The total number of notes to decode are quite small in number. All in all, there are just 12 notes and their octaves. Since the octaves sound similar, registering just 12 notes should be enough to decode all the music in the world. Compare this to some of the other things we remember –
- Thousand of faces
- Before the mobiles came around, hundreds of telephone numbers
- Thousands of dialogues in movies
- Characters in a language script, words and their meanings
- Innumerable axioms, theorems, formulas
If we just look at the number of notes, compared to all of the above examples, learning music should be pretty straight forward! But, in practice, it seems much harder. Why???
Our ears are not perfect spectrum analyzers. They were not meant to be. Music is something that humans invented (please don’t quote examples of singing dolphins and whales, when I say music, I mean really complicated music). Nature made our ears capable of distinguishing various calls, voices etc. to help us survive. Having fun was probably a by-product of evaluation that came much later in time and much lower in priority. While identifying a frequency, our ears get confused very easily due to some other aspect of the sound being different. Listed below are some of these aspects (The list by no means is exhaustive) –
- Volume of the sound
- Sequence of notes played before (Like hysteresis in electronics)
- The time the sound is played for (Like hold time in electronics)
- The instruments (The timbre. This does not play much of a role in discerning the relative pitch within the same instrument. But plays a role when one has to listen to one instrument and recognize a another note played in some other instrument)
Volume of the sound
Try to identify if the notes are going up or down in frequency when I play the notes in the below clip.
The answers are –
- Going up
- Going down
- Going up
- Going down
If you got it right, you have one problem less to bother about.
Sequence of notes played before
Listen to the clip I play below and identify if the last note in sequence 1 is higher or lower in frequency than the last note played in sequence 2.
The answer might surprise most people. The two ending notes in both the sequences are actually the same!
Listen to the clip below. The two sequences have the same notes in the same order, but a novice may not recognize this similarity at all.
Error due to change in instrument is one of the less serious problems and most of you may pass the below test. Take a listen –
I have again played two sequences with exactly the same arrangement of notes. But the second sequence has a note of flute in it. Do they seem similar in frequency to you? If they do, you are doing good!
In the next class, we will deal with only two notes C and G and try to register them correctly irrespective volume, sequence and timing.