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Thread: hearing harmonic intervals/ chords in your "inner ear"

  1. #1
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    hearing harmonic intervals/ chords in your "inner ear"

    Hey,
    i was wondering : are you people able to hear harmonic intervals in your mind's ear , or even chords ? For example , when I try to imagine a perfect fourth harmonically ,I hear the bottom note and then i imagine the top note. So i'm actually imagining the notes melodically . But i wonder if some people can hear two (or more) notes simultaneously in their mind ?

    There's an exercise i've made up and it goes like this : i play a random note , for example a C ,and then i have to imagine the harmonic interval containing that note and a major second up .
    So C and D. But it's really hard...

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomear View Post
    Hey,
    i was wondering : are you people able to hear harmonic intervals in your mind's ear , or even chords ?
    No. I can identify chord changes as they happen, but, hearing them before they are played, no. If you can you are blessed, or coursed, as the case may be.

    People that are blessed this way have a problem playing with us mortals.

  3. #3
    Did I say that out loud ? joeyd929's Avatar
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    ear trainer

    Here is a cool little ear training application. http://teoria.com/exercises/ie.php

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomear View Post
    Hey,
    i was wondering : are you people able to hear harmonic intervals in your mind's ear , or even chords ? For example , when I try to imagine a perfect fourth harmonically ,I hear the bottom note and then i imagine the top note. So i'm actually imagining the notes melodically . But i wonder if some people can hear two (or more) notes simultaneously in their mind ?

    There's an exercise i've made up and it goes like this : i play a random note , for example a C ,and then i have to imagine the harmonic interval containing that note and a major second up .
    So C and D. But it's really hard...
    im sure there are some people who can compose harmonically, though i've never met a person who "thinks" in terms of harmony outside of standard progressions. usually (in my unqualified experience anyway), the melody comes first and the harmony is made to fit, or the harmony kinda happens by accident while noodling around and someone says "hey that was a cool sound, lets keep that".

    when i hear an interval, i recognize it by its "beating", or oscillation caused by two overlapping frequencies. this falls apart for me with chords, as i can only recognize the basic triads and a few 7ths by ear. when it comes to jazz chords with weird voicings and/or alterations i have to listen really hard, and sometimes even have to use software to analyze whats going on.

    edit: by the way, i did a similar exercise back in the day, except that i both sang the interval against a drone note and played the interval on either a piano or a guitar (rather than just imagining it). hope that helps.
    Last edited by perth; 12-11-2011 at 12:58 PM.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomear View Post
    Hey,
    i was wondering : are you people able to hear harmonic intervals in your mind's ear , or even chords ? For example , when I try to imagine a perfect fourth harmonically ,I hear the bottom note and then i imagine the top note. So i'm actually imagining the notes melodically . But i wonder if some people can hear two (or more) notes simultaneously in their mind ?
    There's an exercise i've made up and it goes like this : i play a random note , for example a C ,and then i have to imagine the harmonic interval containing that note and a major second up .
    So C and D. But it's really hard...
    No, I don't think I can hear things like that.

    But I wonder why people spend valuable practice time trying to identify different pitches anyway.

    If I wrote a list of all the different things I should practice every day, then I'd literally need 48 hours per day. But since I have to compromise with about 6-8 hours practice a day, I have to be selective and concentrate just on what seems really vital.

    I don't know if Bach or Mozart ever practiced any ear training, but in more recent times, whether it was Django Reinhardt in the 1940's, BB King in the 50's, Hendrix and Clapton in the 60's, or Paul Gilbert in the 80's & 90's, or even Kurt Kobain with Nirvana and onwards to the Foo Fighters and the rest today, I doubt if many of them had ever even heard of the idea of "ear training", much less actually spent any significant time practicing it.

    So, I think that does tell you it's far from "vital". If I had more time then I might practice it, but I'd need more than 24 hours a day.
     

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    hey everybody ,
    thanks for your replies , i guess i'm not the only one who has problems imagining chords or harmonies, so i'll stop worrying about it
    the reason I brought it up was because I have a lot of problems singing harmony. I always get distracted by the other singer(s) vocal line(s) so i've been spending some time with ear training ,especially harmonic intervals and chords.
    But to be honest , i sometimes have some trouble hearing my own melody in my head before singing it

    i've been using http://www.iwasdoingallright.com/too..._training.aspx for some time

    crossroads , maybe your blessed with a 'good ear' and then it wouldn't make a lot of sense to do ear training but for me it really helps...
    I 've never had any music education but I've been playing guitar for about fifteen years, but only 2 years ago or so i realized that i'm not hearing what i'm playing in my head. My hands just go over the fretboard by using my 'muscle memory' and my 'visual memory' .

  7. #7
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    I've been told guys - with no formal training - have a hard time singing harmony. We want to sing lead. Now gals fall right into singing harmony. In the band we all sing backup to most of the choruses and don't worry about "us guys" just singing lead.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomear View Post
    Hey,
    i was wondering : are you people able to hear harmonic intervals in your mind's ear , or even chords ? For example , when I try to imagine a perfect fourth harmonically ,I hear the bottom note and then i imagine the top note. So i'm actually imagining the notes melodically . But i wonder if some people can hear two (or more) notes simultaneously in their mind ?

    There's an exercise i've made up and it goes like this : i play a random note , for example a C ,and then i have to imagine the harmonic interval containing that note and a major second up .
    So C and D. But it's really hard...
    hey guys

    I have a great german book wich i can only recommend its called "Neue Jazz-Harmonielehre" (=New theory of Jazzharmony) written by Frank Sikora a british Jazztutor teaching in Switzerland he wrote:

    my translation:
    "to sing a tone and think of another while singing means to precive to 2 tones at the same time. You are listening polyphonic even though you sing only one. the other note is just a picture of you imagination.

    When you say: "I am going to sing a maj7" then you hear the root note in relation to the one you are singing. you have to able alwys to hear more than there in reality is. the root note is vibriting within yourself (your imagination)"

    In that chapter there are a few exercises. I f you like a post them too.

    Its a espcially for composers a helpful tool. Just imagine a deaf beethoven who is writing the 7th symohony.
    But Jazz- and Rockmusicans have it too. Once I asked Guthrie Govan if he's always while improvising hearing the line before playing it and he said that he is always imagine it the same way as hes playing it. As me for example, I'm often "surprising" myself with the lines i am playing. But I am working on it .

    Just imagine the possibilities of creation with perfecting this ability. You could write whole songs without touching an instrument. Wouldn't that be cool?
    In Ron Gorrows Book he is teaching this for the matter of transcription.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomear View Post
    crossroads , maybe your blessed with a 'good ear' and then it wouldn't make a lot of sense to do ear training but for me it really helps...
    I 've never had any music education but I've been playing guitar for about fifteen years, but only 2 years ago or so i realized that i'm not hearing what i'm playing in my head. My hands just go over the fretboard by using my 'muscle memory' and my 'visual memory' .
    Hi, ... no I donít think I have a "good ear" at all. But in writing the above I was thinking of my experiences as a guitar player, not thinking about singing. But I can imagine that ear training might be more useful for singers rather than for instrument players.

    Just on the issues which you and TheDaco mention of hearing or imagining phrases in your mind when you try to improvise (on guitar) - I do find that happens, but I donít think it's because I naturally have a good ear or anything like that. Instead I think that happens simply because I've played for enough years to recognise the sound I can expect from each note on the guitar, and especially because I am doing that from within a pattern of scale notes which is very well known to me, ie scale patterns that I have practiced & listened to literally millions of times...

    ... so I expect that's exactly what's happing with Guthrie Govan and others too. That is - it's not so much a case of them having an exceptional hearing ability for music, but more simply just the fact that after many years trying to experiment by creating licks from favourite scale patterns, you are able to anticipate the sound that will arise from any of the notes.

    You'd probably find the same thing if you played by a different method not relying on scale patterns. Eg, if you were a jazz player following chord tones ... in that case, you practice for years listening to the sound that you get from hitting certain favourite notes as chord tones ... you are repeating all those same notes and intervals many millions of times, so that eventually you are able to anticipate in your mind what your improvised phrase will/should sound like.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheDaco View Post
    hey guys

    I have a great german book wich i can only recommend its called "Neue Jazz-Harmonielehre" (=New theory of Jazzharmony) written by Frank Sikora a british Jazztutor teaching in Switzerland he wrote:

    my translation:
    "to sing a tone and think of another while singing means to precive to 2 tones at the same time. You are listening polyphonic even though you sing only one. the other note is just a picture of you imagination.

    When you say: "I am going to sing a maj7" then you hear the root note in relation to the one you are singing. you have to able alwys to hear more than there in reality is. the root note is vibriting within yourself (your imagination)"

    In that chapter there are a few exercises. I f you like a post them too.

    Its a espcially for composers a helpful tool. Just imagine a deaf beethoven who is writing the 7th symohony.
    But Jazz- and Rockmusicans have it too. Once I asked Guthrie Govan if he's always while improvising hearing the line before playing it and he said that he is always imagine it the same way as hes playing it. As me for example, I'm often "surprising" myself with the lines i am playing. But I am working on it .

    Just imagine the possibilities of creation with perfecting this ability. You could write whole songs without touching an instrument. Wouldn't that be cool?
    In Ron Gorrows Book he is teaching this for the matter of transcription.
    hey that seems like a great exercise to start , never thought about it. If you could post the other ones too that would be great . Maybe I'll check out the book too but I do hope there's an English or Dutch translation 'cause my German 'ist nicht so gut'
    And I too have the problem of not being able to hear the lines before playing them , I have the bad habbit of fiddling around the fretboard without "hearing" the lines I'm playing and then discovering "hey that sounded pretty cool, I should remember how to play it"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crossroads View Post
    Hi, ... no I don’t think I have a "good ear" at all. But in writing the above I was thinking of my experiences as a guitar player, not thinking about singing. But I can imagine that ear training might be more useful for singers rather than for instrument players.

    Just on the issues which you and TheDaco mention of hearing or imagining phrases in your mind when you try to improvise (on guitar) - I do find that happens, but I don’t think it's because I naturally have a good ear or anything like that. Instead I think that happens simply because I've played for enough years to recognise the sound I can expect from each note on the guitar, and especially because I am doing that from within a pattern of scale notes which is very well known to me, ie scale patterns that I have practiced & listened to literally millions of times...

    ... so I expect that's exactly what's happing with Guthrie Govan and others too. That is - it's not so much a case of them having an exceptional hearing ability for music, but more simply just the fact that after many years trying to experiment by creating licks from favourite scale patterns, you are able to anticipate the sound that will arise from any of the notes.

    You'd probably find the same thing if you played by a different method not relying on scale patterns. Eg, if you were a jazz player following chord tones ... in that case, you practice for years listening to the sound that you get from hitting certain favourite notes as chord tones ... you are repeating all those same notes and intervals many millions of times, so that eventually you are able to anticipate in your mind what your improvised phrase will/should sound like.
    Hey , I think I get what you're saying . With "good ear" I actually ment that you're probably able to hear the melody before playing it, not perfect pitch or anything like that.
    On the guitar i can 'improvise' blues solos al day long by just using the major or minor blues scale( I know the positions on the fretboard and the notes I can choose from ) and using licks that I practised before . But it's not really improvising when you're not hearing the notes before you play them. I just know that a certain riff will sound great from experience in the given context. But the problem is that when I'm singing I can't fall back to my fretboard and scale positions
    Last edited by Tomear; 12-16-2011 at 10:43 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomear View Post
    Hey , I think I get what you're saying . With "good ear" I actually ment that you're probably able to hear the melody before playing it, not perfect pitch or anything like that.
    On the guitar i can 'improvise' blues solos al day long by just using the major or minor blues scale( I know the positions on the fretboard and the notes I can choose from ) and using licks that I practised before . But it's not really improvising when you're not hearing the notes before you play them. I just know that a certain riff will sound great from experience in the given context. But the problem is that when I'm singing I can't fall back to my fretboard and scale positions
    Well I think that obviously depends on whether you are talking about playing a precise and practiced lick which you have learned in the past. In that case you are obviously not improvising it .... versus ... the opposite situation, where you are attempting to improvise the licks in the sense that you really don't know in advance exactly which notes you will play, but as you are playing you anticipate in your mind what the next note should sound like, and you play that note (or at least, you try to).

    It's never truly "new" of course. That is - whenever we improvise, we are always relying on sounds and licks that we have heard and/or learned in the past.

    Sometimes that happens without us realising it in any clear way ... ie we might think we are improvising something entirely new and unplanned, but if you stop to think about it and listen to what you actually played, then it's always highly reminiscent of all sorts of similar sounding phrases that you learned to play in the past.

    But after playing and practicing for enough years, you do get to a position where you can anticipate in your mind the sort of phrases you are about to play/improvise. Though as I say, those phrases are always just variations of things that you already knew very well ...

    ... and I think the key to realising that, is that you are not playing from randomly selected frets/notes on the guitar (or other instrument). Instead, you are playing from a very well rehearsed and practiced scale pattern or other well identified framework, selecting your notes from within that basic framework ... and you are doing that because that scale pattern or "framework" has become familiar to you as the source of sounds/notes which you know best both in terms of their physical finger positions and their sounds.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomear View Post
    hey that seems like a great exercise to start , never thought about it. If you could post the other ones too that would be great . Maybe I'll check out the book too but I do hope there's an English or Dutch translation 'cause my German 'ist nicht so gut'
    And I too have the problem of not being able to hear the lines before playing them , I have the bad habbit of fiddling around the fretboard without "hearing" the lines I'm playing and then discovering "hey that sounded pretty cool, I should remember how to play it"
    Ok Tomear I will post the others ones soon.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheDaco View Post
    Ok Tomear I will post the others ones soon.
    Great ! I can already see some improvement using the first exercise !

    Edit:
    Well , I'm so impressed with the progress i've made so far that I've ordered the book yesterday , I'm willing to pay some money for good info . I'll just have to revise my German a little bit.
    Last edited by Tomear; 01-10-2012 at 09:47 AM.

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    New here. Stumbled on this thread while researching the topic of hearing chords.
    I think I can somewhat hear chord colors, and focus on some of the important tones. It's pretty fuzzy though.

    I wanted to say I also find difficult to clearly hear melodic lines over a background harmony, more specifically the first note of the lines. Let's say I'm on a C7, playing the chord in root position on the left hand. My "inner ear" will be full of the chord's sound, with little room for anything else, so if asked to sing a line I will probably sing the upper note (first thing my ears usually catch), i.e. the minor 7th, as my starting point, and then improvise some phrase. Actually once I got the starting point I can hear pretty clearly what follows so I'm no longer in the dark. If I wait for the chord to fade out it gets much easier for me to imagine tones that are not in it, even some altered stuff.

    I've been working a bit on that for some time. Not enough to make significant progress though.
    I don't know if it's something that I should focus on. Only thing is, it seems that many cats have the ability to sing stuff right away. Even people who may have much less recognition skills than me, actually I think this is a quite unrelated brain task. I have the feeling that as a piano player I never had to really develop the inner ear, unlike horns or non-fretted strings (or singers obviously) who cannot rely only on the instrument to produce a given pitch in tune. Moreover, melodic instruments have to somehow ear the harmony in there head when they practice alone.

    Fact is, I find a bit strange that it takes me intense concentration to hear and sing the 3ce on some drone, while I can recognize complicated chords in a split second. For me this is a hole in my musicianship, and I have the intuition it doesn't help with improvisation.
    I'm really not a genius but still my playing is kind of advanced, enough to jam with skilled people and get some compliments. But let's someone play the first chord of a well-known tune and I can't sing the damn first note without fumbling around. That's pretty bad to me.

    I've been into Barry Harris' master classes these days, and it is obvious that the man clearly hears every line he plays. He does all his teaching humming and singing, away from the piano...

    Well sorry for bumping this old thread but my experience may be relevant to someone

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