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Thread: Is ear training worthwhile for me and my pop music?

  1. #1
    Registered User faintron's Avatar
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    Is ear training worthwhile for me and my pop music?

    I'm trying to decide whether or not I should bother with ear training. Please tell me what you think based on where I'm at in songwriting:

    • I'm currently able to create excellent chord progressions and I understand how to strategically use key changes to draw interest.
    • Bass and percussion are relatively easy for me...both of which are programmed into a synth/sequencer. In other words, I have the rhythm section down.
    • I don't play guitar, but will instead be working with an experienced, skilled guitarist.
    • Vocal melodies are written first in piano (step recorded/programmed note by note...I don't actually play piano) using my understanding of theory (i.e. use of chord tones vs. non-chord, stepwise movement vs. skips, rests, note duration, motifs, etc.). I then hum or vocalize little vowel sounds like "da DA DA la daaa..." over the piano notes, matching their tone. Later I create lyrics to replace these non-words. **I should mention that vocal melodies are giving me the most difficulty. It is hard for me to first come up with a good melody on piano and know if it will translate well to singing.
    Also...
    • Currently if I want to analyze a song's notes/key/chords in detail I buy the sheet music.
    • As far as I can tell I have no need to be able to sight-sing.
    • My genre is rock/synthpop. Think NIN, U2 (that's Actung Baby U2), Depeche Mode.
    Considering that time is always against us, I think that anything I choose to learn should be highly useful and not superfluous to my goals of writing hit songs. So with all of that in mind, do you feel that I will be wasting my time with ear training, or are there definite benefits? If the latter...what are they?

    Thanks in advance!
    Last edited by faintron; 01-10-2008 at 01:16 AM. Reason: typo

  2. #2
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    You take a much more analytical approach than I do, so I doubt I can be of help, however..........................

    There are already several active strings about the merits of ear training currently on this forum. I'd suggest reviewing those and see it they might help you decide

    Here is an old one that has just resurfaced:
    http://www.ibreathemusic.com/forums/...ead.php?t=6754

    Here are some current strings:
    http://www.ibreathemusic.com/forums/...splay.php?f=14
    Last edited by Malcolm; 01-10-2008 at 03:05 AM.

  3. #3
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    So you don't actually play any instruments? you write tunes note by note and you cant even come up with a whole melody?

    Good luck writing 'hit songs'

    Then again... the definition of a hit song now days consists of one chord and a repetitive phrase like 'oh baby dance. put your hands down my pants.... buy coca cola"

    Having said that It seems your a bit overqualified and should consider a professorship at juliard.

    Seriously though.. your over analyzing everything.

    You said you buy sheet music to analyze songs. For one, if you took the time to just relax, maybe jam on it while the CD is playing for 10 minutes you would be surprised at how much you could figure out by ear. From there you will see the large advantage of spending more time playing and less time trying to formulate a song's.

    A wise man once said ' you need to know 100 songs before you can write one ' and I think this is a fair call. Sure some people write music off the bat, but once you get the music in your blood and running through your fingers. You can begin to really express yourself as a musician and not feel the need to turn music into a get rich quick scheme. Because let me tell you, you ain't going to get rich unless your a size 6 slut with two children and a drinking problem.

    I have just about said enough. Although
    "Considering that time is always against us, I think that anything I choose to learn should be highly useful and not superfluous to my goals of writing hit songs"

    That sentence shows me you have no idea what your doing what so ever and should definitely sit back and smell the roses.

  4. #4
    Bedroom metalurgist LaughingSkull's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by faintron
    Considering that time is always against us, I think that anything I choose to learn should be highly useful and not superfluous to my goals of writing hit songs. So with all of that in mind, do you feel that I will be wasting my time with ear training, or are there definite benefits? If the latter...what are they?
    All the hit songs we need have already been written; how about some good music which comes straight from your heart, and if is not hit .... Britttney will have another ...

  5. #5
    SubterraneanHomesickAlien DuB's Avatar
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    One thing to remember is that ear training can never hurt - only help.

    With that aside, you asked about some of the benefits of ear training. One would be a greater ability to come up with catchy melodies by just "feeling them" as opposed to relying on your knowledge of chord tones and general theory. Another would be analyzing a song theoretically without having to buy the sheet music. Some pretty useful skills if you ask me.

  6. #6
    Registered User faintron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm
    You take a much more analytical approach than I do, so I doubt I can be of help, however..........................

    There are already several active strings about the merits of ear training currently on this forum. I'd suggest reviewing those and see it they might help you decide

    Here is an old one that has just resurfaced:
    http://www.ibreathemusic.com/forums/...ead.php?t=6754

    Here are some current strings:
    http://www.ibreathemusic.com/forums/...splay.php?f=14
    Thanks Malcolm, I'll check those out.

  7. #7
    Registered User faintron's Avatar
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    JazzMick...you seem to be unqualified to give advice on this matter, but fortunately I have a few extra minutes this morning, and I am kind enough to lend you some of my wisdom. Read on...
    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick
    So you don't actually play any instruments?
    Actually I'm a professionally trained baritone with over a decade experience in singing. Haven't gotten into original performances or songwriting until recently though...hence all the questions about the subject. I would say the vocals count as an instrument, and I'd recommend that you learn a little more about just how complex synth-workstations are before you discredit them as an instrument. They have a potential to be all instruments...and I've already mastered drum & bass on mine.

    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick
    you write tunes note by note and you cant even come up with a whole melody?
    Never said that. I said "It is hard for me to first come up with a good melody" not that I "can't". Melodies are easy. Good, quality, marketable melodies are not.

    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick
    Then again... the definition of a hit song now days consists of one chord and a repetitive phrase like 'oh baby dance. put your hands down my pants.... buy coca cola"
    No. That's your definition, and it's narrow-minded. "Stairway To Heaven" is a hit song. "Hey Jude" is a hit song. I could list hundreds of hit songs from the 1970s to the present...just off the top of my head, bands like the Rolling Stones, U2, Rush, Tool, Dire Straits, NIN, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, etc...these are all pop musicians...and highly talented. Would you deny this?

    Hit does not = bubblegum.

    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick
    Having said that It seems your a bit overqualified and should consider a professorship at juliard.
    Sarcasm is a weak and intellectually bankrupt form of protest. Try again.

    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick
    Seriously though.. your over analyzing everything.
    Possibly. And maybe you're under-analyzing. Maybe you'd be doing better as a musician if you were not being lazy about studying and did a little research? Just a hypothesis...

    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick
    You said you buy sheet music to analyze songs. For one, if you took the time to just relax, maybe jam on it while the CD is playing for 10 minutes you would be surprised at how much you could figure out by ear. From there you will see the large advantage of spending more time playing and less time trying to formulate a song's.
    That tells me nothing.

    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick
    A wise man once said ' you need to know 100 songs before you can write one ' and I think this is a fair call. Sure some people write music off the bat, but once you get the music in your blood and running through your fingers.
    Again, that tells me nothing. What does it mean to "know" a song? To be able to replicate it? To understand what the artist did? Do you think that is more likely through jamming than analysis?

    And the "music in your blood" line means...what exactly? Some kind of audio-genetic predisposition? Hemo-acoustics?

    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick
    You can begin to really express yourself as a musician and not feel the need to turn music into a get rich quick scheme.
    Ah. Right. It's selling out to want to actually get paid doing music. Better to sit around, listen to jazz and get stoned eh?

    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick
    Because let me tell you, you ain't going to get rich unless your a size 6 slut with two children and a drinking problem.
    You're a funny character Mick. So all rock/pop stars fit this criteria? In the world of reason we call this "appeal to ridicule"...it's a logical fallacy, and thus irrelevant.

    Quote Originally Posted by JazzMick
    I have just about said enough. Although
    "Considering that time is always against us, I think that anything I choose to learn should be highly useful and not superfluous to my goals of writing hit songs" That sentence shows me you have no idea what your doing what so ever and should definitely sit back and smell the roses.
    What you meant to say was, "That sentence shows me that I have no idea what you're doing whatsoever". You really don't have a clue about what it takes do you? Here's a lesson for you:
    1) Time is limited and irreplaceable.
    2) Learning what is essential to one's goals is preferrable to wasting time on the trivial...no matter what your interests happen to be. You'll progress faster this way.
    3) In the music industry...age is a factor (unless you're an already well-established hit performer of course). But if you're content to play little Tuesday night gigs to a crowd of thirty, disregard this.
    Last edited by faintron; 01-10-2008 at 05:37 PM.

  8. #8
    Registered User faintron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DuB
    One thing to remember is that ear training can never hurt - only help.

    With that aside, you asked about some of the benefits of ear training. One would be a greater ability to come up with catchy melodies by just "feeling them" as opposed to relying on your knowledge of chord tones and general theory. Another would be analyzing a song theoretically without having to buy the sheet music. Some pretty useful skills if you ask me.
    Good advice. I'll consider it. Thanks DuB.

  9. #9
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    Yeesh, all the animosity. Between Blutwulf making jokes and Leegordo trolling, we're all on edge.

    Faintron, if you're writing music coming from a singer's resources, you may want to spend a few years working against "standard" chord progressions. They're "standards" for a reason. Effectively, you are more poised to come up with popular melodies than any guitar player here (unless they too, naturally, are a vocalist). A vocalist routinely translates instantly inspiration to melody. What a guitarist comes up with may not translate well to a vocal line, even if it is a dynamite thing on guitar.

    I would get a few guys to record a dozen or so standard progressions, and from each progression you write 10 songs. After 120 start-to-finish songs, you'll almost certainly have gained something...
    "If a child learns which is jay and which is sparrow, he'll no longer see birds nor hear them sing."

  10. #10
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    "Actually I'm a professionally trained baritone with over a decade experience in singing. Haven't gotten into original performances or songwriting until recently though...hence all the questions about the subject. I would say the vocals count as an instrument, and I'd recommend that you learn a little more about just how complex synth-workstations are before you discredit them as an instrument. They have a potential to be all
    instruments...and I've already mastered drum & bass on mine. "

    I wont argue that your synth station is not a complicated machine to use. However, its not a real instrument in my opinion. If you want a horn sound, get a horn player. If you want a flute, get some wind players ect... Piano i feel is the only common exception considering I know how difficult it can be to transport them to venues.

    edit: Beyond all this, maybe you would benefit from actually studying music formally. If you did any musical degree you will be hard pressed to find one that didn't put emphasis on critical listening.

    "Never said that. I said "It is hard for me to first come up with a good melody"
    not that I "can't". Melodies are easy. Good, quality, marketable melodies are not"

    I would disagree partly with that statement. A melody is a melody for one. If its no good, odds are it isnt melodic hence not something marketable. So what your saying is you can write a series of notes.

    "No. That's your definition, and it's narrow-minded. "Stairway To Heaven" is a hit song. "Hey Jude" is a hit song. I could list hundreds of hit songs from the 1970s to the present...just off the top of my head, bands like the Rolling Stones, U2, Rush, Tool, Dire Straits, NIN, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, etc...these are all pop musicians...and highly talented. Would you deny this?"

    We seem to have a mis communication on this part. When I think "hit" music in todays age I think of the MTV awards and all those jokers who sing about bling and cars.

    Now I agree that alot of the music from the bands you mentioned was great and Indeed did well. However the only bands living in todays age who might still release a modern "hit" would be U2 and thier quality of music has definately changed. Feel free to refute me on that though, im not up to date with alot of them.

    "Hit does not = bubblegum."
    ..... maybe we SHOULD redefine what you mean by hit

    "Sarcasm is a weak and intellectually bankrupt form of protest. Try again".... Thats your opinion.

    "Possibly. And maybe you're under-analyzing. Maybe you'd be doing better as a musician if you were not being lazy about studying and did a little research? Just a hypothesis..."


    I am a full time student of music as well as a teacher and a performer. Its interesting that you would say im lazy and not interested in studying when I never actually said there was anything wrong with a theoretical approach to music. What I was really getting at though, was that music is inside you foremost. To think your going to write any kind of enjoyable music with nothing but theoretical approaches is ignorant. You need to play something and let your body become a part of it before you can really express yourself.....

    Find me someone who wrote a beautiful song without ever having jammed on it........


    "Again, that tells me nothing. What does it mean to "know" a song? To be able to replicate it? To understand what the artist did? Do you think that is more likely through jamming than analysis?"


    People understand songs and tunes in different ways.. Analysis will tell you some things, but actually playing it will tell you something completely different. These things arent quite as easy to explain in common theoretical terms. Since your not quite so interested in playing music its a shame you might never get to enjoy this side of it.

    Edit: Im reminded of artists like A.C.Jobim, in my opinion one of the greatest composers of all time. His music was catchy and melodic while at the same time having a deep underlying sense of musicianship. The melodies could be all white notes while the chords often would imply numerous key changes with complex harmonic implications.

    Do you think he sat down with book of chord voicings and his "dummies guide to soulfull music" while he wrote accompanyments? No I can tell you he didn't. He would sit at the piano and jam and sing and feel untill it came out just the way he wanted.

    Ps. I cant be so sure on this part, but I feel confident that money and fame were never even considered when he was writing this music.

    "And the "music in your blood" line means...what exactly? Some kind of audio-genetic predisposition? Hemo-acoustics?"

    Hey if you want to put it that way music is a very spiritual thing, for me anyway. When I play a great song, it can really get inside me. Im sorry I cant break this feeling down into a usable formula for you to exploit consumers with. I probbably wouldnt help either. I believe music should be about passion firstly, if that passion leads you to write a great tune and people want to buy it.... thats just a bonus.

    "Ah. Right. It's selling out to want to actually get paid doing music. Better to sit around, listen to jazz and get stoned eh?"

    Theres nothing wrong with wanting to get paid for being a musician. But if thats your only goal.... not to actualy enjoy the process. You are indeed a great fit for the bubblegum industry as you so named it.

    "You're a funny character Mick. So all rock/pop stars fit this criteria? In the world of reason we call this "appeal to ridicule"...it's a logical fallacy, and thus irrelevant."

    Never said that.

    "What you meant to say was, "That sentence shows me that I have no idea what you're doing whatsoever". You really don't have a clue about what it takes do you? Here's a lesson for you:
    1) Time is limited and irreplaceable.
    2) Learning what is essential to one's goals is preferrable to wasting time on the trivial...no matter what your interests happen to be. You'll progress faster this way.
    3) In the music industry...age is a factor (unless you're an already well-established hit performer of course). But if you're content to play little Tuesday night gigs to a crowd of thirty, disregard this
    ."

    1)Time is limited sure. Clearly our goals are different though, so I can see how you might find that a worry. You need to get noticed before your youthfull looks are no longer something teenagers would be happy to see on the Top 10 Albums rack right???

    2)To a musican... any aplicable musical information IS essential. If you can use it, learn it... What do you consider to be wasting time really?...

    3) reffer to response 1.

    Im happy to play tuesday night Gigs thank you whats wrong with that? Should I feel punished that Im out there enjoying my life and putting my hard hours of practice and study to use? I am not a composer so I dont expect to make millions... Along with the millions of others like myself who are in it for the joy.

    I wish you the best of luck in your attempts to cash in on an artform.
    Mike.
    Last edited by JazzMick; 01-11-2008 at 01:13 AM.

  11. #11
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    PS; If your still unable to read between the lines. To answer your question. Yes, ear training will do you a world of good.

  12. #12
    Did I say that out loud ? joeyd929's Avatar
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    Yes

    YES, ear training is worthwhile....YES YES YES YES YES YES YES

  13. #13
    I think anyone involved in music should have ear training...but that's just me
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