Archive for June, 2010


Ear Training

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Formal ear training is a skill that musicians (and particularly vocalists required to sing backing vocals) must use constantly.  In summary, what I’m talking about here is the ability to hear and recognize the intervals between one note and another.  This can be melodic or harmonic.

In regards to melody, as one note follows another, whether your melody goes up or down, there are specific intervals between each successive note.  For example, in ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’, the first two notes are on the two syllables of the word ‘Some-where’.  These notes are an octave apart.

Harmonically, this is when two vocals are present singing together but singing two different notes.  This is heard very frequently in many forms of music, but is really distinctive and easy to hear in Bluegrass.  Often, the melody is sandwiched between a lower and higher part, all sung together in what would be called close harmonies.  What that means is that every vocal harmony is singing the next available chord tone either above or below the melody.  So, if the melody is on a ‘c’ in C Major the upper harmony part would be on an ‘e’ and the harmony part below it would be on a ‘g’.

It’s important to note here, that harmonies need not be close all the time, and even in one song can change from close to open voicing.

Getting back to my post title though  As vocalists, we can be called upon to sing harmony parts with little or no notice, and developing the skills to do so make us ever more valuable as sidemen, or improve our abilities to harmonize with ourselves when tracking vocals in the studio.  That brings me to the link that I found online a few weeks back.

Ricci Adams has put together the website and has graciously allowed me to include the url here in my post.  His website puts together both written theory and aural skills exercises that when practiced can greatly improve one’s ability to create harmonies or understand what another artist is doing so that one might be able to make use of that idea in the future.  Practicing just a few minutes a day on either the interval trainer or chord trainer has had dramatic improvements on my own ability to hear and recognize chords on the fly, which is a skill that is a must have for any working musician.

In summary, a little bit of music theory and aural skills practice goes a long way, and Ricci Adams’ website offers a great way to get some practice in.  Best of all, it’s totally free!

As always, I hope that helps!


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