Melodic ear training is the ability to listen to a musical line and recognize the relationship of the notes to the tonal center, the key in which the song is located. Does this sound like magic? We are going to cover the core of auditory training in the next few minutes. After that, it’s just a matter of expanding what you already know.
You probably know the 4 note melody that we recognize as “How Dry I Am”. The melody is the same as the melody of the hymn, “O Happy Day.” There are many other songs that begin with these four notes, in some order. Once you get the hang of them, you will be able to identify the most common notes you hear.
The melody consists of a melodic “jump”, and then two movements per “step”, that is, they follow the major scale. The first jump consists of notes 5 and 1 of the scale, or “Sol” to “C” if you are using music theory. This same jump, from 5 to 1, occurs at the beginning of many other familiar songs. A couple of common examples are “Amazing Grace” and “Here Comes the Bride”. Whenever you hear this characteristic jump, you can be sure that the second note is “C”, the root note.
Also interesting are the last three notes of the theme, notes 1, 2 and 3 of the scale (Do, Re, Mi). They often occur at the beginning of songs, such as “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” (with a few repetitions). “Three Blind Mice” uses the same three notes in reverse order (E, D, C).
You can think of this four-note topic in a number of ways. You can think of it as “5, 1, 2, 3”. You can think of it as “Sol Do Re Mi”. Or you can even name the notes “how dry am I”. In any case, if you attach a particular short word to each note, it will be easier to discuss the melody. Another melody that uses the same four notes (with repeats) is “O Christmas Tree”.
One way to see how well you know these four notes is to see if you can recognize them in a different order. Think back to the first few notes of “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.” The same four notes, right? Can you name the order? (Here’s a hint: How am I dry?) Another melody that begins with the same four notes is the verse from Jingle Bells.
Of course, you can start on a different note from the series. Consider the tune of “I’ve been working on the railroad.” It starts with “C”, but includes the same four notes. Can you sing it in numbers or in syllables? (Dry how dry I’m dry.) And if you already want to expand your range, you can recognize that “all” of “all day of all life” is the number 4 note of the scale (F), a semitone higher than 3.
And for a final test, hum the tune of the Westminster bells, which so many clocks use when striking the time. These are made up of the same four notes, in different sequences. If you can sing them correctly, over numbers or syllables, you probably have a good understanding of the basics of melodic ear training. Once you’ve tried it out on your own, read on to find the answer. (3 1 2 5, 5 2 3 1, 3 2 1 5, 5 2 3 1)
You can probably hear this sequence of notes in your head in relation to many songs. Pick several songs at random and you will see that a good percentage of them use a lot of these notes in their main melody. And the fact that you can recognize them will make you look like a music guru to other people.
Imagine being able to sit down at a piano and just PLAY – Ballads, Pop, Blues, Jazz, Ragtime, even amazing Classical pieces? Now you can… and you can do it in months not years without wasting money, time and effort on traditional Piano Lessons.
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