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Ear Training

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Playing in tune should involve the ear more than the eye. If students rely on their tuner, they won't be able to hear if it's in tune or not. I love using a drone or "The Tuning CD" by Dr. Richard Schwartz! "Planning to Play in Tune" by Kathy Blocki is a fabulous book.

Any other suggestions?

Elizabeth Brightbill Elizabeth Brightbill 15/04/2023 3:50 pm

@paulamims I love Kathy's tuning book, and I also encourage students to play with drones. That said, I've discovered that some students progress with the visual-- sometimes it takes quite a while before they're ready for the drones. Interesting story: I have a student who has absolute pitch. She can transpose better than any student I've ever taught because of her amazing ear. Yet, when it comes to tuning, she has a very hard time matching pitch! When we first started working on this, we'd play the same pitch and she couldn't tell that we were out of tune. I'd intentionally play out of tune with her and then ask her if she could tell whether I was higher or lower than she was. That was a challenge at first, but she improved somewhat with that exercise. I also tried drones with her but didn't get very far, so I've recently had her play very slow scales (whole notes at q=50-60) with her best tone, looking at the tuner. Her intonation has improved more than I would have expected. She's now ready to play simple melodies against drones. As a result, I'm trying this approach with a few other students and am amazed it's working with them too. It's really fascinating to me that this student can immediately play any tune I play by ear, in any key, but has struggled with the subtleties of pitch.

Kathy Blocki Kathy Blocki 21/04/2023 11:31 am

@paulamims This is quite an interesting phenomenon! When I was teaching the ear training class at a college, I had a student with perfect pitch that couldn’t hear the tension and release of chord progressions. There is so much more to ear training and playing in tune than just having “perfect pitch.” I do not have perfect pitch, but I like to say I have micropitch. This is a made up term, but describes what the years of ear training has accomplished. The journey started as a little one in the Cherub Choir at our church. (I can assure you that the term Cherub was in name only.) Just learning to sing on pitch is foundational to ear training. This is especially true for flute players where the flute is just an extension of our voice.
More tomorrow!