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So, I'm a guitar player, and I'm taking a music theory class. All of the theory we're learning about sort of revolves around the piano.

And I've never really had any formal training with theory, I know a little, but not much. So far we've sort of focused on the basics of sight reading by identifying notes on the Bass and Treble clefs as well as the Grand Staff.

Now we're starting to get into ear training, and it's been a struggle trying to identify the difference between Perfect 4ths, Perfect 5ths, and Octaves.

The instructor gave this site to us to sort of practice, but it's not really working for me.

I read somewhere to try and focus on the root note and that a perfect 5th would have a lower one and a perfect 4th would have a higher one, but that's not at all helping.

I don't know, I feel like all of the other people in my class are already pretty great at all of this and I'm not, so it'd be nice to have some tips.

  • Forgive my ignorance but I'm wondering how this ability to identify a perfect fourth or fifth will make you a better guitar player. I have been playing guitar a long time and have never felt a need for "ear training". Of course I have never taken lessons either so perhaps my advancement has been stifled. – Rockin Cowboy Jan 29 '15 at 4:48
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    @rockincowboy it surely can't make him a worse guitarist. Ear training isn't a necessity but it sure comes handy – Shevliaskovic Jan 29 '15 at 9:05
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    @RockinCowboy I'm taking a music theory class and I'm the only guitar player in there. There's about 6 or 7 students and apparently every year drops down to about 3 or 4. And I'm taking it the class, because I want to overall better myself in music. – GloatenFree Jan 29 '15 at 13:04
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    @GloatenFree I admire your dedication to your craft. I joined Stack Exchange Music to learn more about theory, because I not only play and sing, but write lyrics and compose melody's and create arrangements for my original songs. But don't have the energy or time to take a class. So I'm glad I stumbled across Stack Exchange/Music and Theory – Rockin Cowboy Jan 30 '15 at 16:09
  • @RockinCowboy apparently we are in the same boat. i am also a self taught pianist and composer. I find SE very useful- and i am also greatly helped by videos and sites on the Web. – mey Jan 31 '15 at 16:58
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What I found to be really helpful at least when it can to two-note interval training was to associate a song with an interval. For example a p4 amazing grace, p5 (personally I think of an iron maiden song) however, a good choice would be twinkle twinkle little star p8 somewhere over the rainbow. As for building onto this check out the very relevent posting. As for possible song choices to associate with see this site

  • Hey, thanks for that. The instructor actually gave us that exact site, but I'm having trouble connecting songs to the two note intervals. (Yes, that's what we're doing - two note). Edit: Also I forgot to mention we've only been working on this stuff for a couple days, not really doing much with it. So, I don't know why he expects us to be able to do it right now, although like I said, most of the people in my class seem to have more experience with this. I've played guitar for about 7 years now, but never did training like this. – GloatenFree Jan 29 '15 at 2:53
  • Sometimes this just takes effort to achieve. The point of associating songs is to make it easier to remember. However, you still need to put the effort in I know I had too... especially when it came a major 6th. Another tip I have is just sing the intervals to yourself and then think think of the song in question and where that interval exists in that song. Eventually, this becomes a part of your procedural memory (habits, muscle memory are examples of procedural memory). – Asterisk Jan 29 '15 at 3:04
  • Right now we're just working on P4s, P5s and Octaves. Well, and Unison's as well. But... The only one that kind of makes sense is P5 with One by Metallica. However, my strategy with that was using the "Lower root note first means P5" idea. However, I've realized that's not always the case. So, it's somewhat frustrating. I don't know... It's hard for me to try and link a song to it and figure out where it is. Edit: Also, sometimes it's very easy for me to tell the intervals apart and sometimes it isn't. – GloatenFree Jan 29 '15 at 3:11
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Assuming you have not tried solfege, or your teacher has not introduced you to solfege, i thought i might share this tip. From my experience i have found that solfege helps a lot. Although it is mostly done for singing, it helps with identifying notes and intervals as well. This is how it works: (i am explaining step-by-step, which is a bit long, so please bear with me ☺)

  • first we learn how to sing in do-re-mi-fa-sol(or so)-la-ti-do. In Indonesia I went further by learning the respective numerical notations ie. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7.

  • if possible, find song sheets with numerical notations in the Internet. These normally come from countries which use moveable do system, like Indonesia. If you are lucky, you might find an English song (eg Amazing Grace) written in numerical notations. It might be counter intuitive, but it could be a great idea to find a numerical notation from a song that you are already familiar with... so that you can associate the "do-re-mi" with the sound. So for instance the solfege for Amazing Grace will go "sol do...mi re do mi...", all being of a higher octave except the sol.

So where do we go from here?

  • then we learn how to associate numerical notations with intervals. E.g. "do" to "sol"(1 to 5) in the same octave is a perfect 5th. Your music teacher would be able to help you with this.

  • try to sing and/or play these intervals by guitar, while paying attention to the intervals... them repeat this practice with the same song or a different song.

Hope this helps. I know it is a bit long, and might be counter intuitive for those in the West... but it provides you a cue (or more like a "formula") that comes in handy in various situation. Once you start to use sharps and flats, you could expand this further. What are the Solfège names of the semitones between the basic do, re, mi, etc? deals with solfege names for those accidentals.

Hope this helps, and please let me know how it goes (or whether it worked for you).

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