Ear TrainingEar-Training is the study of listening for accuracy in the elements of music so that any music once played can be written down, or conversely, read from a sheet of music without previous hearing.
In earning three musical degrees, my studies included regular classes in ear-training. While working on my MM degree at the Peabody Conservatory, I was an assistant tutor in this class for students experiencing difficulties. Holding a Bachelor's degree from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, a Masters from the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins and a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Maryland, I feel well equipped to help students in this subject, which I currently teach at Baltimore City Community College.
The following skills are developed:
The recognition of intervals. Intervals are the distances between notes, and their quality. For example, the distance between C and D is a major second, while the distance between C and Db is a minor second.
We learn to identify the sound of intervals through careful listening and the use of associated repertoire. For example, the beginning notes of "Happy Birthday" are a good example of a major second, while the first notes of the "Jaws" theme can help students remember the sound of a minor second.
Another skill we learn in Ear-Training is to recognize the difference between consonant and dissonant intervals. Consonant intervals give the listener a feeling of stability, like the "Amen" at the end of a hymn. Consonant intervals can be both major and minor, and again, we can learn to recognize them using associated repertoire. For example, an octave can be memorized using the famous song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in which the syllable "Some" and "where" are an ascending octave. "Party Rock is in the House" is also a good example, since the words "the house" are also an example of an octave. Perfect intervals are always consonant. The three Perfect intervals in a diatonic system are the Perfect Fourth, (Here Comes the Bride), The Perfect Fifth, (Mugorsky's "Night on Bald Mountain), and the perfect 8 or octave.
Dissonant intervals tend to give the listener a feeling of instability, and help propel melody and harmony through tension and resolution. There are three types of dissonant interval, the second, both major ad minor, the Tri-tone, which is the half-step between a Perfect fourth and Perfect fifth, and the major and minor 7th.
There are several methods available to teach intervalic recognition, but the most traditional and arguably most effective is learning solfege syllables with "movable do". This system relies on tonic relationships, or the ability to use the first note of the diatonic scale as a reference point.
Ear training also gives the student the ability recognize rhythmic patterns and time signatures. Students learn how time signatures group beats into metrical patterns of duple, triple, quadruple, and compound meters, and further, how to recognize these patterns by listening for where the stress or accent falls. For example, in duple meter, students would hear the stress every other beat - ONE two ONE two, where as with triple meter, the stress or accent would fall on the first of three pulses: ONE two three ONE two three. This skill is developed kinesthetically by beating pulse with hands or feet, individually and collectively.
Proficiency in these skills are evaluated through written and aural testing. A student should be able to write what they hear on staff paper, sing what they see written, and verbally identify by describing the quality of intervals, or pulse upon listening.
Music HistoryMusic History is a course that traces how the music we know in our culture evolved. I have taught this course for the past six years, and have been a lecturer on various historic subjects for a number of institutions, teaching Music History at the University of North Carolina, Pembroke, Music Appreciation at Baltimore City Community College and lecturing for Baltimore Opera and Loyola College.
In Music History, students learn the origins of the modern musical system from the Guidonian hand and Gregorian chant, through early notation with neumes, the church modes that are the ancestors of modern scales, and the earliest musical forms.
There are six musical eras: Early Music, Renaissance Music, Baroque Music, Classical Music, Romantic Music and Twentieth Century or Contemporary. Music in each of these eras have distinct characteristics. Using the six musical elements: Rhythm, Pitch, Harmony, Texture, Timbre and Form, we can identify the specific characteristics of each era. For example, in early music, we can break down characteristics as follows:
Rhythm: Metric freedom in church music, (sacred), the beginning of metric structure in secular music (dances, troubadour song)
Pitch: Church modes organized pitches into modes, first using the Guidonian Hand. Later, neumes and the early staff were used for notation.
Harmony: Unison chant characterized the beginnings of early sacred music. Secular music often featured accompaniment on drones, or stringed instruments such as the harp, lyre, lute, etc. Structured harmony was introduced by the Notre Dame school in the practice of organum - two lines of music occurring simultaneously. By the end of the age, both homophonic and polyphonic writing using a cantus firmus was common.
Texture: Initially, early Gregorian chant featured a unison or thin solo texture. Troubador songs featured dual voiced texture. As sacred and secular influences intermingled, with the dawn of organum, textures became richer and more complex, culminating in early polyphonic textures.
Timbre: Timbres in sacred Medieval music were primarily vocal. Secular music, however, utilized a variety of wind and string instruments such as drones, the ocarina and zither, as well as voice.
Form: Forms predominating early music include the Mass (the Roman rite set to music), the Motet, Tropes, Antiphons and other prayers. Secular dance forms evolved including the gigue, or Jig, estampie, and others.
Student will also become familiar with representative composers from each era, for example in early music, Leonin & Perotin, Hildegard von Bingen and Guilliame Dufay would be dicussed. Entering the Renaissance, Josquin Des Prez, Giovanni Pallestrina, and the Gabrielli's and the Venetian school would be discussed as representatives of their era. The lived of Handel and Bach are representative of the Baroque era, Haydn, Mozart and early Beethoven would be representative of the Classical era, with a much broader selection of composers and their genres emerging in the Romantic through modern eras.
Students are better able to remember the stylistic characteristics of an era through a system of organization. Correlating compositional eras with world history provides a way to remember dates and musical events. For example, remembering the out break of the America and French Revolutions in 1776 and 1781 respectively provide a contextual backdrop for seeing Mozart as a musical radical whose philosophy was feared by the Austrian court during his prime compositional years prior to his death in 1791.
Music History provides these methods for improved memorization of dates, facts and a better organized overview of the core information needed in order to see this subject as part of history as a whole.