My post about functional ear training has been quite popular. I’d like to expand on it and show you some additional strategies to get the most out of the free software.
If you haven’t read the first post, please do so now. It covers a general overview about functional ear training, where to download the software from, and your first steps with this method.
Your First Milestone – the Full Major Scale
Before we get to the 2 additional practice strategies to master chromatic notes, please make sure that you can deal with the basic major scale first.
The major scale is the most fundamental scale used in western music. You really need to nail that sucker before moving on to chromatics.
Fortunately, it’s not that difficult. You just need to learn to recognize the sounds that you have been exposed to pretty much your whole life. It’s not something completely strange or foreign to you.
The basic training program that’s built into the functional ear training software does a good job with breaking it up into manageable steps. It’s a good idea to focus on the lower half of the scale first, before tackling the upper part.
With only 4 notes it’s faster to tune into each note’s “personality” and get a feel for the sound. And don’t worry if you are somewhat guessing at first and you go by a sense of high- or lowness when answering the questions. That’s more than ok in the beginning.
It won’t take long until you’ll start to hear that “personality” sound I’ve been referring to.
You’ll start to notice the difference in sound between e.g. the 3rd degree and the 4th degree of the scale. It’s a certain characteristic that’s independent from the actual pitch – meaning, it doesn’t matter what key it’s in. You could be in the key of Eb and hear that 4th degree sound and therefore it has to be an Ab note – yet when you are in the key of C, that same 4th degree characteristic sound lets you know you’ve just heard an F.
Add 1 Chromatic Note to the Major Scale
Now for the fun part…
Instead of overloading your ears go for 1! chromatic note at a time. Here, in this screenshot you can see that I’ve added the minor 3rd to the major scale.
That minor 3rd will stick out. In the context of the major scale it will be the “weird” sounding note. At the same time, while you are on the look-out for the weird sounding note, you’ll re-enforce the characteristics of the basic major scale notes. Quite sneaky, huh? 😉
I’d recommend you learn the notes in this sequence:
- minor 3rd
- minor 7th
- minor 6th
- diminished 5th
- minor 2nd
Focus On Note Pairs
Another strategy is to focus on note pairs. Compare the basic interval sound with its chromatic counterpart and focus on that exclusively.
Here’s an example of the major 7th/minor 7th combo.
Practice the following pairs individually:
- major/minor 2nd
- major/minor 3rd
- major/minor 6th
- major/minor 7th
- compare the tritone (Fi) to either the 4th or the 5th.
All those individual practice sessions will pay off big time when you go for the complete chromatic scale. It’ll give you a fighting chance and, when you get better and better results, will improve your motivation for even more practice sessions.
Bonus Strategies for All Your Functional Ear Training
Here are 3 more practice approaches that really helped me a lot.
1) Think about each quiz. Use the repeat button as often as needed. Sing the note and work out the way up or down to the tonic. Only answer when you are 100% sure of the correct answer.
This approach is a great way to drill in perfection.
2) Again answer only when you are 100% sure of the answer – but this time DON’T use the repeat button. You are only allowed to replay and work out the question in your mind.
A great way to strengthen your aural recall abilities, your inner ear.
3) No replay and no thinking. Answer as fast as possible. If you are wrong, you are wrong. That’s part of the process, too.
This will prepare you for real life application. Let’s face it: there’s only limited amount of use if it takes you 3 minutes to figure out that you just heard a minor 7th. By that time the rest of the band already is playing the next song.
By going for speed (even if it means more mistakes) you’ll train yourself to analyze quicker and develop better musical gut instincts.
Combining these 3 approaches will help to develop a fast and laser-sharp ear.
If you have any additional questions or need help, please feel free to post them in the comment section below. And of course you can brag with some of your functional ear training success stories as well. 🙂