So I have been practicing the piano for a few months now.

I'd like to get started on ear training and interval training. Parts of it is the constant recommendation I keep finding that I need to sing the notes.

I have two main concerns:

First concern: So piano has 88 keys, 7 octaves. Since I'm a guy it seems I will be in a tenor or baritone range. How does this play with ear training? Does it mean guys can't use their voice to train in the mezzo soprano and soprano range pitches for example? Will I hurt my voice if I do that or is it ok to push my voice since it's a single note? Or do you learn the pitch in your octave range and somehow your ear can transpose that skill to the out of range octaves?

Second question is vocabulary to use. meaning should I hum? Should I try a choir type "Ahh"? Does that change as you move through range? Should i try solfege all around? (since it uses different words I feel it will distract from hearing the pitch) or should I use scale numbers? I'm not thinking within 12 keys, I'm thinking what is the strategy across the 88 keys? Not to sing in the full range ofcourse but singing for ear training purposes.

2 Answers 2


It's pretty straightforward that no-one will be able to sing all the notes found on a piano. So, one finds one's own range, and uses that.Might be an idea in the initial stages to mark a comfortable range. No trouble using chest or head voice - and even falsetto won't go amiss.

Since part of the quest is recognising intervals, the octave will be a useful one, as you can get used to playing a note, and singing that same name in a different octave.

What sound to sing? No-one's listening, are they? Sing all sorts of different sounds - me, la, wee, baa - most things that don't end abruptly.

Yes, get used to tonic sol-fa, and make yourself aware of fixed do and moveable do. But only use moveable do in one key at a time. Makes more sense that way.

There are several instruments which approximate in range to the male voice - guitar, clarinet, trumpet - but obviously that's only very approximate, but may be more suited to someone's vocal range.

  • Ok, so we sing notes within our vocal range, I'm a guy so left side covered. We get familiar with that. How am i going to build this experience in the right hand range? Most of the melodies occur right of middle C. The way I can see it, either I need to have a feel and accuracy for very large interval jumps which I internalized on the left side and I can feel the interval jump to right hand which seems quite difficult and won't be accurate. Second way is that there is something all C's share.
    – FarisB
    Mar 1, 2017 at 14:35
  • C is red for example and D is orange and so on and when I get to the next C I can still hear the red in the note for example. Is that the case? Is there a unique identifier that this is a C? If you can detect that then wouldn't that be like perfect pitch which I understood is very rare. Or is the main take away only the interval feel which you build in the left side then you just have it on the right side as well? And you would still need the piano to hunt for the starting note then go from there?
    – FarisB
    Mar 1, 2017 at 14:35
  • Almost everyone can identify an octave, nothing to do with perfect pitch. It doesn't matter here whether that octave is C-C or D-D, which is what Tim was saying. Just learn the interval. Then it doesn't matter if you are a baritone, but playing notes up the top of the keyboard. You'll be able to match a C on the keys with your sung C
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Mar 1, 2017 at 14:39
  • Yes, the octaves are quite different. But it won't come as exactly as C to C. I'm thinking like a jump from C3 in one octave to a G4 in the next, versus an F4 for example. Or from C3 to D4 for example. Or when we really go in high pitches it will become too different. I don't want to over complicate things though. I guess no point in looking too far, I'll do the left side then see how things look. Maybe it will look clear then.
    – FarisB
    Mar 1, 2017 at 14:47
  • Maybe i'll be able to hear a dissonance between C and D since I'm referring to C and use that as a guide?
    – FarisB
    Mar 1, 2017 at 14:50

A couple of things - the piano is a great tool because it's a good visual representation of pitch distance.

What might be actually beneficial is for you to try and sing the octave version of the test pitch that's most comfortable for you. That allows you to continue to identify pitches in different ranges while still recognizing the multiple or factor of the test pitch (if you play A440 and sing A220, you're still singing an "A").

If you need to test other pitches outside your comfortable range on the high-side, you can try singing in your falsetto (young boy's voice). You've still got it even if you don't use it. And don't feel uncomfortable - trained male singers still work on and with their falsetto even if they don't perform much with that part of the voice.

As far as solfege goes, I'd recommend "moveable DO". "Fixed DO" is no different than just singing "FSHARP!" or "AFLAT!". So singing a fifth above the "DO" given will always be "SOL" (SO),etc. Much more straightforward for relative pitch learning. It's useful to know WHAT the fifth above AFlat is, but you can learn that information separately, if your main focus is to identify relative pitch intervals first.

If you're not using solfege syllables, I'd recommend "Zi" or "Zah" (whichever is more comfortable for your voice type) as it gets the air moving and has a more defined start to the note. Humming can let you off the hook a bit by being slightly rhythmically indeterminate.

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