Unbelievable ear training demonstration and a related question


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Please check the following Facebook video where a young person identifies purely by ear, chords, both classical triads and advanced Jazz chords, inversions, and single notes and intervals. He is identifying chords in an exact manner and nearly instantaneously. How can this ability be used to help and encourage with growth as a musician. How do musicians make use of this ability?.

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Ella Beck

Very interesting. Obviously this lad has a special gift, but I have read that 'perfect pitch' and recognition of notes can be developed in most people if they start music very young. Once you get beyond the age of seven, not much can be done.

Even playing by ear is something that not everyone can do. I can - and my husband can't. However, he is getting a bit better at playing beyond the sheet music, so I think at any age some improvement can be made.

Thanks for sharing the video, HarmonicSounds.


Sr. Regulator
Staff member
Sr. Regulator
The ABRSM sets aural tests as part of its practical music exams. They are designed to help students develop a sense of tonality and a music ear. By the time you get to Grade 8 you will be asked to

" identify the cadence at the end of a continuing phrase as perfect, imperfect, interrupted or plagal. The phrase will be in a major or minor key and will be played twice by the examiner. The chords forming the cadence will be limited to the tonic (root position, first or second inversions), supertonic (root position or first inversion), subdominant (root position), dominant (root position, first or second inversions), dominant seventh (root position) or submediant (root position). Before the first playing, the examiner will play the key-chord.

and to identify the three chords (including their positions) forming the above cadential progression. The chords will be limited to the tonic (root position, first or second inversions), supertonic (root position or first inversion), subdominant (root position), dominant (root position, first or second inversions), dominant seventh (root position) or submediant (root position). First the examiner will name and play the key-chord, then play the three chords in sequence, finally playing each chord individually, pausing for the candidate to identify it. The candidate may answer using technical names (tonic, first inversion, etc.), chord numbers (Ib, etc.) or letter names (C major in first inversion, etc.)."

Notice that the examiner will help so that you only need relative pitch i.e. to be able to judge intervals from a key note.

You will also be asked to:

"identify whether the modulations at the end of two different passages are to the dominant, subdominant or relative minor/major. The first passage will begin in a major key and the second will begin in a minor key; each passage will be played once by the examiner. Before playing each passage, the examiner will name and play the starting key-chord. The candidate may answer using technical names (dominant*, subdominant, relative minor/major) or the letter name of the new key. (* Minor-key passages may modulate to the dominant major or minor but the candidate is only required to specify ‘dominant’ in such cases.) "

All of this is designed to develop a music ear. You can see an example of a grade 6 aural here- https://gb.abrsm.org/en/our-exams/what-is-a-graded-music-exam/aural-tests/ which also gives details of all the aural tests.

John Watt

Ella Beck! I think your English stiff upper lip is showing here.
First, this video was posted in another thread that I first replied to with others.
It's dated, and I know dated because I haven't dated for a long time.

You said it best when you said "unbelievable". I studied it and said it was rehearsed.
You saying "once you get beyond the age of seven, not much can be done",
is why I said that about having a stiff upper lip.
I learned to sing with harmony when I was in the youth choir, becoming the lead soprano.

Now, when I was in my late twenties, playing in show-bands in Toronto,
I would sit with keyboard players with synthesizers to play notes and chords,
to guess the note and see if I could tell if the synth sounds were major or minor.
That was something quiet to do onstage during the day,
but if you were using that equipment, and my amp was half-synthesized,
you had to do that so you could cope with those instruments onstage.

It's not note relevant,
but I used to practice looking away and reaching for the third, fifth, eighth, tenth and twelfth fret,
so in the dark, or getting into it with the audience or on the dance floor,
I could play without looking. I could hear people shouting he's not looking while he's dancing,
things like that.
With my self-made left-handed guitar, I'm not only getting half and quarter tones,
I'm getting descending and ascending cascading notes and chords, any time I want to.
And with my custom amplifier, my guitar can also make those sounds all by itself.

If this kind of video from India is new for you, and I'm sure he'd call you Sahib,
you'll be very surprised to see four year old children from China doing far better.

Ella Beck

This is an interesting article similar to ones I've read in the past.


It concludes -

If Chinese speakers are more likely to possess perfect pitch, it is not necessarily because they are of Asian descent. Rather, it is more likely because they have been exposed to tonal nuances and have trained themselves to model and match tonal nuances they hear all around them since infancy. Deutsche's findings indicated that precision in linguistic pitch production is a transferable skill, and one that is picked up much quicker early on in life, just like language. The transferability of these skills between language and music is a useful reminder that the cognitive benefits of an early childhood bilingual education are real—increased powers of observation, an enhanced capacity for critical thinking, and overall better mental health.

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John Watt

What you put up here reminds me of something I think about from time to time.
Oriental people, thinking Japanese for sure, had five notes per octave.
I try to imagine how that would have felt, growing up in a world of five notes per octave,
and then hearing European music with twelve notes per octave.
I know Indian sitar players not only can have eighteen notes per octave,
but they have movable frets so they can change half tones or enlarge or decrease scales.
Trying to sing like a sitar player is the one musical thing that still is very challenging for me.
Using my tremolo arm, detuning strings, does let me play a good sitar imitation,
as does playing with the bass strings on the bottom, letting high strings ring out as drones.

I see the Chinese policy of two children per family as increasing parental attention,
and that can only be a good thing.