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Re: Auditory perceptual blocks / guides ][

An important topic that I have not found addressed almost anywhere. Regarding 'traditional music' ear-training, I have found it necessary to break the topic into temporal [ie rhythm], and non-temporal [sic] areas -- those focusing on aspects of pitch perception. I put melodic dictation largely into the non-temporal domain as the technique generally has been to notate the rhythm independently of pitch. The pitch can largely be converted to 'unmetered melody' to extract the sequence of pitches.

For pitched elements in tonality, I have broken this down into two large domains, [1] intervals, and [2] scale degrees. I have drilled them both independently, and moving forward at their own rates. [My reference here is to the two year ear-training course materials I wrote for an undergraduate music program.] For older students I have found that both need to be built on a solid basic music theory foundation. Generally, the student needs to be able to manipulate music theory symbols [intervals, triads, other chords, scales and some basic tonal harmonic functions] in order to progress reasonably easily.

In my reading through most of the commercially available ear-training texts, the underlying pedagogy is not explained. The composer / writer has made a number of [educated] assumptions about the sequence that materials need to be introduced in, and about how much drill is needed on these points. Hindemith is lean and clean, but as a sole source for most students is much too fast. Dannhauser is an excellent example of the progressive introduction of sight-singing elements, but few schools have the three or four years of courses to devote to the whole series.

Rather than the term 'perceptual block', I think of them as being 'learned patterns', and one way to unblock the perception, is to unlearn the pattern. In tonality, in scalar passages, thirds are 'equal' [sic]. The opening of the Beethoven Fifth has two descending thirds, which although of different absolute size -- major then minor, are equivalent at a structural level. ^5 > ^3 = ^4 > ^2, and the piece uses this structural identity. This movement uses the 'diatonic third' without differentiation compositionally -- the third is a distance in the scale, not an interval.

One way to 'hear' this intervalically to break down the scale degree recognition is to have it played backwards. .sdrawkcab deyalp ti si noitingocer eegred elacs eht cte. Or to play the two intervals as an atonal context:  G G G Eb   E E E C#. This leaves the interval intact while removing the tonal / scalar context.

2. My experience is that the 'correct' guide / anchor is required. There is a school of ear-training teaching that demonstrates intervals as being the first two notes in a song. The problem is that tonal hearing dominates, and the first interval of "The Star Spangled Banner" is not heard as a minor third, but as ^5 ^3 in the major scale.

From my reading, most ear-training materials do not come with a detailed, reasoned pedagogy. Many on-line ear-training 'courses' remind me of random-walk learning in that the drills have content, but little by way of form or context.

I think the literature you seek will not be found outside of pedagogical explanations that accompany specifically created / composed materials. It is one thing to draw up a chart of the sequence of [say] three years of dictation and sight-singing exercises -- with supplementary drill materials, it is, IMPE, another matter to produce the 48-60+ hours of dictation and 1,000 pages of sight-reading materials. Your kilometrage may vary significantly.


On 2012, Nov 25, at 1:24 PM, eldad tsabary wrote:

Hi all,
I am looking for some ideas and literature on two concepts relevant to ear training.

1. perceptual blocks - the case where a lack of perceptual flexibility, inability to change attentional focus, or hear at a different structural level, or any other aspect of perception, prevents ear training students from discriminating, segregating, or identifying sonic or musical parameters despite regular practice. I have used the term "perceptual block" to describe such instances, though in the literature, this term is usually associated with theories of creativity (and while I find some parallels , these concepts are quite different).

One of many such blocks, for example, could be (in the tonal domain) a perceptual habit that could be described, perhaps, as "tonal interference." In such cases, the students seem to listen to a certain interval in the context of previous tonal stimuli and may get thrown off by that contextual modality. A simple example of that is in listening to a minor third E-G right after hearing the major third C-E. In my experience, students often hear the minor third in the context of a C major triad and therefore hear it as having a major modality (or "feel"). 

This is only one type of example. I am looking for any literature that deal (more widely or more specifically) with the concept of auditory organization being stuck on a certain interpretation, inhibiting skill acquisition.

2. perceptual guides or anchors - the case where ear training students find a relatively reliable perceptual reference point that allows them to identify a certain sonic or musical parameter by comparison. An example from the tonal domain, again, may be the technique of learning how scale degrees sound by comparing them in the mind's ear to the tonic as a steady anchor. In another example, students practicing microtonal discrimination (down to about 5 cents differences) discovered that the acoustics of the room had an effect on the spatial perception of microtonal variation in pure tones. They used their spatial perception as an anchoring mechanism to recognizing microtonal differences. 

The second example is of course very different from the first, but I am interested in both and more. I am looking for any literature that deals with perceptual organization strategies (in attentive processing) that can be used to acquire aural skills by providing a reliable reference point.

I would also love some ideas about these concepts.

Many thanks