exploring the mind’s musical ear
In this section...
When we sing in what we call Western music, (in contrast to music from India for example) we use 12 tones in our musical system. When we sing melodies, we sing from tone to tone, they are called intervals. String intervals together and we have a melody or a scale. Part of training the brain to think musically is giving it many op-portunities to sing these various distances between tones, over and over again, until strong connections are made in the brain and it becomes easier to communicate these sounds, whether solo or in harmony, or by playing an instrument. The same goes for rhythm. Learning small patterns repeatedly builds the necessary vocabulary for the brain to think musically. By listening to, and singing with, the exercises in this section, you will learn to build your musical foundation, your musical vocabulary, your ability to form musical thoughts, sentences, and whole musical structures that are part of making music.
The 12 Tones
There are twelve tones, also called notes, in our Western tonal vocabulary. They are called, A, B, C, D, E, F, G (the white keys on a piano). The other notes (the black keys on a piano) are called C♯or D♭, D♯ or E♭, F♯ or Gb, G♯ or Ab, A♯ or B♭. Two different names for the same pitch is called an Enharmonic Equivalent.
The symbol (♯) is called a Sharp. It means to make a note go a Semitone (1⁄2 Step) higher (to the very next note to the right on the piano) and the symbol (♭) is called a Flat, and means to make the note go a semitone (1⁄2 step) lower (to the very next note to the left on the piano).
The 1⁄2 Step or Semitone is our closest distance between two notes in Western music culture and we will learn more about whole tones or whole steps, semitones or 1⁄2 steps, sharps and ats in the next chapter. For now, focus your attention on getting acquainted with the sounds of the twelve different tones but also take a look at the keyboard image below to understand this basic concept of where these tones “live” in relationship to each other. This may help you with understanding the aural spatial relationships necessary in building your internal musical “road map” and having your voice follow the map. Referring to the keyboard image, especially in the beginning, will help you to see how far your voice has to go.
All notes sung or played have a wavelike energy called Vibration. All notes vibrate at different frequencies or rates of speed, which is what gives the note its sound. The diagram on waveforms shows a broad-strokes demonstration of vibration.
Some people believe that each note has a special energy or sound color to it. As you listen to each note, try to go “into” the note and be aware of what it means to youor where you might feel energy from it in your body. For example, some people who are very sensitive to where sound resonates, may feel the note G vibrates in the throat energy center while E vibrates in the solar plexus energy center or F vibrates in the heart energy center. Some people nd certain notes very healing to areas of their body. R☞Some people have Perfect Pitch, which means sound registers in a different part of the brain so they know automatically what the name of that sound is but not necessarily how it relates to other sounds. R☞ Relative Pitch is most useful and is what most musicians have. Tune Your Voice teaches relative pitch.
In the following examples, listen for the tones sung, then, sing them back like an echo in the spaces of silence provided for you. It is important to be able to match your voice not only to another voice but also to another instrument. If you are one of those who nd it easier to match to the voice rst, that’s ne for now but soon you will need to relate to an instrument giving you the pitch as well. Use both vocal and piano examples for practice.
Don’t forget to breathe before you sing. Breathe in slowly while hearing the tone rst, so you’ll be ready to sing when it’s your turn to echo the tone in the silent space between examples.
OK, let’s do it again, this time in a different order. Listen for and make sure you start on the starting pitch rst to center yourself before you sing the whole exercise.
They will be very close together so you don’t have to move your voice very far at all to nd them right next door to the one before.
Chromatic means that the notes are given in order of only a semitone or 1⁄2 step apart from each other. There will be more information on this in the chapter on Scales.
Music is organized sound. Intervals are a way of organizing and measuring the musical space between two notes or tones. The space between any two notes is called an Interval. There are twelve kinds of intervals, each with their own characteristic sound and quality, and they all have names based on their measured distances.
Melodic Intervals are what we sing when we sing a melody, one note after the other. Sounding two or more tones at the same time creates an interval known as a Harmony. R☞ And, harmony can be two or more tones or intervals sounding at the same time. (But more on that later on in the chapter entitled Harmony.)
HOW INTERVALS ARE FORMED
Looking at the keyboard chart is helpful in knowing intervals and their distances from
each other. As a reference tool, keep it handy as you go through the lesson.
Some examples of Half Steps
The smallest interval is the minor second. Any note and its closest neighboring note, with no notes in between, forms a minor second interval also called a half step or semitone.
Intervals can also be measured by the number of semitones in between each of the two tones involved in forming the interval.
In music, we count the distance between two tones by always counting the rst note involved in forming the interval as #1. Then count up or down by semitones to the de-sired interval note. For example, to make a minor sixth interval in either direction, start counting on the rst note forming the interval as #1, then go up or down 9 semitones. The last note forming the interval as #9, and you get the minor sixth interval.
Table #2, Interval Distance Measured by Semitones, will clarify and de ne. Study the key-board chart, or refer to your piano if you have one, and read the distance chart below. Included are the notes in-between as another way to check the distance, but the most accurate method is to count semitones, not notes in-between, as one can get tricked around the black keys. Best to include all tones.
Table #2: Interval Distance Measured by Semitones
Why intervals sound the way they sound, no matter if they are high or low, anywhere on the keyboard or in the vocal range, is because intervals are made up of mathematical proportions of numbers. The sound and quality comes from how the two notes relate to each other or are proportionate to each other. Some intervals sound, let’s say, more stable and easier. These have the quality of the Consonantintervals. They have lower proportions of the numbers. While other intervals sound unstable and un- easy. These have the quality of the Dissonant intervals—higher proportion numbers. Tension and release is what makes music interesting, imitate and in uence life. The qualities of the intervals move gradually through consonance and dissonance. Table #3 will guide you through the mathematical spectrum of sound and quality of interval. R☞ The only real way to know the quality of consonance and dissonance is to actually hear and experience the intervals.
Table #3: Intervals, Proportions, Quality—Most Consonant to Most Dissonant
Once you’ve heard all the intervals, the ultimate way to really know them is to simply “know” their sound just like when you first learned that objects have names like chair, table, dog, and . . . octave! This rainbow or vocabulary of sounds is your resource bank when you sing. Not necessarily by name but by sound. By identifying the interval with a name, you’ll have given meaning to the sound and be able to communicate with others, as well as knowing what you are hearing in your head or are trying to produce. Even if you cannot get your voice to match the intervals perfectly, if you know what interval you want, you can at least tell another musician what you are trying to create. Knowing your intervals is just another form of communicating through music and music communicating through you.
Practice With Intervals
Now let’s get to know all these intervals by focusing on any two notes, of our family of twelve notes, to make an interval. Let’s hear what they sound like and what they are called. The more you listen to them early on, the faster they become natural to you. The lesson will take you through all twelve intervals in two different ways: rst, in order from most consonant to most dissonant, and second, from smallest interval to the largest interval.
Practice these tracks by Echo-Singing the examples.
notice how far apart the notes feel in your throat when you sing them.
Echo each one as they are played ascending and descending.
Then listen to the two notes played together.
Find in your mind’s ear, the two pitches just given.
Sing them at the same time the two notes are played simultaneously by moving as quickly as you can back and forth between the two played notes in your mind’s ear and out loud.
After you’ve gone through all the exercises and you are good at the intervals, another great way to practice is to reverse it. After you get the starting pitch, you sing it rst and let the piano be an echo to you, to see if you were correct.
You can also go back and sing them with numbers like 1–3, 3–1, and so forth.
Internally, in your mind’s ear, try to remember what only one interval or pattern sounds like for
several hours a day.
Sing it to yourself in your head then hum it out loud. You can also do the reverse.
Explain to a friend or family member what you are learning and ask if you can sing what you learned to them. Ask them to echo sing an interval back to you. Are you both matching each other?
Surprise a friend with a new interval every time you see them by saying “Hi, Jane, or Hello Bob” with slightly elongated speech enough to sound a pitch.
I’m sure you’d like to do these all in one day but you don’t have to. You can do it again everyday. Just pick one or two intervals and have fun echoing them with the tracks. When you understand the routine, it’s better if you savor them one at a time until they are clear to you. It depends on how fast you want to go. The more you listen to them, the quicker and deeper you will know them. Mix them up too, like: fth, third, seventh, fourth, and sixth in other orders from these posted here in the tables.
Intervals Most Consonant to Most Dissonant
The most consonant and perfect interval is the Octave because of its proportions. The octave is made up of two notes that have the same name and sound the same; only one tone is eight notes higher or lower than the other one—at the beginning and end of our eight note diatonic scale.
In music we always count the rst note as number one, then count up or down. (An octave is also thirteen half steps. More on that in the chapter on scales.)
Be sure you are singing all the way up or down the octave. A common mistake is to sing only ve notes apart instead of eight. (If you know how to sing a major scale, think major scale as in do–re–mi–fa–sol–la–ti–do or sing the scale with numbers 1–2–3–4–5–6–7–8. The rst and eighth tones form the octave.
Interval Matching Exercises
Let’s begin the exercises with the CD tracks. Listen for the starting pitch, then the octave played ascend- ing, echo that, then listen for the octave played descending, echo that, then listen for the octave played at the same time. You sing each note up and down alternatively.
T-CD 1 Tk #33 Octave sung & played ascending, descending, and together
L-CD Tk #1 Octave listening experience
Fifths are also perfect and are 5 tones of the scale apart or 8 semitones apart. The fifth is consonant and sometimes mistaken for the octave yet more “hollow” sounding. Echo-Sing the exercise.
T-CD 1 Tk #34 Fifth sung & played ascending, descending, together
L-CD Tk #2 Fifth listening experience
S-CD Tk #8 Singing fths (5ths)
Fourths are also quite consonant but not as “hollow” sounding as the fth.
Echo-Sing the exercise.
T-CD 1 Tk #35 Fourth sung & played ascending, descending, and together
L-CD Tk #3 Fourth listening experience
Interval Matching Exercise, Continued
Continue experiencing the intervals presented in the order of Table #4 and the corresponding CD tracks.
Table 4: Intervals Most Consonant to Most Dissonant
T-CD 2 Track #1
Notice how very close together the minor second sounds and feels in your voice espe-cially compared to the octave. Here’s a tip about the 7th intervals: the major 7th really wants to expand higher to resolve itself to the octave, while the minor 7th wants to contract or the top note wants to pull down.
Intervals Smallest to Largest
Practice with intervals going from the smallest interval to the largest interval of the scale. Echo-Sing. You can also use Listening CD Track #13 to practice singing intervals from small to large ascending and small to large descending.
Intervals Scrambled Practice
T-CD 2 Track #1 L-CD Track #13
The brain learns by comparison. In each example you will hear two different intervals. See if you can tell the difference between them and identity their correct interval names. Each example will compare different intervals. For example, “Is this an octave or a minor second?” Continue experiencing the intervals with the same Echo-Singing routine. The correct answers are given on the left speaker. If you do not want to hear the correct answer immediately, turn your speaker balance to the right.
Table #6: Intervals Scrambled
Practice Singing Intervals from a Starting Pitch
In each of the following examples, listen for the starting note and what interval to sing in the silent spaces. The correct answer will be given after each example. If you want to sing in harmony or make up harmonies, you’ll need to be able to complete this practice with ease. You can reuse these examples many times over for practice. You can also give yourself a note and tell yourself what interval to sing, then go to that track and see if you were correct.
Practice Building Tonal Memory, Hearing Tones and Intervals
T-CD 3 Tk #18
T-CD 3 Tk #19
T-CD 3 Tk #20
T-CD 3 Tk #21
T-CD 3 Tk #22
T-CD 3 Tk #23
T-CD 3 Tk #24
Example: 3 note Melodic Pattern voice & piano 3-note Melodic pattern—piano
4-note Melodic pattern—piano
5-note Melodic pattern—piano
6-note Melodic pattern—piano 7-note Melodic pattern—piano 8-note Melodic pattern—piano
Listen to each example and Echo-Sing what you hear. The chart will tell you how many notes are played in each example for you to Echo-Sing.