. I'm on an A. I now know if I move down 2 strings and up 2 frets, I'm on another A that's an octave away from my starting point. When I alternate between these two notes, I hear a difference. Compared to each other, one sounds higher pitched than the other and the other one sounds deeper, lower in pitch. I'm having a heckuva time discerning that these two notes sound the same on some level. Those A's should sound similar in some way. I can only hear the difference. I don't know what word is used to describe this similarity. Is it Timbre?



    I then alternated between my starting A, and a perfect 4th, or the D on the string right below, same fret. I can also hear that these notes sound different, one is deeper/higher pitched then the other.

    The A and the D should sound different which I do hear, but I can't describe how they sound different except in terms of highness/lowness of pitch to each other.



    So I found some online ear training web site. It will play any 2 tones and ask me to guess and figure out if how far apart they are in terms of intervals.....

    Is this the way to train my ear? Listen to these tones over and over until something finally clicks?
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    <img src="images/misc/quote_icon.png" alt="Quote" /> Originally Posted by <strong>jonfinn</strong>
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  • #2





    I don't know what word is used to describe this similarity. Is it Timbre?



    I don't know if it's technically right, I would call that pitch. The lower A and the A an octave up have the same pitch. You can also here how they sound "the same" in reference to a piece of music. If a chord progression or melody resolves to an A, you'll hear that the lower A on the E string, or the A an octave up both sound "right" and provide that resolution. In the context of a piece of music, they have that same quality.








    Is this the way to train my ear? Listen to these tones over and over until something finally clicks?



    Yeah, pretty much. I think it's easier to hear them separate than hearing them together at first. What helps me, too, is thinking of examples I can easily reference, like "Here comes the bride" - "Here" and "comes" are a perfect 4th. The first two notes of the Star Wars theme is a perfect 5th. The Jaws "dah duh" loop is a half step.
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    • #3
      You could try recording yourself playing a melody starting and ending on the low A, then play the same melody along with it...



      1) ...starting and ending on the high A

      2) ...starting and ending on the high Bb or Ab



      Sometimes its easier to discern octaves when you look at melodies rather than individual notes.
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      • #4






        Quote Originally Posted by BydoEmpire
        View Post

        I don't know if it's technically right, I would call that pitch. The lower A and the A an octave up have the same pitch.




        "Pitch class"



        OP: Keep in mind that it's pretty much impossible to describe the sound of an interval with words. I'd call a P4 "hollow," which incidentally is also an apt descriptor of such descriptors...



        As for the "way to train your ear," I think rote exercises are ineffective by nature, though not without purpose. Certainly the best ear training is learning songs by ear. That's where things, like how intervals sound, will click, and so when the time comes for training drills and such it's more about codifying what you know.
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        • #5






          Quote Originally Posted by NewGuyonGuitar
          View Post

          If I start on the low E string, 5th fret. I'm on an A. I now know if I move down 2 strings and up 2 frets, I'm on another A that's an octave away from my starting point. When I alternate between these two notes, I hear a difference. Compared to each other, one sounds higher pitched than the other and the other one sounds deeper, lower in pitch. I'm having a heckuva time discerning that these two notes sound the same on some level. Those A's should sound similar in some way. I can only hear the difference.




          Compare the lower A with other notes either side of the higher A - a fret or two higher or lower. You should hear that those notes (G, G#, Bb, B) are much more different from the low A than the high A is.



          So it's not so much that you need to hear the two As as exactly "the same thing"; just that - as two different notes - they are much more similar than notes of different pitch classes.









          Quote Originally Posted by NewGuyonGuitar
          View Post

          I don't know what word is used to describe this similarity. Is it Timbre?




          As speechless says, both As are the same "pitch class". But timbre is actually a relevant term here. The timbre of a musical note is a result of its combination of frequencies.

          The open A string has a "fundamental" frequency of 110 cycles per second, or Hertz. But it also contains many partial vibrations, most of them (its "harmonic series") multiples of 110: 220, 330, 440, 550, etc. These are all progressively fainter. But its not a gradual slope. A guitar string sounds the way it does (ie different from a piano A of the same frequency) because its frequency spectrum is different.



          When it comes to octaves on the same instrument, then the open 5th string has the harmonic series 110-220-330-440-550-660 etc, while the A an octave higher is 220-440-660-880- etc. So you can see both how different the two notes are, but also how closely related they are: the whole harmonic series of the higher A is contained within the lower one. And that's kind of the feeling you should get from listening to it: there is no aspect of the higher A that is not part of the lower one. Obviously we can't hear the frequency figures (!), but they blend perfectly. It's like the higher A is the "offspring" of the lower one; but with the different emphasis caused by the fact that we hear the 220 as the strongest frequency in the higher one, while the 220 harmonic of the lower one is less obvious.



          When it comes to perfect 5ths they relate by a factor of 3 to the lower note. So the E on open 1st string is 330 Hz, 3x the frequency of the open A (that interval is a 12th, octave + 5th). Its harmonic series will run 330-660-990- etc. As with A=220, all these harmonics are contained in A=110; but the relationship is a little more distant or removed. This is how we hear a 12th as just a fraction less consonant than an octave.

          When we lower the 12th by an octave to form a perfect 5th with low A (E at fret 2 string 4), the ratio is 3:2. When A=110, E=165. This is a little less consonant again than a 12th, because 165 is not part of the harmonic series of 110. But it's still a very "pure" sounding interval, because a lot of harmonics are shared between the notes.



          (BTW, to be precise, the E is not 330, it's 329.6. This is because, in order to make all half-steps equal, we need to "temper" the scale by retuning notes slightly. You can't hear the difference between 330 and 329.6, but the latter is necessary to make the math work. Google "equal temperament" if this interests you.)







          Quote Originally Posted by NewGuyonGuitar
          View Post

          I then alternated between my starting A, and a perfect 4th, or the D on the string right below, same fret. I can also hear that these notes sound different, one is deeper/higher pitched then the other.

          The A and the D should sound different which I do hear, but I can't describe how they sound different except in terms of highness/lowness of pitch to each other.




          The purpose of the exercise is be able to hear better what's going in music, and to be able to reproduce certain sounds.

          Eg, you need to recognise the sound of an octave, or perfect 4th, or whatever, in order to be able to play it. You don't need to characterise it any way - you don't even need to know its correct name; although of course both things can help.



          One of the most popular ways of training yourself to hear intervals is with well known songs which begin with the interval in question. Eg, for a perfect 4th, the wedding march ("here comes the bride..."), or Auld Lang Syne. For a perfect 5th, you could choose "Twinkle Twinkle". A good octave one is "Somewhere Over the Rainbow".

          You can find various lists on line, such as:

          http://www.earmaster.com/intervalsongs/



          So when you hear an unknown interval, you can hopefully match it to the start of one of those tunes.







          Quote Originally Posted by NewGuyonGuitar
          View Post

          So I found some online ear training web site. It will play any 2 tones and ask me to guess and figure out if how far apart they are in terms of intervals.....

          Is this the way to train my ear? Listen to these tones over and over until something finally clicks?




          That's one way, but I wouldn't say it's the best way. I recommend working with real music as much as you can - because that's the point of the whole exercise after all!

          (If you were training to be a runner, you'd simply go running as much as you can. You might use a gym now and then, if you couldn't go on a run for some reason, or to focus on something specific; but you wouldn't regard the gym as the best training.)



          Lastly, here's a bit of fun:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nl2d4zS56cY
          ...

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          • #6






            Quote Originally Posted by JonR
            View Post

            Compare the lower A with other notes either side of the higher A - a fret or two higher or lower. You should hear that those notes (G, G#, Bb, B) are much more different from the low A than the high A is.



            So it's not so much that you need to hear the two As as exactly "the same thing"; just that - as two different notes - they are much more similar than notes of different pitch classes.




            Ah, that helps. Thank you.









            Quote Originally Posted by JonR
            View Post

            As speechless says, both As are the same "pitch class". But timbre is actually a relevant term here. The timbre of a musical note is a result of its combination of frequencies.

            The open A string has a "fundamental" frequency of 110 cycles per second, or Hertz. But it also contains many partial vibrations, most of them (its "harmonic series") multiples of 110: 220, 330, 440, 550, etc. These are all progressively fainter. But its not a gradual slope. A guitar string sounds the way it does (ie different from a piano A of the same frequency) because its frequency spectrum is different.



            When it comes to octaves on the same instrument, then the open 5th string has the harmonic series 110-220-330-440-550-660 etc, while the A an octave higher is 220-440-660-880- etc. So you can see both how different the two notes are, but also how closely related they are: the whole harmonic series of the higher A is contained within the lower one. And that's kind of the feeling you should get from listening to it: there is no aspect of the higher A that is not part of the lower one. Obviously we can't hear the frequency figures (!), but they blend perfectly. It's like the higher A is the "offspring" of the lower one; but with the different emphasis caused by the fact that we hear the 220 as the strongest frequency in the higher one, while the 220 harmonic of the lower one is less obvious.



            When it comes to perfect 5ths they relate by a factor of 3 to the lower note. So the E on open 1st string is 330 Hz, 3x the frequency of the open A (that interval is a 12th, octave + 5th). Its harmonic series will run 330-660-990- etc. As with A=220, all these harmonics are contained in A=110; but the relationship is a little more distant or removed. This is how we hear a 12th as just a fraction less consonant than an octave.

            When we lower the 12th by an octave to form a perfect 5th with low A (E at fret 2 string 4), the ratio is 3:2. When A=110, E=165. This is a little less consonant again than a 12th, because 165 is not part of the harmonic series of 110. But it's still a very "pure" sounding interval, because a lot of harmonics are shared between the notes.




            Very cool. I wasn't aware of the overlapping relationship. That also helps me to understand.

            You sure know this stuff very well, JonR.
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            <img src="images/misc/quote_icon.png" alt="Quote" /> Originally Posted by <strong>jonfinn</strong>
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            • #7
              One thing and this makes me crazy. When you move from one string to a lower pitched string, you are going musically DOWN. arghh lol.
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              • #8






                Quote Originally Posted by 1001gear
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                One thing and this makes me crazy. When you move from one string to a lower pitched string, you are going musically DOWN. arghh lol.




                Why does that make you crazy? Because physically it's up?

                That's something that confuses beginners until they realise "up" and "down", "low" and "high", mean sound, not position. Shouldn't bother experienced musos like us! (Musically "down" is the same however we hold our guitars; upside down, behind our heads, whatever .)
                ...

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                • #9






                  Quote Originally Posted by JonR
                  View Post

                  Why does that make you crazy? Because physically it's up?

                  That's something that confuses beginners until they realise "up" and "down", "low" and "high", mean sound, not position. Shouldn't bother experienced musos like us! (Musically "down" is the same however we hold our guitars; upside down, behind our heads, whatever .)




                  Didn't make myself clear. I was referring to this:









                  Quote Originally Posted by NewGuyonGuitar
                  View Post

                  If I start on the low E string, 5th fret. I'm on an A. I now know if I move down 2 strings and up 2 frets, I'm on another A that's an octave away from my starting point.




                  That makes me crazy.
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                  • #10






                    Quote Originally Posted by 1001gear
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                    Didn't make myself clear. I was referring to this:







                    That makes me crazy.




                    Right . I saw that too, but let it pass.
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                    • #11
                      Yeah, noticed but I'm crazy.
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                      • #12
                        Here's the link this thread needs, at this special time of year...



                        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dF074CL5vjI
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                        • #13
                          The best way to train your ear is to listen to songs and write out the chord pattern in numbers. E.g. most pop music uses I, IV, V and VIm. If you can start to hear these changes your ear will improve and then hearing chord voicings or intervals will become easy if not simple to hear. Why do you want to learn more about ear training?
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                          • #14






                            Quote Originally Posted by aj_guitarist
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                            The best way to train your ear is to listen to songs and write out the chord pattern in numbers. E.g. most pop music uses I, IV, V and VIm. If you can start to hear these changes your ear will improve and then hearing chord voicings or intervals will become easy if not simple to hear. Why do you want to learn more about ear training?




                            Would be nice to be able to listen to a song, hear what's being played, then play it note for note, or close to it.
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                            <img src="images/misc/quote_icon.png" alt="Quote" /> Originally Posted by <strong>jonfinn</strong>
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                            • #15






                              Quote Originally Posted by NewGuyonGuitar


                              Would be nice to be able to listen to a song, hear what's being played, then play it note for note, or close to it.




                              Sure! That's the goal - pretty much as aj_guitarist describes it in fact.



                              The way to get started is to take a few simple songs where you already know the chords. Ideally no more than 3 or 4 basic triad chords, simple backings, clean sounds. And ideally songs in various different keys.



                              Just listen to the tracks - reading a chord chart but not playing along - and listen for the effects as the chords change. Eg, if the song is in G, listen to how it sounds when it goes to C. That's the same sound as a song in A going to D, or a song in E going to A: it's a I-IV.



                              IOW, what you don't need to be able to do is identify (say) a G chord when you hear it, with no reference. That's perfect pitch, and no musician needs that. (Of course some have it, but the majority, even among the greatest musicians, don't.)

                              What you need to be able to hear is the sound of I-IV, or I-V, or vi-IV, or whatever. So that's what you need to acquaint yourself with, via the songs you already know.



                              Of course you can also strum the chords yourself! Try a few stock sequences in different keys. Play G-C-D-G, then E-A-B-E, and listen for what is the same about the progressions, not what is different. Compare Am-F with Em-C (both vi-IV, or i-bVI changes). Of course G-C-D-G does sound different from E-A-B-E; but you have to ignore the differences.

                              (I mean, that G-E difference of a minor 3rd down or major 6th up is another useful interval to recognise, but is a side issue for this exercise. )





                              It's a similar exercise to learn to identify individual notes. You don't need the absolute pitch of a note, but the interval a note makes with either a chord root or the tonic of the key.

                              To work with recordings (as above, working from what you know), you need notation for the melody - or guitar tab for a guitar instrumental. (Don't pick tab for a guitar solo, which is likely to be way too complicated for this exercise.)

                              To work on your own, play a chord, then pick individual notes out of the chord. Eg, play an E major chord, then pick out just the 3rd string (1st fret); that's the major 3rd. How does it sound against the chord? Pick out the 2nd or 5th string; they're both the 5th of the chord.

                              Play a G chord and pick out the open 2nd string; that should sound the same against the G as the 3rd string 1st fret does against the E.

                              It can help to sing these notes: sing the chord root, and then go up to the 3rd and 5th in turn, taking notice of how each note feels. (This can help you characterise the chord tones, which can help you recognise effects later.)

                              As above, you're listening for similar relationships, not differences of key.
                              ...

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