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Episode from the podcastPiano Lessons Online - Full library of video piano lessons for beginners through advanced players. Author: David Sprunger

1 of 2: Ear Training 101 Updated to Version 4.0

Released Wednesday, 13th June 2012
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This is the video podcast covering the inner workings of Version 4.0 of "Ear Training 101".

Many musicians think that perfect pitch is the holy grail of musical abilities. Not true. Most skill musicians have a highly developed sense of "Relative Pitch". This is MUCH more valuable. Learning to incorporate ear training into your piano lessons is an absolute must for piano players. More about that later...

Let's start with the definition of Perfect Pitch. The definition of Perfect Pitch is "The ability to produce or identify a tone perfectly on key without any reference to an outside source".

Mumbo Jumbo? Basically, this means that those rare individuals who have perfect pitch can sing an Ab or F# in the middle of the day on a bus ride through the Bronx without hearing anybody play the note first on an instrument.

Sounds like a gift... but it comes with a price:

Unfortunately, those who have perfect pitch always hear everything absolutely in tune with A440 or "standard tuning". Even that sounds great until you realize that most bands or choirs are not perfectly in tune.

Here's where it becomes a bummer...

Let's say you have the rare gift of Perfect Pitch and you're singing in a choir. The choir is singing an accapella piece (no instruments) and as choirs tend to do, they "sag" in pitch, or slowly slip down just a little in pitch by the end of the song.

If everyone in the choir "sags" together (that's a funny thing to say) then it sounds fine. But you - the one with the gift - can't "sag". What happens? By the end of the song, you are out of tune with the choir!

Yep. The one with perfect pitch, singing out of tune. It's very funny. Especially to those who don't have the "gift".

What about instruments? Did you know that a Piano starts to sag in pitch immediately after tuning? What happens to the Perfect Pitcher who tries to sing with that piano? No dice. And the VAST majority of Pianos are tuned a bit low.

Here's the real gift...

What you really want is a highly developed sense of "Relative Pitch". This is the ability to identify or produce any note perfectly in tune relative to another note.

Meaning this -

If I play an F# on the piano in the middle of the day on a bus traveling through the Bronx, (hmmm) tell you it was an F#, and then play a high Ab way up on the keyboard, you could immediately say "Hey, that second note is an Ab!"

This is a highly useful skill! If you can do this, you have a great sense of Relative Pitch. If the choir sags, you sag along and keep on rockin' with all the relative pitches they sing.

Understand? Don't be fooled by those who say "Only those with Perfect Pitch can play by ear". No way. Tell them to hit the road (in the middle of the day on a bus traveling through the Bronx).

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