Ear training

I may have mentioned recently that I feel like my musical ear has really improved over the past couple years. I’m not referring to some vague ability to hear catchy melodies – I mean my ability to recognize discrepancies in pitch and rhythm has gotten better. I think a lot of this comes from the many hours I spent critically listening to rough versions of the songs on my new cd; it was like boot camp for my ear. As a result of this improvement I feel like I’m much more attuned to hearing various pitch and tempo flaws in music.

I’ve also become better at recognizing flaws in people. I often say to someone, “You’re ugly… please immediately leave my sight,” or “Your voice has a whiney, nasally quality that is most unpleasant. If you killed yourself right now using the traditional Japanese Hari Kiri method, no one would miss you.”

But that’s neither here nor there. It’s interesting to think of pitch and tempo discrimination as a skill, like shooting hoops or understanding algebra. It can be learned, but I suspect certain people have natural talents e.g. more complex development in the areas of their brain devoted to these kinds of discriminations. (Interesting, young Chinese music students have a much greater propensity towards perfect pitch than Westerners; this is presumably because Chinese babies are, after birth, challenged with the Chinese language which is very tonal (e.g. meaning is derived from the tone of voice the speaker uses, not just the words.)

I’m tempted to say that anyone under the age of 30 should not be taken seriously as a musician because they don’t have the ability to really tell when they are “off.” But many of these musicians are guided by more learned ears, and some kids just do have natural talent. Additionally most audiences don’t have a very defined sense of pitch or rhythm and can thus be easily fooled.

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