How Do You Teach The Ears to Hear?

March 27, 2004 at 10:51 PM · I just started teaching violin lessons this year. One of my students will practice for hours and come to her lesson feeling quite prepared, only she isn't even coming close to hitting the notes. I say, "high first, low second, high second, high third, etc. ...Sharp, flat." The lessons go like this every week. Last week I taped every last half step onto her instrument and told her to plant her fingers on the tape. This week, still the same.

What I really want is for her to hear the tune and to be able to recognize when she is not playing the correct note. How do you teach this? I have perfect pitch, so I have no clue why someone could not hear that a note is nowhere near the correct pitch.

Replies (14)

March 27, 2004 at 11:40 PM · This is a pretty complex subject with many aspects to explore. One concept that I find useful is to make certain that the student is internalizing the pitch. Play a short phrase and have your student sing it back to you. This will help determine if the problem is really one of "hearing" and "internalizing" or is a technical or mechanical problem with the violin.

P.S. I have a student with an exceptionally fine "ear" but he routinely and frustratingly mistakes high and low second finger because he is just not sure what actual note he should be playing.

March 27, 2004 at 11:48 PM · I don't know that's it all that easy for most (?) of us. I can't sing - I don't know why. The only answer I've ever had was that I tend to come in a third below where I should be.

So singing a note won't work for me.

I can also hear the differences in tone, my hearing is quite accute - but for some reason I can't tell if I'm flat or sharp (if it's less than a 1/2 step). But I do know I'm off. When I move my fingers around, eventually I can hear where I'm supposed to be, but it takes a long time!

March 28, 2004 at 12:55 AM · For people who don't have perfect pitch their ear must be trained to hear if the notes are slightly flat or sharp...one way to do this is to go very slowly on each note and really listen to the note...dont adjust, just listen and eventually if you do this enough your will hear if the note is out of tune. Secondly checking with open strings respectively and checking notes with the notes before them i.e double stopping helps to improve the ear. One's left hand position...is the wrist bent in or out? Do the fingers feel as if they have good contact with the strings....these basic things when mastered bring an acquirement of perfect pitch...haha

March 28, 2004 at 06:05 AM · Hmmm.

My children are very young and just learning to hear such things. In our "Music Together" classes (designed quite well for children too young to be starting an instrument) they talk about the following concepts in terms of developing a sense of music and pitch:

Having an environment rich with music

"Audiation," developing the ability to carry music in one's head

The importance of "feeling" music, related to the development of rhythm. Showing them and allowing them opportunities to dance, clap, experiment with instruments.

Singing: the fact that their early efforts at singing will most often be "out of tune" as they train their vocal chords to match the music in their heads. This is like learning to speak; their first words sound like "babble," but if the correct word is repeated, they catch on rapidly. They need to be able to experiment, the parent or teacher must allow them to sing imperfectly because this imperfect effort is what leads to the development of singing on pitch. Otherwise, they clam up and never learn.

I think that adults and older children that never had these opportunities need the same basic formula: lots of listening, to the point of being able to "audiate," clapping and dancing, and singing. But adults and older children can be very self-conscious; the challenge is to help them develop this basic musicality while working within (and attempting to expand) their comfort level.

March 28, 2004 at 03:38 PM · A simple tape recorder or DVD recorder should do the trick! record on tape/DVD you playing the violin, what you want your student to hear as flat and what you want them to hear as sharp.

The student then can listen to it over and over again at home till they can hear the difference.Students haveing diffculty need tools they can use at home while practiceing.

This worked for me when I first started taking playing.

I found it was more beneficial to me while practiceing or doing something else to listen to what I should be sounding like.

March 29, 2004 at 12:27 AM · Greetings,

I think Renee is pointing in the right direction!

The question reminds me of the job I have to endure teaching languages. My Japanese counterparts often ask me for a hearing test, at which point I smile and snap my fingers progresisvely further away from the ear until they get the point that it is actually a `listening` test. An illustration that we have to find ways to train the mind.

Fischer decribed an approach in the Strad a few years back in which the teacher plays a note , waits a few seconds and play a raise d or lowerd version of the note which the Ss then identify as higher or lower. this is played as a game with all levels and the degree of flexibility one can use is enormous. One might wait for progressively longer perios, intersperse distractors and so on. The importnat thing is for the studnet to experience success!

A variaiton of this i thought of is if you have Korg orchestral tuner. You can then play notes and adjust up or down very easily using the buttons,

Cheers,

Buri

March 31, 2004 at 04:33 AM · erm...wait aRE all theSe pEepz tALKn 'bOUT "violins" or sumtin? CUZ...i dUn reALLY lykE clAssicAL muSic...i meAN--likE..i appreCiate 'eM aND ALL..buT i JUSS LUUUV ROCK MusiC...~*~*~

March 31, 2004 at 04:50 AM · Well, here we have the epitome of cool. Pay attention, all ye fatally un-chic classicists. To be popular you must

1) Mispel everi wurd u pasibly kan.

2) cAPItaliZe arbiTRarily

3) Advance a logical argument in favor of your position - whatever that might be - that deep philosophers like Sly Stallone can fully understand.

4) Mangle the language, orthography, reason and do so with a smile. When challenged on the above, point out that the challenger is "dissing your (sub)culture." Then relax, sit back, and wait for the grants to start rolling in.

In such a situation, can I be blamed that I revel in being as un-cool as I possibly can be? For when "cool" has been corrupted to mean "dumb as a wilted daffodil", who the hell wants to swing in the breeze with the Happenin' Crowd?

March 31, 2004 at 05:08 AM · Greetings,

Emil, to this day I swear Stallone was trying to say something important at the end of the first Rambo movie. Thanks to that damned cleft palate I could never figure out what it was though...

Cheers,

Buri

March 31, 2004 at 05:16 AM · I think it was the same thing "Yogurt" squeaked in "Spaceballs": "Until we meet again in Spaceballs II - the Search for More Money."

March 31, 2004 at 06:05 AM · I like daffodils, but not wilted ones.

March 31, 2004 at 09:19 AM · As Szigeti was wont to say, " why gild the lily?"

March 31, 2004 at 11:43 AM · Greetings,

as Wordsworth used to say (on the QT) "Gawd, not another bleedin' daffodil,"

Cheers,

Buri

March 31, 2004 at 08:18 PM · Emil, beautifully said...LOL

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