Do singers use functional (scale degree) ear training method or interval ear training method to find a reference pitch from the accompaniments to start singing in key?

for example, the accompaniment is a piano and a C major chord played but the first note I have to sing is D, do I Imagine major second relative to C in the C major chord or Is it possible to use the functional ear training method to imagine the sound of the supertonic relative to the overall key?

  • 1
    Don't over-think this. The tonic chord establishes... well the tonic. It gives you your bearings. So the melody starts on a non-tonic note. Are you actually finding this a practical problem?
    – Laurence
    Nov 15, 2022 at 11:09
  • I'm not sure what "functional ear training" means in this context. Any good ear training program teaches interval recognition as well as a sense of scale degree, whether it's fixed or moveable do. And ultimately, interval recognition and tonicicity work hand-in-hand. Sing a C followed by an F#? Yes, it's a tritone and a leading tone to the dominant, and you're aware of both at once. Nov 15, 2022 at 14:37

2 Answers 2


Singers use both methods.

In the situation described, for example, I would do one of three things:

  1. If the accompaniment contains a D at some point before I enter, I would listen for it, and then hold onto that pitch until I enter.
  2. I would listen for the C or the E in the C major chord (whichever is easier to pick out) and sing a second above or below, respectively.
  3. Once I know what key the piece is in — for example, the C major chord might actually be the IV chord of G major or the III chord of A minor — I might use my functional harmonic training to find D according to its position within the primary key rather than a particular chord.

Either and both. Using the interval method would give, in your example, hearing the root, knowing D is a major second above, and pitching that.

Scale-wise, D is the 2nd note (^2), so again, hearing and recognising C, I'd sing the very next scale note up - D.

Or, Use a chordal method, where I know that D on a C chord makes Csus2 (properly Cret2), I'd 'hear' the D from that chord to pitch it correctly.

Other singers may not even think about what they do - they'll hear the C chord, and automatically pitch a D note. However, D against a C chord generally leads to a chordal note (C, E or G) so another option, knowing the melody, is to tag a D note onto the front of the almost inevitable E (sometimes C) that will follow. 'Yesterday' is a fine example of that.

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