When learning through Holistic Ear Training, you can rest assured that everything is built around these pillars:
- The music you listen to and have loved your whole life is the key to developing a great musical ear.
- Preparing the unconscious by listening emotionally wires us to effortlessly recognize musical patterns.
- Musical elements learned in context, connected to real music, shine with relevance.
- Practicing ear training in real-time musical situations increases our motivation and supports our love of music making.
The music you listen to and have loved your whole life is the key to developing a great musical ear.
This is probably the number one common element shared by Holistic Ear Training’s two main sources: Kodàly pedagogy and New England Conservatory’s Contemporary Improvisation approach. (The latter goes by a new name now and originally was called Third Stream. I got my Master’s degree at NEC during the “Contemporary Improvisation” phase.
This principle not only puts a student-centered focus on everything I do, but it is also sensible. If you are learning to play and create music, you are most likely doing so because there are specific pieces of music that have inspired you. It only makes sense, then to keep those sources top-of-mind as you go. Not only that, but the musical patterns that you most want to internalize and master are those that live in the music you love.
Preparing the unconscious by listening emotionally wires us to effortlessly recognize musical patterns.
Too often in music education in general; and in ear training, music theory, and music history in particular; music is presented in classrooms, sitting at desks, with the music framed as something to study. While it is important to analyze and absorb large amounts of music in the course of music study, we must be vigilant and take an adequate amount of time to listen with the intention we originally brought to the art. Listen in your favorite seat. Listen multiple times. Listen while cooking or walking or hanging out with friends. Let your personal repertoire glue itself to the real life you are actually living. That gives an emotional and spiritual weight to your music and makes the process of opening the music up to train your ear an act of love and fascination.
Musical elements learned in context, connected to real music, shine with relevance.
When you learn a new chord, let’s say for example that it is the supertonic triad (aka the ii chord or “two chord), you will have pulled that from a song that contains that chord prominently. That is a key part of the Kodàly pedagogy that transcends the age of the learner. Your recall of that sound will be infused with the musical experience embodied by the source song.
In the case of the supertonic triad, I love Fleet Foxes “White Winter Hymnal”, whose opening goes elegantly between the tonic triad and the supertonic. It’s a great sound, full of gospel flavor, creating a distinct six-note blend that sounds almost pentatonic, but not quite.
Continue to accrue elements in that way, and you will not only have many elements available for your ear, but you will also have many sources for a single element. Going back to the example above, I have the sound of the ii chord engrained not just from that song, but also from a vast repertoire of jazz music where the ii-7 chord is a consistently appearing ingredient.
Practicing ear training in real-time musical situations increases our motivation and supports our love of music making.
Practicing isolated drills is ok. Playing music where you use your ear is better. Practicing ear training in settings that are a hybrid where the possible music you might encounter can be controlled is even more effective.
That’s why I created Tone Hole for iOS, and that’s why Holistic Ear Training for Busy People will offer real-time recorded musical exercises. We want to limit the possibilities you might encounter at the beginning… say, we’re just going practice recognizing the first few notes of the scale. So we create a piece where you will only encounter notes within that limitation. When you are ready, you start incorporating more possibilities. And you do it in real time, in rhythm, with lively recordings that impart an emotional tone you’ll want to return to.