Chords and Ear Training

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Chords and Ear Training

Postby jfh2424 » Tue Sep 22, 2009 2:01 pm

So, I am working on improving my ear. This is not a strong point for me. In Band In A Box, there is an ear training place where they spit out intervals and ask you to choose which interval is played. I have that pretty much down.

However, I suck at the chord one. Basically, the program plays a chord and asks you if it is major, diminished, minor, augmented, dominant ect. For you guys who are able to do this, do you hear the chord and sing out the chord tones to help you? Or do you use a sonic tag?

For the interval one, I used tags for a long time until I was just able to hear and recognize the interval without a tag.



Re: Chords and Ear Training

Postby charII » Tue Sep 22, 2009 7:41 pm

How do you figure this stuff out? Its just practice playing and listening. I don't use any sonic tags (what are they?), I just know what the chord is.
"until I was just able to hear and recognize the interval without a tag." Yes, that is the goal!

I haven't used band in the box, but here are some basic ideas.
Major = happy
Minor = sad
diminished = weird
augmented = hopeful? anticipation?

It really helps to use a piano or keyboard to play the different chords. Play altogether (same time) and also play the arpeggio style, one note at a time. Start with just the 3 note chords. Play them slow and just listen the sound. On the bass, play the chords arpeggio style. Listen to your tone. Play 2 octaves or from the lowest note to the highest note on the bass.

Play and listen to the inversions. What's an inversion? You start on a note that is not the root. In the bass guitar world, these are known as slash chords. They add "color" and "tension" to the music.

Here is an example in the key of G.
G major = G B D
Locate those notes on your instrument from bottom to top starting on G, third fret E string.
Step 1. Play them from bottom to top and top to bottom. Play the notes on different strings. Play the notes on the same string. Try all the combinations you can find.
First inversion. Start on B, 2nd fret A string. Repeat step 1. How is different? What sounds the same?
Second inversion. Start on D, 5th fret A string. Repeat step 1.
On the piano, try this. Play the G chord with your right hand G B D, and with the left hand play a G, then a B, then a D. Listen how this alters the sound of the chord. With a G/B slash chord (bass is playing a B), what could be the next chord? How about C major? A minor? E minor? D7? Try some others and if you can recognize how these are used in other melodies you know.

Now do the same with a G minor chord. The 3rd (B) changes to a Bb. The notes are G Bb D

Diminished. Use the minor chord and flat the 5 (D). G Bb Db
Listen to how this chord sounds.

Augmented. Use the major chord and sharp the 5 (D). G B D#
What is special about the augmented chord? What happens when you play the inversions? What are likely candidates for the next chord? Try a D augmented then a G major. What song uses this progression?

Hope this explanation helps.


Re: Chords and Ear Training

Postby jfh2424 » Thu Sep 24, 2009 2:39 am

Hi Charlie, thanks for the explanation and advice!

To me, a sonic tag is a collection of notes that I know and that helps me figure out other collection of notes. Like, a major sixth is the beginning of "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean", a fourth is "Here Comes the Bride", etc. I used to use those to figure out intervals. Now, how ever, I can just hear them without using these tags.

With chords, depending on the inversion, I don't always hear minor as "sad" or major as "happy". Sometimes I do, it depends on the actual inversion. A lot of times, my response is kinda "What the hell is that?".

I realize from what you wrote that I need to spend more time playing and hearing the building blocks of chords. I need to play them more on my instrument as well as on the piano. As I hear them more and analyze the chord tones within a chord more, I think it will make me better at being able to identify them. Cause right now, with Band in a Box, I am getting one out of every four chords right, which really amounts to guessing.

I wil start on playing but especially hearing basic triads, forget the seventh for now. Then I will graduate to chords.

I wish I was like you, man, that I could just hear it and know. We all have strengths and weaknesses as ear has never been my strength. I've had to really fight to progress in that department.

Thanks again!


Re: Chords and Ear Training

Postby charII » Fri Sep 25, 2009 10:45 pm

jfh2424, you are on the right track with the interval training with sonic tags. Let me restate what what you wrote:

"You hear the interval and associate it with a melody line that you know (Here Comes the Bride)."

Now take the same approach with hearing chords and what their names are. Instead of what the hell is that, with some listening practice, you will be able to identify the chord structure.

Close down BiaB, put down the bass and move over to the piano and play the chords, whole notes, just play and listen. Are there any "colors" or "flavors" you can associate with the chord you just played? How about a song you know? When I write chords, I mean the 3 notes of a chord, we will save the 4 note chords and their extensions for later. Just focus on playing 3 note chords.

Back to the example in the key of G, it has one sharp, F#
Play and listen to this chordal progression
G B D = G major
A C E = A minor
B D F# = B minor
C E G = C major
D F# A = D major
E G B = E minor
F# A C = F# diminished (the weird sounding chord)

Play these chords on different areas of the piano, high and low. What position do they sound best to you?

Now play the inversions and listen. How do they sound different? Play the chords with the right hand and ascend, with the left hand just play one note and try an inversion or slash chord practice. G/G Am/E or Bm/F# C/E D/F# Em/G F#/A. Come up with some other examples.
Spend 10-20 minutes a day on playing and listening to these chords on the piano.

Since we play bass, we have to put this example into context.
Play the above chords arpeggio style over 2 octaves or from bottom note of your bass to the top note. Play bottom to top and top to bottom.

On a 4-string, start on the 3rd fret E string:
you could also start on the low E

B D F# B D F# B D


And do the same for the rest of the chords.
Play these notes slowly and listen and develope your tone. Try plucking the strings in different places, what happens to the tone? How can you use this in the songs you are playing?

Do this exercise in the key of G, C, F, Bb, and Eb.
Can you read and write music? It reinforces the learning when you write out the notes to these exercises.

What songs are you playing? If you are in a group or band, what is the instrumentation? What are the chords? How can you apply this listening and playing exercise to what you are playing?

Next up, we will add the 4th note to the chord next and see how it changes the sound of the basic 3-note chord.



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