Using a melody for progression ear training

It’s snowy and cold here in Denver, so sharing an ear training challenge, because why not? I’d put this in the “super mega” thread, but I think the concept is important enough to stand on its own for consideration.

Choose a tune…

  1. That you are greatly familiar with and are able to reasonably accurately audiate.
  2. For which you are not hearing the underlying progression as clearly as you might like to.
  3. For which you have adequate knowledge of the related chords/scale possibilities.

Here’s the challenge:

  • Take a prominent melody note on any given measure.
  • Be able to sing the relevant scale up or down from the melody to the relevant root note.
  • Move to the next chord and repeat one’s way through the whole tune.

I recommend vocalizing with chromatic solfege so as to keep an active awareness of what scale degrees are being sung on the way from the melody note to the chord root.

It’s useful to be able to sing from melody notes down to the underlying chord using solfege with Do representing the root of the chord, and with Do representing the tonic.

For example, in the case of All The Things You Are, the first note over the first chord (as typically charted) is Ab and the underlying chord is F minor 7. One could sing me re do (“may ray doh”) with respect to the F-7 chord, or one could sing do ti la (“doh tee la”) with respect to the key of Ab, or, one could sing me re do but go on through the exercise treating everything as if the tune is in F minor.

Continuing the example to the melody note Db over the second chord Bb-7, one would sing either me re do relative to the Bb chord root, fa mi re relative to the key of Ab Major, or le so fa (“lay so fa”) relative to the key of F Natural Minor.

Ultimately one would want to be able to sing (or play) the root notes of the progression effortlessly while hearing the melody in one’s head, and vice versa. That is, be able to sing (or play) the melody while hearing the root notes in one’s head–without effort.

I’ve given a common example from a well known jazz standard, but it’s applicable to any juxtaposition of a melody over a chord progression. Start as simple as one needs too.

Cheers, Daniel

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p.s. With credit to the late great Joe Pass, from whose videos I believe I picked up the note targeting strategy from first.