4.21 Scale degrees

 

Category: Ear training | Tags: Melodic exercises

One of the important skills of a musician is to be able to hear the tonic of a melody. Whether you are playing a melody, improvising or composing, the tonic is the foundation of a piece of music. It is not only important to understand what a tonic is, but also to be able to recognize the tonic of a piece of music by ear.
The actual aim of Ear Training exercise scale degrees is to train your inner hearing abilties, and, by practical means, to acquire and expand musical understanding. Ear training promotes ‘musical intelligence’.

Each tone in a scale has it’s own melodic and harmonic function. That can have a consonant (stable) character, as for example, the tonic, (1e tone), or a very dissonant (unstable) character, the leading tone (7e tone).

1. Scale degrees: learn to hear the tonic

In the Ear training exercise Scale degrees, you first play a sound clip where you hear part of a melody. The melody ends or is interrupted on one of the tones of the scale. This can be the first tone, the tonic, but also the second, third, etc. up to and including the seventh tone, the leading tone. The purpose of this exercise is to be able to hear on which tone the melody ends or is interrupted. This tone is indicated by a number: 1 = first tone of the scale (the tonic), 2 = second tone of the scale and so on.

 

Find the tonic!

Sometimes the character of the tone with which a melody ends or is interrupted is immediately obvious. For example, if a melody ends on the tonic or the leading tone. But it becomes more difficult if a melody ends on the third tone or the fifth tone. You must first find the tonic, then you can hear whether the tone on which the melody ends is the third or the fifth tone. Have you listened to the melody, but do not recognize the character of the tone with which the melody ends or is interrupted? Then use the following steps:

  • sing on the scale after the tone you hear until you find the tonic, the most stable tone.
  • sing the last tone you hear and descend through the scale of the fragment to the tonic.
  • count the number of tones before the tonic is reached.
  • this number of steps is the correct answer.

2. Scale degrees

The goal of this exercise is to be able to recognise on which tone of the scale a melody ends, or at a fragment or phrase within the melody. That is to say, which tone counting up from the tonic of the scale. This is indicated by a number:

  • 1 = the first tone of the scale - the tonic
  • 3 = the third tone of the scale
  • 5 = the fifth tone of the scale - the dominant
  • 7 = the seventh tone of the scale - the leading tone

Attention: only the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th tones are in included in this exercise.

3. Scale degrees: the exercise

Ear Training exercise 4c: scale degrees. Recognizing on which tone of the scale the melody ends, or on which fragment or phrase within the melody.

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Example question

On which tone of the scale does the following melody end?

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Practical steps

Should the character of the tone not be immediately recognizable, then use the following steps:

  • sing on the scale after the tone you hear until you find the tonic, the most stable tone: (recognizing that is a question of musical intuition - practise makes perfect!).
  • sing the last tone you hear and descend through the scale of the fragment (phrase) to the tonic.
  • count the number of tones before the tonic is reached (the given tone counts as one).
  • this number of steps is the correct answer.

Sing the melody being played to form an idea of this melody.

1. sing until you find the most stable tone

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2. the tonic

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3. sing the last tone you hear

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4. and ascend through the scale of the fragment to the tonic

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Answer: 7.