Been working with a lot of students these days on the importance of tonal recognition, and it still baffles me just how many simply can’t recognize some of the most rudimentary of changes! What I mean is being able to recognize a minor from a major for example or a seventh from a sixth. I think what is happening here is the simple fact that their actual “mechanism” for this recognition of tones just hasn’t been “switched on” yet! I mean, it’s a basic human ability to recognize different tones…we use it in speech every day, and in recognizing for example, the difference from the downstairs bell and the front doorbell! Still, it becomes more or less a skill that we all eventually must cultivate to become complete players.
The way in which I teach this is to get them to recognize the most obvious intervals, such as a minor or a seventh. I then point out examples of where it is so obviously already a part of their knowledge that they are literally forced to assimilate this information. Then, once the tonal recognition occurs, we try to actually put it into action together, so that in the actual act of playing together in a sort of “jam”, I can call out and point out the areas where what I am talking about occurs!
This kind of “call to action” is so critical in the learning process, and the need to put a certain musical rule in its proper place is sometimes the only way for me to best “drive home” the idea I’m shooting for. Most of the time, after this occurs the student seems to really take it to heart, and their reaction is usually something like “that was so simple, I really knew that already!” And that’s what I’m talking about…tapping into a lot of the knowledge that is really already “there” in most of us who play, I just want to properly encourage the learning process to become more self-propelling for them. In the end, it really becomes what you do with your “inner voice.” When we are playing any instrument, we are just as much singing as when we are using our mouths, and the ability to “tune in” to that part of us, and how it translates onto the fret board is crucial!
So, be sure to listen to that voice you have inside of you…every time you play, it’s right there, trying to tell you right from wrong, and good from bad. Follow its advice, and you’ll surely move forward as a true player!