Rock Improvisation, Playing by Ear with Solfa, Transcribing Long Songs, and The Funky Ones | Easy Ear Training

Sometimes music is magical! Whether it be observing musicians who have learned that elusive skill of playing by ear, enjoying the showmanship of a rock star improvising a solo, or those goosebumps you get from hearing someone play with an other-worldly sense of musicality, music electrifies us. Behind every magical performance, however, is a lot of hard work, a little funkiness and doses of attitude.

But first! We here at Easy Ear Training are generous people so here’s a free idea for someone out there with too much time on their hands: “Michael Phelps: The Musical”.

Meet The Team!

The articles, training modules and all the other resources from Easy Ear Training and Musical U don’t just magically appear! (though they just might be magically delicious!)

There is a dedicated team of musicians and educators (and maybe a few leprechauns) working hard behind the scenes to bring you the best in ear training and musical education.

Musical-U-team-2.0Musical U begins a new “Meet the Team” series this week, featuring interviews with staff members at Easy Ear Training and Musical U. Let’s start at the top! Meet the multi-talented mastermind behind Musical U and Easy Ear Training, Founder and Director Christopher Sutton. Did you know that Christopher was once an operetta star and likes to hang out with mountain goats?

Christopher is well-versed in many instruments and passionate about musicality. In addition to his musical skills, Christopher is also a computer and tech wiz. Through extensive trial and error, studying and discovering, he fused these skills together to start Easy Ear Training, found Musical U, and share his insights with others.

The Funky Ones

Funky OnesWhat makes a great funk guitarist? For the answer to that question, we turned to someone who’s an expert on funky grooves. Joe Gatto of Funkish.audio helps time-strapped lovers of funky, eclectic, global grooves find awesome new music, curating the hottest tropical sounds, organic grooves, and polyrhythmic vibes from around the world. In this week’s guest post, Joe explains what makes a great funk guitarist, featuring examples of musicians who are all about the rhythm, the groove and The One.

If you feel the need to brush up on your funk guitar, follow along with Just Nick Music as he leads you through a 30 minute funk-guitar workout:

Prefer the funkiness of acoustic guitar? Acoustic Guitar shows you how to play funk unplugged.

Transcribing Long Pieces of Music Without Your Brain Exploding

If you have been following along with our How to Transcribe Music Like a Pro series by now you should know how to get started transcribing, transcribe rhythm, how to find the key, how How to Transcribed Music Like a Pro, Part 6: Conquering Long Songsto transcribe the rhythm section and the melody and lead instrument. Our tutorials on music transcription up until now have focused on short musical phrases and in this latest instalment we give you advice on how to tackle transcribing a long piece of music. There are shortcuts to be used – your brain doesn’t have to explode!

If you would like a brief review of the entire transcribing process, check out this article by Artworks 101 on transcribing basics and watch this video from Jazz at Lincoln Center featuring jazz singers talk about their music transcribing process:

Play by Ear with Solfa

Ah, the mysteries of playing by ear! Some musicians can do it. Most can’t. There is a secret magic formula to learning to play by ear, however, and since we are feeling generous this week we’ll share it with you here: Solfa

6-simple-steps-play-by-ear-solfaSolfa is a system you can learn to quickly and reliably identify the notes in music, allowing you to play by ear on your instrument. Also known as solfège or solfeggio, it’s a framework for relative pitch, which is your ability to judge the distance in pitch between notes. If you are going to learn to play by ear with solfa, then you will benefit from following a clear and reliable plan. Musical U first presented a 6-step roadmap to learning to play by ear with solfa and we take a more in depth look at it here.

If you are new to the concept of Solfa, have a look at this Solfa beginners guide from Music at Monkton, and for some solfa ear training exercises from a professional music teacher, here are some great ones by The Vocal Lexicon:

Learn to Improvise Like a Rock Star!

Rock-Improvisation-TechniquesWe’ve been taking a look at the history of improvisation and its various incarnations in music. This week we delve into the most visually expressive form of improvisation: rock improv. Rock music, like most forms of western music, has its roots in the blues and also has a tradition of improvisation. We analyze improvisational techniques of some of the most famous rock songs and explain which core concepts you need to know to help you improvise like a rock god!

Tired of playing air guitar and want to shine like a rock star – but don’t quite feel ready? Here’s Uberchord’s guide to rock improvisation for beginners and for a little more instruction check out professional Swiss guitarist and pianist Hanspeter Kruesi’s video on rock improvisation basics:

Throw in a healthy dose of attitude and you’ll be center stage in no time!

What is “Musicality”?

What-Is-Musicality-Featured-ImageThe term “musicality” is vague. Indeed there are many definitions of the word and an equal number of opinions as to whether or not musicality is innate or can be taught. At Musical U, they believe that musicality is best defined as “a set of ‘inner skills’ which let you freely and confidently express yourself in music” and that musicality can be taught. They have compiled a list of 17(!) “inner skills” which aid in a musician’s musicality and discuss them in depth in this new post: What Is Musicality?.

For more basic advice on how to be more musical, we turn to clarinetist (and cat lady) Cally Laughlin who has five tips for no-fail musicality:

If “hearing is basically a specialized form of touch”, then perhaps the answer to the elusive question of musicality can be found in the science of vibrations. Vibrations are – after all – a form of energy. Sue Terry of Associated Musicians of Greater New York and Paula E. Bird of Teach Suzuki both find that musicality is indivisible from energy.

Yet we’ve now learned that none of this actually matters unless you are a sea lion. Yes, sea lions are more musical than all of us. (But probably make terrible band mates!)

Nothing that is worthwhile is ever easy, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun or that shortcuts can’t be taken. You can learn to acquire the magical skills necessary to be a truly musical performer, too, if you just follow the right guidelines and let the funk set you free!

… and if you find yourself stuck, remember – a little attitude goes a long way:

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