Saturday, October 29, 2011

More Ear Training Songs

I've been slow to post recently, but I've been trying to keep up with my teaching duties and my muse.

Lately, the latter has been urging me towards songs that help teach or reinforce concepts in ear training. This involves math and proportion, and thus is perhaps not entirely out of place on this site. I've already posted others of my music education songs.

So, here are a few of my more recent endeavors in that regard. The first came to me as I was studying an old ear training text, which asserted that one of the first things one ought to teach students was to hear intervals with their inversions. There are several good arguments for this, including the fact that if you can quickly identify the inversion of a larger interval, you essentially halve the number of intervals you need to be able to hear to transcribe them.

As I read through the list of intervals, I started singing them in my head. And I started with the minor third, which often implies to me, if heard out of context, the interval between "mi" and "so." And then I followed it with the leap from "so" up to "mi," and it immediately asserted itself as a song. It only took a few minutes to map out how the rest of the song should go. Sometimes what is obvious is also what is best:

I didn't imagine another song would come so soon on it's heels, but my ear training class reached the part of the course where they have to hear the V7 chord in harmonic progressions. For some students, picking out that added 7 is difficult, especially if they haven't already mastered hearing progressions of plain triads. And I had been kicking around a "hook" in my head without being sure how it would fit into a song: "Sol-ti-re-fa, it's a Dominant 7, and brings us home to I." As we started the new section, I played this snippet in class, and one student suggested that I make a deceptive cadence instead. (That's when V or V7 leads to vi instead of I.) That triggered a burst of creative energy, and this song was born, which delves into much more than the V7 chord, but hammers home that sol-ti-re-fa are the notes in a V7.

Note for the curious: "so" and "sol" are interchangeable in my lexicon. I actually prefer the former nomenclature, but many of my students use the latter. I used the latter in this song because we've come up with several mnemonic jokes that rely on the latter pronunciation. ie "How do you know it's a diminished 7 chord?" "It is sol-less." (A diminished 7 chord often sounds spooky.) And for the Dominant 7 chord, "sol-ti-re-fa" sounds a bit like it could be a fictional snack food.

There are still other ear training songs (and science songs) to share here, but I'll save them for another post.