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Figuring out the notes you hear...


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Is there an easy way? I've been teaching myself piano for a few months now, and I've gotten to where I can play fairly well, and play while playing my harmonica.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mprocR4vAWE&feature=bf_next&list=PL4D46CD092CCDE14F&index=73

So, I want to learn this. I can't find any sheet music, so I've been trying to do it by ear. Is there a trick to doing this sort of thing by ear, or is it all knack and experience?

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Mmm... dictation. It's a skill that needs to be put into practice, there's really no two ways about it.

Some tricks to it: learn intervals by associating them with well known songs. For example, you could memorize a descending major third by imagining the first leap in the Mario theme song. Whenever you hear that leap you know what it is. Association to every possible interval (there are about 24 of them - 12 up and 12 down) will help you learn dictation faster.

When listening to music, listen for patterns. You'll find that there are a whole lot of them out there (Up a major third then a minor third to make an arpeggio, anyone?), so remembering these will help you when you come across them in music you're trying to dictate.

Otherwise it's a skill that only comes through diligent practice. I practiced by rearranging VG music by ear (no MIDI ripping - that doesn't help dictation), so perhaps that's a good place to start :P.

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Singing solfeg helps a lot because you start to associate the syllables with pitches, and when you associate solfeg syllables with scale degrees, it helps you keep your tonality.

If you don't know all the solfeg scale degrees:

Major scale: 
Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Di Ri Fi Si Li
#1 #2 #4 #5 #6

Ra Me Se Le Te
b2 b3 b5 b6 b7

So a minor scale, would be "Do re me fa sol le te do." And the Star Wars theme is "Sol Sol Sol Do Sol Fa Mi Re Do Sol."

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What Gario and IBBIAZ said are probably the best tips anyone has ever given me. When I (formally) learned solfege in high school, my teacher taught us to listen to intervals and associate them with popular songs and jingles (P4 is "here comes the bride", P5 is star wars, M6 is the first two notes of ABC or NBC chime... I forget which *BC it is, etc.).

It also helps if you adapt this to your own methods of learning. Taking myself as an example, I visualize everything in my head as a picture/shape. Being primarily a guitarist, whenever I hear an interval, I associate it with some kind of shape that the interval makes on the neck of the guitar. For the piano, it has helped me greatly to shift my way of viewing notes from strictly notes to seeing them more as intervals from each other, and then seeing each as a kind of line or shape with particular distances.

Then just practice while thinking about all this forever. It'll become natural eventually.

Again - association, association, association.

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One of the most important things is being able when listening to orient yourself within the key, because this will help you figure out how the notes relate to each other. Which is to say, in order to use solfege syllables to deal with a melody, you first need to figure out which syllables go with which notes in the melody. Ideally, you'll eventually develop your ear to the point where you can tell how things relate within the key and will be able to figure out the solfege just by listening for characteristic melodic and harmonic features, but when you're just starting out, it will probably be easiest to 1) find the notes that the melody uses 2) see if these notes can be assembled into a scale and 3) if the scale is clear, base your solfege designations on that scale.

It's good practice whenever you have a song stuck on repeat in your head to try to figure out what its melody would be in solfege.

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Its all about intervals basically. I work out stuff by ear all the time - never really learnt to do it, I've always been able to with little effort.

The way I do it is I memorise the tune I want to learn, and then with each note I successfully figure out, I just work out the interval in my head for the next note. Usually I can do it instantaneously but sometimes it requires more thought to figure out. Thats how I make all my music, everything is by ear. There is trial and error involved, sometimes i'll get a note off but that helps me figure out where the note is I want to find so its all part of my process - trial and error.

So yeah... learn your intervals, what a 1st-3rd interval sounds like, what a 1-5th sounds like, what a 1-6th sounds like. Once you've got that down... I'd try and work out the melody of an easier song, like... lets go with something traditional and say... the melody line of "when the saints go marching in" which doesn't have more than a 3rd interval difference between two notes, which makes it easier to figure out than many songs. Then try going with something a little harder maybe.

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Eventually one can learn intervals without trial and error, it's a bit like my "compose with your eyes" thread. When you know all the intervals you can compose without listening to the notes. Except it's the opposite, you hear notes and turn them into notation.

This is unfortunately impossible with electronica, because you make all of the instruments with synthesizers. Unless you can read Osc and LFO values and replicate the sound in your head (or vice versa), bye bye techno. :(

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This is unfortunately impossible with electronica, because you make all of the instruments with synthesizers. Unless you can read Osc and LFO values and replicate the sound in your head (or vice versa), bye bye techno. :(

We're talking about notation, though, rather than sound design.

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You missed Neblix saying that Chariots of Fire started with a parallel fifth.

Parallel 5th =/= leap of a 5th (which is what Neblix said).

Moseph's description of it clearly shows that means 'parallel'... which indeed sounds like a failed music theory student's counterpoint exercise :P

And the first leap in the melody of 'Chariots of Fire' is indeed a fourth, not a fifth. There are some horn motions before the melody that are leaping fifths, though... so there's room to save yourself, Neblix.

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Parallel 5th =/= leap of a 5th (which is what Neblix said).

Moseph's description of it clearly shows that means 'parallel'... which indeed sounds like a failed music theory student's counterpoint exercise :P

And the first leap in the melody of 'Chariots of Fire' is indeed a fourth, not a fifth. There are some horn motions before the melody that are leaping fifths, though... so there's room to save yourself, Neblix.

No, I said parallel before. And I did mean the slow attack slow release synth brass leaping fifths.

BUT I EDITED SO YOU GUYS STOP BOTHERING ME FOR IT. :tomatoface:

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This is unfortunately impossible with electronica, because you make all of the instruments with synthesizers. Unless you can read Osc and LFO values and replicate the sound in your head (or vice versa), bye bye techno. :(

Haha yeah I realize that. You could study it to some degree. There isn't any real reason for it though.

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I don't think anyone's commented yet on the example. It's basically a bunch of major 7th chords in root position with a lot of chromatic movement (i.e., the chords don't all fit nicely into the same key). If you figure the chords out first, the rest is easy since the melody basically follows them. Btw, those vocals really irritated the hell out of me. -_-

Learning what intervals sound like is a good start, but being able to listen for entire chords is even better. I guess it takes experience and a heavy music background to do it quickly though.

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