Whether you are taking a Music Diploma, Music A Level, are an Undergraduate or a Postgraduate, you need to further develop your ear and connect it with your theoretical understanding throughout carefully structured Aural Lessons. The best way to learn advanced aural and theory skills is by connecting them through sound on your instrument, improvising, composing and extemporising. By joining all the skills up, you engrave them deeper in your mind and good music teaching shouldn’t perceive them as separate entities.
Aural Lessons: Melodic Decorations, Ornaments and Embellishments
Start by taking a simple melody, or a phrase of it, and embellishing it through the addition of ornaments. Examples might include lower auxiliary notes, trills, turns, nota cambiatas and so forth. Learn through doing. Aural lessons using familiar repertoire always work best. Use snippets of famous melodies.
Aural Lessons, Improv and Harmonisation
Use keyboard harmony skills to create an accompaniment for the melody. You might start with straight forward iib-V-I type harmonies. You might extend this to include a particular focus such as the Neapolitan Sixth, German Sixth, French Sixth, Italian Sixth, diminished sevenths, half-diminished sevenths, diatonic sevenths, secondary dominants and so on. Have a specific focus that you use as a good 10 minute, or more, focus each day. By using specific foci you further engrain a concept in your mind and when it comes to identifying it by ear, you recognise it much more quickly.
Aural Lesson: Sequences and Modulations
Take the melody and repeat it sequentially, a step higher or lower each time. It does not take much to convert this into a modulation. Choose specific keys that you might explore such as the relative minor, supertonic minor, subdominant and its relative minor, or the dominant and its relative minor. You will start to recognise these modulations by ear the more that you do this. Ever looked for sequences in Away in a Manger or We Wish You a Merry Christmas in your aural lessons and then extended them to make them vocal/piano/organ exercises?
The Circle of Fifths
The Circle of Fifths integrates nicely into sequences and modulations. Simple patterns repeated as the bass moves through a pattern of fourths or fifths successively a step a part, leads either to diatonic sequences or, with chromatic alterations, to passing modulations, or, if you wish, as a journey to a new key. The circle of fifths is a common tool used by composers in tonal harmony, so it’s important to have a clear aural concept of it. Improvising your way through this progression also ensures that you have a good command of chords in a wide range of keys. Aural lessons should involve singing such modulations.
Aural Lessons: Chord Voicing
Exploring inversions is a crucial part of quality voicing and aural perception. For instance, the use of a 7th chord with the 7th in the bass is extremely strong and the bass ‘wants’ to fall by step immediately. The use of 4-3, 7-6 and 9-8 suspensions pull the heart strings with tension and resolution, but it’s important that their resolutions aren’t simultaneously sounded in another part/hand of your improvisation. The spacing of the chords can also create a different ‘emotional’ feel. Chords voiced in a low tessitura tend to be rich or dark, spaced out and they sound bright and resonant, in close harmony and they resemble a trumpet chorus or barbershop quartet. Again, aural lessons should involve singing all such features.
Aural Lessons, Theory, Harmony, Improvisation
At the end of this you have combined all of your skills, created improvisations, composed variations or chorale preludes. The result is a fully developed, rounded musician.
A summary of this lesson can be found in this youtube clip:
Aural Lessons Online in the Modern Age
What about innovative aural lessons that use solfege, snippets of famous melodies (such as We Will Rock You and Ghostbusters). teach modulation, chord types, progressions and more right up to music diploma level? Explore, the brand new Aural Lessons Subscription Library where the courses are easily accessible, fun, rewarding and progressive.
In Person, Zoom or Face-to-Face Aural Lessons
Learn more about advanced online aural lessons, via:
Dr Robin Harrison (the Maestro Online) has taught at universities, GCSE, A Level and examined for diplomas. He teaches at all levels from beginners to PhD through one-to-one live online lessons. Some of his theories are published by Routledge in their Companion to Aural Skills Pedagogy.