Hearing Scale Degrees Practical Guide

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Hearing Scale Degrees

Hearing Scale Degrees is fundamental to my approach to ear training. The statement Hearing Scale Degrees is sort of a misnomer.  Really you want to hear and memorize the sound of all 12 pitches against a key center not just scale degrees of a common scale. There is a classic ear training exercise I recommend to my students called the “One Note” Contextual ear training exercise. If you follow the previous link you can test yourself to see how well you do.

Can’t I just go it on My Own?

If you listened to the “One Note” exercise and are thinking ‘I’ll just make my own exercise files or use a free app to do this ear training,” you are of course welcome to try. But there are many problems that creep up as you do this ear training. There are also many ways that you can do this ear training in the wrong way. Seems like a simple exercise but it’s what goes on in your mind that counts. I’ve given some of the common problems student have on this page.  I also have a blog on ear training to help students understand the process. There are so many ways that a student can mess up and then have to relearn, you’d be amazed. So please get in touch. I don’t want you to waste time or have to unlearn something to relearn the right thing. I’ve experienced it and seen it way to much in my life as a teacher.

Hearing a Key Center

Most music students can hear a key center but often they are extremely weak at MAINTAINING the key center. This is one of the many problems that occur when starting the “One Note” exercise that I just discussed. I frequently have to give students with weak key center sense special assignments to build up their ability to hold a key center. That’s because if you think about it, if you are trying to learn the sound of all 12 notes in a key center and you are weak at maintaining a key center, then you can see how this can stop you right in your tracks.

Hearing the Relationship of Notes Rather Than Hearing Them in A Key Center

Another problem I have frequently found with students is they will do the “One Note” exercise but then they can’t relate the sound of the note in the previous example to the new note they are trying to guess. It is a typical way that Interval Training rears its ugly head. You can really hurt yourself by practicing the wrong things. This is again a reason to have a teacher that you can talk to about your ear training problems with exercises you are doing.

Hearing Scale Degrees. How Long Does it Take?

The question I get most from students is “How long will it take before I can do the “One Note” exercise?” The honest answer is weeks or years. Hearing scale degrees first depends a lot on your previous training.  But mostly, you progress depends on how much time you put into practicing. I should add that it is also crucial to maintain a positive attitude when practicing. For myself I had to unlearn 8 years of practicing intervals so it took me 1 and 1/2 years to master the “One Note” exercise. I teach at Princeton University and students that have no previous ear training experience usually learn “One Note” in two semesters. They usually practice with their mobile device as they walk between classes which means they probably do about one hour of ear training every day.

Maintaining a Positive Attitude When Working on Hearing Scale Degrees.

One of the most common problems older students have is maintaining a positive attitude when doing the ear training exercise. First they feel they should already know how to do this, and that creates frustration and anxiety. Studies have shown that as your mind gets more and more upset it shuts down your ability to remember. It’s a protection mechanism that your body uses to protect yourself. As I explained on the How to Practice Ear Training page, ear training is all about memory so keep a positive attitude and you will learn much faster.