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I hope this isn't viewed as question looking for an opinion, but more of picking the brain of people that have gone through this. I feel, and I can be completely wrong, that trying to transcribe songs (Soulshine, by the Allman Bros) is the natural way to do ear training. But here is my predicament. One day I can do really well and get a few notes and another day I can't even match the notes. Is this common? I get discouraged because it seems like I regress.

In other words my ear/brain connection is "OK" (I'm just learning) and the next day its as if I have no clue what I am doing.

FYI, I am 56 years old.

Is this common ?

  • Good answer from @Shevliaskovic; also it would be helpful if you shared with us a bit more about your mechanics of making transcriptions (is your voice involved? the piano? just your mind's ear?) and where you are in terms of your experience with playing, improvising, and understanding of theory and harmony. – aparente001 May 20 '15 at 21:35
  • thanks aparente001 , Yes it was a good answer, I have been a wanna be musician for 30 years. I try to sing the notes but unless I have the headphones on and can get them vibrating in my head, I usually miss the notes if I try to do solphege. My voice is really really bad. I try to hum and I also try to do "la". My minds ear is not that great. It only connects well when I am actually listening to something. Then I can come up in my mind some riffs to play. The whole thing of hearing music in your head has baffled me forever.I have the time now to take it seriously. – mike628 May 20 '15 at 23:31
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This happens to me as well, and not only in ear training. It happens when I play an instrument (some days I play well, some days I don't), in running (some days I don't get tired at all, other days I can barely walk), when studying math etc.

This happens because you are not yet 'good' at it. When I first started playing the bass, I had my on and my off days; it happens to everyone. But, as I got better (with many hours of practising), most of my days are good ones. I still might have a bad day, where I don't do as well as I usually do, but those are some rare ones.

So, don't get discouraged by something like this; keep on practising! Have faith in your abilities. If you get anxious, you might get many notes wrong. This happens to me as well in ear training.

Also, a little tip, it might be easier to start with childrens' songs, that are really easy and good to train your ear.

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Transcibing is a high-focus activity even when you are doing it routinely. Like with professional straight-tone instrument tuning (organ, harmonium, accordion) by ear, the principal qualification of distinguishing and recognizing pitches and relations may be a base qualification, but the real deal is actually being able to focus reliably for hours on end, the whole week long, over years.

For mere mortals and/or beginners, spotty success is entirely expected. It takes quite a bit of practice just to get a reliable picture of the amount of focus you'll be able to work with on a continuing basis. Your out-of-the-box short-time performance, be it good or bad, is only loosely related to what may work for serious work in the long run.

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