Ear Training & Musicianship

Art Levine. Where It's Art! Ear Training and Solfa.

Typical early Christian ear-training session.

The main thing in this section is a paper I finished in January, 1997 on “fixed-do” vs. “movable do.” The initial impetus for this was a short submission from a dumb theory prof. at the University of Toronto, whose otherwise vigorous defense of “fixed-do” was ignorant of both historical or psychological aspects, as well as musical ones. I hope this essay of mine will make clear not only the ins and outs of the two systems, but will also give people a more critical sense of what is being taught, and how important it is that you have your eyes open when you are looking for a teacher (or at one, when one is being institutionally forced down your throat). If, after reading this (or even before), you would like to let me know your personal experiences in ear-training, I would be very interested in collecting all your anecdotes, horror stories, etc. In particular, I’d like to know where you studied, and what method and books you used, or are using. And also how you were evaluated.

Besides the paper mentioned above, I’ve also included a download of some ear-training exercises and drills I’ve developed over the years. Even though it’s much better and more satisfying to do actual music, as opposed to exercises and “ear-training” melodies, there’s clearly a lot to be gained by sharpening one’s specific skills in a more controlled, abstract context. To that end, this file contains 125 drills of various types, written first in solfa notation, without a staff, and then in regular notation. Each drill promotes either the development of fluency in articulating the solfa syllables or else the control of the imagination — the famous “inner ear” we’ve all heard so much about — as a sort of “overseer” of the cognitive processes involved in singing accurately and in tune. Hours of fun (or something), guaranteed. If you have questions, you can always email me.

“Movable do” click here
Solfa Exercises for Fluency and Flexibility
CDN $10.00
click here

One thought on “Ear Training & Musicianship

  1. Noel says:

    Hey Art, love your work and, by the way, the items I’ve purchased from your site have proven really helpful. I have a question about performance of Bach’s chorales: If one has a keyboard score for a chorale with the words included (English and/or German) is there a primary ‘line’ the words should follow i.e. the soprano line? If so, how should those same words/syllables be sung in the other voices which usually have additional/different notes & elaboration? Is there, in effect, a vocal score for each different part that just happens to use the same words? It’s just not like harmonization in a pop song, or lock step part singing in a, say, Jehovah’s Witness worship, is it? I’m using the ‘Brilliant Classics, Matt Nicol & Chamber Choir of Europe’ recording of the complete chorales which is wonderful but has gotten me thinking; listening to the human voices (basically unaccompanied) as opposed to the piano voices I play was a revelation!

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