How to analyse structure & - hear music in your head

A "classroom" environment for exchanging Technical Questions & Answers, How-To's, music theory concepts, etc.
PAN A575

How to analyse structure & - hear music in your head

Post by PAN A575 » Mon Apr 29, 2013 5:26 pm

bacsidoan wrote:When I look at a piece of music in standard notation, I can analyze the structure of the harmonies and hear the music in my head.
bacsidoan isn't the only one. A few others have also mentioned their ability to analyse the structure and hear the music in their head before they begin to play.

I expect it's a combination of gift and years of studying music, but how have you come to be able to do this? Are there any quick and easy ways to pick this up? Where do you start? What's your process of analysing the structure? What suggestions can you pass on to the less gifted and more challenged.
Last edited by PAN A575 on Tue Apr 30, 2013 2:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Aucaman
Posts: 617
Joined: Sun Jul 15, 2012 1:15 am
Location: Rancho Mirage, California

Re: How to analyse structure & - hear music in your head

Post by Aucaman » Tue Apr 30, 2013 12:38 am

I am also very interested in hearing those experts who, like bacsidoan, maintain they can hear the melody and the harmonies in their head. :shock:

I think PAN A575 is right to suspect it's to a large extent a matter of training and experience.

In my case, after about 10 years of reading guitar music (and not knowing very much about the F clef that keyboard players use), I can sort of grasp a good idea of the main melody and the rhythm, but not the harmonies.

I clearly remember my very first hit:
I was looking at the score of the first movement of one of the 4 Vivaldi's "Four Seasons." The score didn't say which of the four concerti it was, but -since I have heard them many many times- I managed to recognize the main melody of Autumn. It was certainly a very small step toward the realm of the professional musicians, but I felt so good about it that I have never forgotten the experience. :D

User avatar
Pierre330
Posts: 775
Joined: Tue Apr 05, 2011 1:13 am
Location: Akron, OH

Re: How to analyse structure & - hear music in your head

Post by Pierre330 » Tue Apr 30, 2013 12:57 am

I can only hear music in my head if the voices start humming it;)
Last edited by Pierre330 on Fri May 03, 2013 12:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
Pierre

A painter paints pictures on canvas, but musicians paint their pictures on silence. - Leopold Stokowski

User avatar
richardph
Posts: 112
Joined: Thu Mar 21, 2013 4:30 am
Location: Duarte, CA

Re: How to analyse structure & - hear music in your head

Post by richardph » Tue Apr 30, 2013 3:27 am

Aucaman wrote:I am also very interested in hearing those experts who, like bacsidoan, maintain they can hear the melody and the harmonies in their head. :shock:
I agree, this would be quite difficult (for me, anyway) with the exception of maybe some very simple pieces
with basic chord changes. I can usually sing the melodies, countermelodies, and grasp the rhythm, which can give
one a basic "feel" of a piece. But looking at a score as a whole and "hearing" in my head, including harmonies, not yet...probably never.

I do recall one of my college professors once said, "remember, the ulitimate in musicianship, is being able to hear
what you see, and see what you hear".
2014 Kenny Hill Performance
"Don't sell your Les Paul" -Michael Chapdelaine

User avatar
Mick the Ramirez Man
Posts: 1224
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2013 11:03 am
Location: Milwaukee, WI USA

Re: How to analyse structure & - hear music in your head

Post by Mick the Ramirez Man » Tue Apr 30, 2013 6:47 am

I can hear certain harmony parts and chords in my head that I've learned after years of experience of playing and hearing those harmonies. For instance, I can hear in my head the root and 5th because it's the most basic and common of harmonies and the basis of a major chord in most forms of Western popular music, i.e. Rock, Country, etc. I can hear a note and the 4th above it because it's such a common harmony for singing, etc.

But, those are simple harmonies. I can't look at a complex piece of music that I've never heard and hear it in my head like Beethoven.
Ramirez 4NE, Ramirez R4 and Ramirez R1

User avatar
Larry McDonald
Teacher
Posts: 1257
Joined: Fri Feb 23, 2007 2:33 pm
Location: Milwaukee, Wi USA

Re: How to analyse structure & - hear music in your head

Post by Larry McDonald » Tue Apr 30, 2013 2:05 pm

Aucaman wrote:I am also very interested in hearing those experts who, like bacsidoan, maintain they can hear the melody and the harmonies in their head.
The skill is called audiation, and yes, it's a matter of training and experience. I can't confirm others path, but for me the experience is quite rich and varied. I can hear most scores in my head, and that includes SATB and most string orchestras. When it comes time to hear transpositions such as clarinet in A, horn in F at the same time, I get lost (I love C scores). I spent 9 years as a conductor, some at the university level.

This skill came from aural skills classes and composing, where you hear the music in your head and then copy it to the page/screen. But it also came from a love of analyses of many kinds of music, from Montiverdi to "Muse". Singing/listening to music with the score in hand is critical. I also practice conducting while actively listening.

As a guitarist listening to myself sight-reading, I felt that singing along was the most help. I usually sing the bass line first, if the melody is self evident. Then I sing the interior parts. This is where composers can really shine (see everything by Sor).

So, if you want to develop this skill, start singing as you play. Sing all the parts. Know your key signatures. If you can use solfeggio, all the better. If not, la-la works just fine, too. Start with level 1 Carulli studies. Don't concern yourself about the formal harmonic analysis (you can do this later). Listen to your favorite artists with the score in front of you and anticipate your favorite spots. Enjoy the process and don't concern yourself about how long this takes.

All the best,
Larry McDonald, D.M.A.
PS. Formal study with a composer doesn't hurt, either.
Dr. Lawrence A. McDonald, D.M.A., Art Kaplan Fellow
Author of The Conservatory Tutor for Guitar
2008 Michael Thames Cd/Br
Royal Conservatory Advanced Guitar Instructor
Royal Conservatory Advanced Theory Instructor

User avatar
Aucaman
Posts: 617
Joined: Sun Jul 15, 2012 1:15 am
Location: Rancho Mirage, California

Re: How to analyse structure & - hear music in your head

Post by Aucaman » Tue Apr 30, 2013 4:19 pm

Larry McDonald wrote:
Aucaman wrote:I am also very interested in hearing those experts who, like bacsidoan, maintain they can hear the melody and the harmonies in their head.
The skill is called audiation, and yes, it's a matter of training and experience.
So, if you want to develop this skill, start singing as you play. Sing all the parts. Know your key signatures. If you can use solfeggio, all the better. If not, la-la works just fine, too. Start with level 1 Carulli studies. Don't concern yourself about the formal harmonic analysis (you can do this later). Listen to your favorite artists with the score in front of you and anticipate your favorite spots. Enjoy the process and don't concern yourself about how long this takes.
Wonderful, Larry. This is great advice. Thanks to you, I'm pleased to learn that I'm already on the right path.
After reading your post, I realized that, when I practice, I do tend to hum the melody and I enjoy listening to my heroes performing with the score in hand.

The best part is that you've also given me the perfect justification for all the guitar music I've been buying which is way above my skills and I know I will never be able to play. Next time somebody asks me why I bought the Chaconne, I'll say: "It's for my audiation" :)

Lawler
Posts: 905
Joined: Sun Mar 31, 2013 12:36 am

Re: How to analyse structure & - hear music in your head

Post by Lawler » Tue Apr 30, 2013 4:54 pm

Audiation is such an important thing for every musician. Edwin Gordon created the term and had some other brilliant ideas about music learning as well. Anyone would do well to learn everything they can about audiation, IMO, and apply it daily re how they work in their practicing. Singing the lines of the music is a big part of it and the funny thing is, really, that it's a very old technique of instrumental practicing that goes way back, though it's often ignored in modern day teaching.

dogonjon

Re: How to analyse structure & - hear music in your head

Post by dogonjon » Tue Apr 30, 2013 6:05 pm

In grade school I spent much of my time listening to popular music by The Beach Boys, Surfaries, Ventures, Beatles, Dave Clark Five and Rolling Stones in my head while I was supposed to be attentive to other lessons. In the 4th grade the band director handed out song flutes to the class and a book of ten simple song melodies. He assigned one to learn. I learned them all. The next week he had us play the first piece together. I was the only one who completed it. He came to my desk and complimented me. I asked if he wanted to hear more and he asked which one I learned and I said "All of them". He looked at me with an amused look and went back to the front of the class and made the next assignment. In junior high I was in a band and wrote out arrangements for our horn section for Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head and Love is Blue both of which began with a guitar solo. Our trombone player did most of our horn arrangements and gave me good advice about which clef and range of each instrument but I did the arrangements and score. I began transcribing songs and solos. In college I began listening to original music in my i-head. I began visualizing the entire collection of scores as a massive rolodex that rotated in a blur. I eventually learned to slow the catalog down enough to select individual scores and compose the piece. In my 30's I managed to compose pieces without having to find a reference note on an instrument. I've never been a gifted performer or composer but I have a reasonable facility to write simple songs.

User avatar
Artem
Posts: 243
Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2011 5:49 pm
Location: Potomac, MD

Re: How to analyse structure & - hear music in your head

Post by Artem » Fri May 03, 2013 12:04 am

After 7 years of private ear-training I still could not tell the difference between a 4th and 5th, or 8th, or 3rd and 6th from hearing them. Failed pretty much every ear-training class in school, had to retake and failed again. On one a few dictation the teacher called me up and asked if I was in outer space. He also made a point to show that "a guitarist doesn't know *****."
So then I had to break it down for myself on my own, because the skill is a compound one, and all of ear-training teachers have perfect pitch - so they can't teach it, because they never had to learn anything. Yes, I hate ear-training and perfect pitch people, it's not their fault... but it's the fault of some of them.
You need to be able to: recognize pitch relationship from the score, recognize pitch relationship from the sound, recognize intervals from score, recognize intervals from sound, recognize pitch relationship on your instrument from score and from sound, recognize pitch relationship from your playing, recognize rhythm from score and from sound, produce proper pitch relationships in your head/voice, recognize pitch relationships from your head/voice, recognize larger form structures from sound and score (which is a compound skill in itself, called music theory). These are usually broken down as: sight-singing, sight-reading, dictations, improvising, analyzing recording of music.
It's a lot. But each skill feeds into another, so as you get better at one, you will get better at another. However, each skill feeds into another - so make sure you practice all. Check out iwasdoingallright.com. He has a great ear-training tool and he shows the way he uses it. Sing with it, play with it. Then, find a bunch of easy duets (method books are great) - like violin, flute, recorder - I found a bunch on IMSLP. Then play one part and sing the other. Can't do that? Play a phrase and sing it after. Then try singing first and playing after. Don't play/sing at the same time. At first, when you're trying to duet with yourself (or 'do it'...yes), ignore the rhythm. Just feel/hear the relationship of your voice to the note you play.
Take a score, listen to a recording with the score, then look at the score again. Use your analytical knowledge (harmonies/cadences/pitch alterations/phrase lengths) and mark it into the score. Then listen to it again and hear what you've analyzed. Have your theoretical knowledge support what you hear. If you intellectually know that the music is modulating, can you hear it? Put on a song and sing the tonic pitch. Then check with the score. Then sing it again.
Little by little, after a year or more, you will feel the results. You'll know where a chord is supposed to resolve, you'll know what to expect and what the possibilities are.
A lot of theoretical analysis is a matter of familiarity - form, cadences, melodic lines. You know what to expect and then you hear what happens and from the sound you can tell which of the possibilities happened (was it a deceptive cadence? a sequence? retransition? fugal passage?).

User avatar
Aucaman
Posts: 617
Joined: Sun Jul 15, 2012 1:15 am
Location: Rancho Mirage, California

Re: How to analyse structure & - hear music in your head

Post by Aucaman » Fri May 03, 2013 2:18 am

Artem's description of what it apparently takes to hear music in your head is pretty scary. If it's true, I feel sorry for those who are REQUIRED to study it all and then pass exams on that stuff.
Thank God, for me this is just a hobby and nobody is breathing down my neck making sure I stick to the grind. :chaud:

User avatar
Artem
Posts: 243
Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2011 5:49 pm
Location: Potomac, MD

Re: How to analyse structure & - hear music in your head

Post by Artem » Fri May 03, 2013 1:03 pm

Oh, you're not required to do all that stuff. They expect that you've already done it in some magical land where teachers actually teach that. They just rehearse it with you without teaching you anything new.

User avatar
Larry McDonald
Teacher
Posts: 1257
Joined: Fri Feb 23, 2007 2:33 pm
Location: Milwaukee, Wi USA

Re: How to analyse structure & - hear music in your head

Post by Larry McDonald » Fri May 03, 2013 3:58 pm

Artem wrote:Oh, you're not required to do all that stuff. They expect that you've already done it in some magical land where teachers actually teach that. They just rehearse it with you without teaching you anything new.
Sounds like a crappy aural skills department. There are lots of strategies to learn this skill.
There are some new pitch recognition products out there for rehearsing (graded?), but teaching/coaching useful strategies to acquire the skill is another matter.

Al the best,
Lare
Dr. Lawrence A. McDonald, D.M.A., Art Kaplan Fellow
Author of The Conservatory Tutor for Guitar
2008 Michael Thames Cd/Br
Royal Conservatory Advanced Guitar Instructor
Royal Conservatory Advanced Theory Instructor

User avatar
Artem
Posts: 243
Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2011 5:49 pm
Location: Potomac, MD

Re: How to analyse structure & - hear music in your head

Post by Artem » Fri May 03, 2013 4:05 pm

Larry McDonald wrote:...

Sounds like a crappy aural skills department. ...
I'm not bitter... :evil:

PAN A575

Re: How to analyse structure & - hear music in your head

Post by PAN A575 » Fri May 03, 2013 6:44 pm

richardph wrote:I agree, this would be quite difficult (for me, anyway) .... looking at a score as a whole and "hearing" in my head, including harmonies, not yet...probably never.

I do recall one of my college professors once said, "remember, the ulitimate in musicianship, is being able to hear
what you see, and see what you hear".
Thanks to those that responded to my question. Special thanks to Lare. After reading all your responses I fear it will likely be "probably never" for me, as well. :( Oh well, I'm not trying to earn a living from this. Just looking for quick and easy ways at this late stage to improve and increase my enjoyment.
Last edited by PAN A575 on Wed May 08, 2013 8:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Return to “Classical Guitar Classes”