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leithinkjesusiscool

Your experience with remembering intervals

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Howdy!

I usually do an exercice given to me by a teacher I once had. It's bassically a C harmonic scale in thirds (C-Eb-D-F...). Doing this with a piano is kind of easy. I would not be able to do this without a piano. 

I recently talked with a musician I know and he told me something interesting. The advice was not to see singing as a theory instrument like the piano where you can easily find the notes. Piano is easy when it comes to find the intervals. Singing, he said, is a lot like talk and when you do different accents. If I could be more expressive when talking it would help my singing.

I guess he's right. Still, I'm not comfortable with singing the intervals without the piano. What are your experiences with this?

 

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hey leithinkjesusiscool!

I'm not sure what to make of the advice the musician gave you however, here is what I have learned on this idea of intervals and being familiar with them vocally.

Most people who sing well have good "relative pitch," so that whatever note they begin singing, the notes (intervals) sung subsequent to that first note will be in pitch relative to that first sung note.  Whereas, people with perfect pitch can be asked to sing a specific note, hear it in their head, then sing it with accuracy. This is a cool skill to have (some people claim it can be learned/trained) yet, not necessary to sing well. 

A practical goal would be to hear the piano play only the first note in a scale, then be able to sing any interval in that scale with good relative pitch.

Training this aspect of singing will improve your ear for relative pitch, and is very helpful for singers who must sight read sheet music for their vocal part.

There are many tutorial videos available on Utoob to help you familiarize yourself with the intervals.  Search: site reading singing intervals or training relative pitch.

good luck!

k

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     My own advice is do not think of intervals.....Think of melody.  Each song will have its own group of intervals. Just getting used to singing a certain scale whether it is a major diatonic or minor or just a straight group of thirds will get you stuck with just those intervals.

     If you are having trouble with a song.... play the melody on a piano to guide you...... But remember to also singing it without the piano.

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Musicality existed long before standard intervals were invented. They were invented to allow instruments to be tuned to one another more readily.

One theory says that our ears recognize logarithmic relationships between frequencies. However, most instruments produce harmonic relationships. So standard intervals end up being approximations only to what our ears find musical. You'd actually have to alter some of your natural musicality in order to prefer standard intervals.

I know one singer who had the standard intervals so ingrained in her memory that she couldn't appreciate traditional music from non-Western countries. For her, it was all so out of tune, that she wouldn't listen to it.

Also, we hear in context. If you stare at a green dot on a black background, then transfer your gaze to a white sheet, you will see the ghost of a red dot in the middle of the white sheet. Our ears also have that kind of relative memory and contextualization. So, in fact, the musical sensation that a note conveys is historical and contexual. It is not a dry rendition of a frequency from a scale. The vowel that is being sung, the quality of the note and the notes before it may all alter its subjective pitch. So pitch is not a simple function of objective frequency.

You can train yourself to zero in on frequency, by why would you want to do that?

Understanding the building blocks of Western genres is useful, but I am wary of taking it too far, and turning what is art and intuition into mechanics.

I'd say that scales are useful for training musculature. But the ear is better trained with actual songs.

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There are multiple techniques to organize it but they all involve memory of a *phrase*.

If you can recall what it sounds like, you can produce the interval. But your memory of it must be crystal clear.

If I ask you how does a chromatic scale sounds like, and you can clearly recall it for example, you have the tool to find any interval you want. Makes sense?

Other mental images will give you a shortcut to other intervals/situations. A song that you know well for example can give you a specific interval reference.

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I have a lot of personal experience specifically around intervals.  Intervals are very important to a good singer.  I extensively trained myself to recognize intervals and now I can solfeggi by ear.  When I hear a song, all I hear are the intervals and position of notes relative to the root note.  I cannot stress how helpful this has been for me for my development.  It is one of the toughest things I have worked on and it has taken a long time, but now I can start seeing the benefits.  To answer your question, yes, I can sing the intervals perfectly when I do them acapella. 

I can talk for hours on this very topic, but yes, your musician friend is correct.  Piano is a fretted instrument, as is guitar(unless you are doing bends).  Voice, like violin is a microtonal instrument.  

I am going to sound crazy when I say this, but singing is not about always singing on pitch.  It is about being on pitch in the exact instant of time.  To me perfectly pitch accurate singing sounds a bit boring.  Singing to me is conveying emotions through connecting a series of aural locations.  The subtlety and emotion is conveyed in the errors and mistakes.  Human emotions result in pitch not being exactly on centre.  The add to the charm of music, at least for me.  

But the real reason why scales and ability to solfeggi are important is because they allow you to play within the boundaries of acceptable limit of errors in pitch.  Over time, what happens when your ears become strong is that your ears start acting as a guardian angel of sorts and guides you to the right pitch at the right time.  It allows you to be more expressive with your dynamics, phrasing etc because you know that you will not be off pitch under any circumstances(beyond the acceptable limit that I mentioned earlier).  

Learning to sing without reference, and learning to solfeggi is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a singer.. 

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This video shows how imprecise the concept of scale is. Musical scales have to serve the feel of the music, not the other way round.

BTW, the two different versions of Bb4 that he referred to each sound fine to my ears.

I can hear what he is talking about, but I don't find it a problem in itself. I could train myself to find it a problem, though!

Of course, there is an "expected" way to play the piece, which would be important for a connoisseur. But that is a different point.

When he talks of the Bb4 sounding "much too high", it is only relative to what was intended or traditional.

He also mentions "cleanness" of a scale, which is again subjective. The point at which the intervals in a chord sound "tight" or "squeezed", for example, is related to acuity, just as one person can find a television screen grainy and flickering, while the next person finds it ok.

And I guess that the violin, having the full expression of an unfretted string instrument, really exemplifies the contention between scales.

(Oh, and that last point was because we don't have frets in our vocal tract..)

 

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