By far, no matter what you end up learning, or acquiring knowledge about, the most important thing in music is training your ear. And I don’t mean just a little, I mean that complete ear recognition and knowledge is the single most important thing you’ll ever do! What I had early on, was perfect relative pitch. This means that if I hear an A, I can tell you any other note you may play for me, or I can actually sing the notes off the top of my head, all relative to that original home-base tone. But to take it much, much farther, I can safely say with confidence that I hear every pitch in life, and everything as music! This means that say I’m teaching a lesson to someone, and we’re playing in C. Well, then a plane flies overhead, making a sound. Well, I immediately identify that sound as a pitch, or even a “riff” if it consists of more notes, in relation to that key of C we are playing in!
This all means that everything must become music to you, if you really expect to develop your ear to a high level. Just as an artist sees, and a photographer sees, you must hear! I know it’s easier said than done for sure, but the one thing I have noticed is that this particular ability of mine actually continues to improve with age and experience, and it seems to unfold in a very natural way.
One way for you to begin this ear training is to play your chord triads, all in groups of three strings at a time, going up and down and around the entire neck. Then I want you to start to identify and most importantly, recognize these tones for what they are. For any of these to be true chords, they must contain a Root, a Fifth and a Third (minor or major). As you move these up the neck, I want you to identify them individually….for example the top three strings of the open E are G#, B and E. This means you say and hear them as “3rd, 5th, root. “ The next group up, which is based on the “D” form of E, is now “5th, root, 3rd.” The following grouping will also jump around and become “Root, 3rd, 5th.” So as you can see, these notes literally keep playing “musical chairs” with each other, and must start to become recognizable tones to you. This is why for example, I can hear a new cluster of notes called a chord I may not even know, and still be able identify precisely what the intervals and inner-relationships are of all those notes relative to each other.
After you have done this, I want you to use other 3-string groupings and do the same kind of ear recognition with the notes, and speak and sound out the actually values of the notes you are hearing. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the note recognition will start to take hold for you! More on this subject next time, so for now, enjoy this “ear training” extravaganza!