Christopher Sutton Ear Training Fun

Christopher Sutton - Ear Training Fun

How do you make ear training fun and easy, so that your students actually do it?

Watch Glory St. Germain and Special Guest Christopher Sutton in the Ultimate Music Interview.  Learn how you can do ear training in a way that isn't just endless, dull drills.

Discover how to develop ear training skills - Intervals vs. Solfa - what's best and why?

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Christopher Sutton - UMT Interview Photo

Christopher Sutton - Ear Training Fun

Christopher Sutton is the Director of Musical U, providing online training for musicians to develop the "inner skills" which let you feel free, confident and creative in music. 

Christopher - a lifelong music lover, musician - bass guitar and blues harmonica (also studied cello, clarinet, piano, saxophone, and electric guitar), and vocalist - low bass (choirs and ensemble groups).

Become more musical with Christopher Sutton (Valencia, Spain) and Musical U!


Christopher Sutton Ear Training Fun

Christopher Sutton is Glory St. Germain's Special Guest on the Ultimate Music Interview Series.

Glory: Well hello and good morning, good afternoon, wherever it is that you're from. I'm Glory St. Germain from Ultimate Music Theory, and I'm absolutely thrilled that I have special guest Christopher Sutton here all the way from Valencia, Spain. Welcome, Christopher!

Christopher: Thank you very much. It's a pleasure and an honor to be here.

Glory: I am so excited that you're here today. Today we are talking about, how do you make ear training fun and easy s that your students actually do it? Our special guest, Christopher Sutton, is the director of Musical U, providing online training for musicians to develop the inner skills which let you really feel free and confident and creative in music. As I mentioned, he's from Valencia, Spain where he lives with his lovely wife and two daughters. A lifelong musician, I was trying to coach him into playing a little bass or blues harmonica, but maybe next time. I know you are a multi-instrumentalist and a vocalist, singing low bass in some of the choral groups that you belong to, so it's pretty exciting. I mentioned that I'm in Winnipeg; I would invite our guests that are watching, our viewers, just throw on the chat box where are you from, and please say welcome to Christopher.

Glory: Maybe you could start us off with ... Let's hear your story. How did you start off in music? Obviously you studied a number of instruments; how did you get started?

Christopher: Sure. So I got started in my school days, and I think that's part of the reason that I play so many instruments, is I dabbled in a lot of different things, and I was lucky enough to go to a school where that was possible. So I started out on recorder, I think as everyone does, but then moved to cello and clarinet, and I only took clarinet because I wanted to learn saxophone, so then I moved onto saxophone, and I wanted to learn electric guitar so I did that, and then piano, and then as you said, I sung a lot. I was on the school choir and the chapel choir and barber shop groups. Music was big for me in my school years, and then after that I studied computer science at university, so I wasn't a music specialist, but music continued to be my hobby. That's when I picked up blues harmonica for example, and started playing bass. It's just continued since then. It's obviously front and center in my work these days, but I wouldn't consider myself a professional musician. It's still for me something I love to improve on and enjoy the variety I manage to come up with, in terms of instruments and styles that I would use.

Glory: Yeah. I think it's wonderful that you have an opportunity to play so many different instruments, and as you said, even dabble in it. One of the things that I think in this day and age is that students do have that opportunity to become more musical, and then explore those different instruments. For our viewers that are watching, maybe you can share with us, do you play more than one instrument, or are you just kind of stuck on one? Just share with us, "Yes I play more than one," and what do you play? Because today we're talking about being really musical, and in fact I want to share a word that Christopher uses. Musical U, you referred to musicality, that term. Can you just define musicality for us? What does that mean exactly?

Christopher Sutton Ear Training Fun

Christopher: Sure. It is an official word, as it were, you'll find it in the dictionary, but opinions vary as to what exactly it means. It has a lot in common with musicianship, which is maybe a word people would have come across more often, but to me musicianship was always a very stuffy, conservatoire kind of word that had very rigid meaning about particular skills. Often actually it just meant a lot about performance skills and repertoire, and classical music theory understanding. So we tend to use musicality more because it feels broader and more all-encompassing, and for us really just encapsulates being and feeling musical.

Christopher: It's interesting, you mentioned that thing about playing multiple instruments, that's something we would consider part of musicality. I think often times people get pigeonholed in one instrument, party because the musicality has been a big neglected, and they're very focused on instrument technique and mastering the performance skills, the fingering of piano for example, and actually they haven't explored what we consider the inner skills, like can you play by ear or improvise, are you able to write your own music, can you jam or collaborate with others? Music theory understanding is only part of it too. Do you know the right terminology? All of those things where, when somebody does it really well, you look at that and you're like, "They look like a natural, they're just amazing at music." Actually they're all learnable skills.

Glory: They are.

Christopher Sutton Ear Training Fun

Christopher: So at Musical U we really love to pick that apart, and dissect what really goes into seeming really musical and feeling really musical, and feeling like you're a natural, and how can we help people to acquire those skills so that they feel like they are truly musical.

Glory: That's so awesome. One of the things too, I think, and you just really said it, musicality ... And by the way, for our viewers today, I'm just going to put a quick shout in here. Remember the word "musicality," because actually Christopher Sutton has very graciously provided you with a wow gift, which I will be telling you about a little bit later, but it's definitely a wow gift, so you don't want to miss that. You were talking about being musical and really exploring all of the musicality that you offer at the Musical U. Because sometimes I think it's the fear factor. If you don't know what you don't know then you're just afraid to ... I play the piano, I play a little guitar, but when you take on another instrument, sometimes you're just afraid of that.

Glory: Today we're kind of talking about one of the concepts in being musical, having musicality, and that's really ear training. How do you ear training in a way ... First of all not only for yourself, but as educators, because we have a lot of teachers on the call with us today, that isn't that endless dull, boring thing where you say, "All right, now we're going to do ear training," and you get the eye-rolling thing happening because they're like, "Oh no." Tell us about how we can do ear training that's going to really make it enjoyable for us.

Christopher: Sure. I think let's begin by just addressing front-on, why isn't it enjoyable? I think that is often people's experience, and I think teachers often struggle because they haven't really been equipped with ideas or frameworks for teaching ear training in a way that will be fun and easy for their students.

Glory: Yes.

Christopher: What we've found is that the fundamental problem is that ear training is taught in a way that is separate from everything else the student is doing, typically. And Glory, when you were on the Musicality podcast last year, I think you and I bonded over the fact that music theory is often handled in a similar way, and is kind of put in a little box, and people study it because they're meant to, but actually they don't make the connections to the things they really care about in music, like their instrument, like the music they play, like the music they're listening to. So it becomes this kind of duty, and a chore, and it's all very dry and abstract. This goes for music theory, and it goes for ear training, and fortunately, because there's that kind of root cause, the solution is also quite simple. Not necessarily easy, it requires some creative thought.

Christopher Sutton Ear Training Fun

Christopher: Fundamentally the way to make ear training fun and easy is to connect it to the stuff in music that is fun and easy for you. You connect it to the things you care about and are passionate about, and we can definitely talk a little bit about how teachers can do that in the context of a lesson. Because that is what transforms ear training from being ... For me it was, a week before the exam you've got to learn these aural skills. Let's learn the reference songs for intervals. Of course nobody did, because suddenly aural skills were a thing out of nowhere that made no sense to anybody. If that's your only experience of ear training, you're not going to get very far, and you're not going to see the value, and you're not going to enjoy the benefits. That's really what we're trying to get away from.

Glory: And when you think of the ear training too, that when you do learn to hear those intervals ... Even think about if you're out and about and you hear a song that you really love, you need to recognize, what is the distance? Is it ascending or is it descending? If you hear that you can actually just go over to your instrument and play it. Sometimes you wonder, "How can you just play that by ear?" Well because I can hear it. In developing our ear training, I guess there's two different approaches when we're learning to hear things. Are we learning by intervals or by solfa? And so I want you to talk a little bit about, maybe, what's the difference, and then what do you think is the better approach? Or how is it different? I guess depending on the students, sometimes that makes a difference too, right?

Christopher: It can be a very personal thing, yeah. If you went back a few years I would've been very diplomatic and said they're both good approaches, they're solid, choose whichever one works best, you can use them together. At this point I'm actually a little bit more opinionated about it, and the crux of it really is what we've been talking about, that you don't want to do ear training in a vacuum. I think if you approach this topic of intervals and solfa from a purely theoretical perspective, they both work. They both make sense.

Christopher Sutton Ear Training Fun

Christopher: You can analyze the relative pitch distances between notes based on the note that came for, which is the interval, you're just going note to note, what is the interval each time. Or in terms of solfa, which is the same thing but always coming back to the tonic, what's the relationship to the tonic, the note of the key or the scale. In theory terms, both of those tell you what is the pitch of the note, and so they should be equivalent. What we found, and I think what is quite consistently the case, is when it comes to actually applying these skills, there is a clear winner. Yes, you can use intervals for playing by ear as you just described, Glory, and you can use them for improvising, and you can sit down with some blank manuscript paper and figure out how to write down the melody you're imaging in your head. You can; what we've found is that it's hard work.

Christopher: So to set the context, we started our company, which is called Easy Ear Training, with an interval training app. So don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-intervals, but what we kept finding was that people would get in touch and tell us the same thing I had found myself, which was, you can get very good at recognizing intervals, and still really struggle to write down a simple melody or play it by ear.

Glory: Yes, that's true.

Christopher: The reason is that basically your brain can't recognize intervals quickly enough to apply it in that musical context. So when you hear a whole string of notes, if you can stop and pause and take them once by one, and listen to the individual pairs, yes you can use intervals to work them out. But in a real musical context, if you're in a jam session, or you're hearing a song on the radio, of course you don't have that opportunity. You need to be recognizing them immediately as you hear them.

Glory: Yes, that's right.

Christopher Sutton Ear Training Fun

Christopher: So what, more and more, we're kind of taking a stand and saying is that, although you can use intervals for those practical applications, solfa tends to be a much better approach for people. And the reason is simply that this is basically already how our brain interprets music. If you think about this a little bit, you'll kind of instinctively feel it to be true. We interpret the notes we hear based on the tonic. We have this sense of the key, and what are the notes in the scale, and what's my harmonic context. When we hear a note, its musical function, its musical role, what kind of character it has in a melody or harmony, is based on its relationship to the tonic. So our ears are kind of already interpreting notes that way, and what solfa does is, it just makes that explicit, and it gives you names to put on those notes, so that when you hear them, you don't just hear what they sound like; you actually recognize and identify them.

Glory: Right.

Christopher: That's super cool, because it means you're not dependent on the note before. You can hear any note from a melody and immediately know what it is. And of course that makes playing by ear, or improvising, or transcribing, or writing your own music, vasty easier, because you have that instant recognition of what is the scale degree.

Glory: Yeah, and I think that is such a wonderful, wonderful skill that can be, obviously, developed, and that's why your program is available. And what do you say when students come in and have this attitude that, "I can't sing," or, "I'm tone deaf"? There's that terror, I'm sure you've come across that with your students too, that you'll say, "Well just go ahead and sing that," and they'll say, "I can't sing." But in fact we all can sing or we would all be talking in monotone voice all the time. How can you help students start to develop ear training when they think they can't sing?

Christopher: That's a great question. Before we move onto that, if I may, I just want to say one more word in defense of intervals, which I feel obliged professionally to mention. Which is that they are complementary to solfa. You can use both, and intervals are very good when things get complicated. So if you're dealing with far-out jazz harmony, or you want to do something very unusual relative to the key, intervals are a great option. So we do teach both at musical U, and I wouldn't want anyone to come away from this thinking intervals are bad or wrong, or you shouldn't learn them. You can learn them side-by-side with solfa, it's just that solfa gets you going much quicker with the practical stuff.

Glory: Yeah.

Christopher: I'm really glad you asked about singing, Glory, because I think as soon as you start talking about solfa, singing comes up, because it is so closely associated with singing, the solfa words, the do-ray-me, and singing through the scale, and of course a lot of the exercises for learning solfa are based on singing the notes as well as hearing them. So we do have people come to us at Musical U and they want to do ear training, but they don't want to sing. We struggled for a while with the polite way to say, "You've got to sing."

Glory: Exactly.

Christopher: Because it's an emotional issue for people. A lot of people have had a bad experience early on, particularly in schools that don't take this attitude that anyone can sing. Often students are put at the front of the class, asked to sing a note, if they don't get it bang in tune they're not in the choir. And they go through the next 40 years of their life thinking they can't sing.

Glory: Absolutely.

Christopher Sutton Ear Training Fun

Christopher: That's the background and context we're working with, and a lot of people, it's part of their identity now, they are not a singer. They do not sing, they do not want to sing. And so we've been trying to find ways to gently lead people to, not getting up on stage or auditioning for X-Factor, we're not trying to push everyone into becoming a singer, but we do want to make sure every musician feels comfortable and confident that they can sing in tune. Because then your voice is an incredible tool, not just for ear training but for communicating with other musicians, for developing your musical memory. There are so many benefits to just having that basic control of your voice.

Glory: Yes.

Christopher: We went deep on this in, I think it was back in 2014. We developed a website called ToneDeafTest.com where you can, in five minutes, make sure your ears are working correctly.

Glory: That's perfect.

Christopher: Right. Because some other people, they-

Glory: Could you just repeat that, and I'll maybe ask my assistant Sheena, because she's on the call with us, just to throw that into the chat so they can get it. The site, again, Christopher, was ... ?

Christopher: It's ToneDeafTest.com, and hopefully if you Google the tone deaf test it will come up too.

Glory: Yeah, and they should definitely take that. I'm just going to ask our viewers too, just to throw in the chat box, when you were teaching your students to recognize pitch, do you use solfa or do you just use intervals? I'm just curious because it's always good to have that conversation, and one of the great things that I love about networking with people like you is, it opens up a new pallet of colors, that maybe we've always done it one way. And as I always say, be coachable, be open to learning new things, and also be open to teaching your students in the way that they learn best. Maybe you've always done intervals, maybe it's time to do the solfa program, and take that test with your students, and have them singing that interval, so that that's just a new way of approaching it. So if you haven't done before, I highly recommend that you try that. Because I'm sure it's been a huge success. So upon taking this test, what are the results that should come back for you?

Christopher: The goal with this test was to really piece apart, are your ears working, from is your voice working. Because a lot of people, because they can't sing in tune, they think there's something fundamentally wrong with them, and they use this phrase, tone deaf, but in fact their ears are working just fine, and if they weren't they wouldn't be able to enjoy music. There is a clinical condition called amusia where you literally cannot tell notes apart, and music would just sound like a bland mess to you. This is something that affects less than 2% of the world's population, it's incredibly rare, and our tone deaf test has proven this. We've had hundreds of thousands of people take the test, and it confirms that in fact 98% of people, their ERs are working just fine.

Christopher Sutton Ear Training Fun

Christopher: So that's fantastic, and the point of the test was really to reassure people, you do have what it takes. And as you said earlier, Glory, we know their voice can work, we know it can vary in pitch, because otherwise they would be talking like a robot. So once you have those two things, you've proven to yourself that your ears work and you've proven to yourself that your voice can change in pitch; there's no reason you can't learn to sing. And particular if you're not worried about wowing the audience, you just want to be able to hit a note in tune.

Glory: Right, yes.

Christopher: From there what we do is, we have a simple step by step process, and we take a very scientific view. There's a lot of well intentioned but unhelpful beginner singing stuff, which is all about becoming that performer, and expressing, and that's great if you want to become a singer, but if you just want to sing in tune, we've found it's more helpful to just take a very scientific approach and say, what is the fundamental thing we're trying to do? We're trying to hear a note and sing that same note.

Christopher: So the first thing we have people do is prove to themselves that they can sing a note. Actually what we do, we adopted this from a great guy called George Bevan. He has a blog called Music at Monkton, and his big project, you can Google for this and see videos, his big project is his school choir who can't sing. He took all the kids who thought they couldn't sing, and he got them singing in tune, and he got them performing as a choir. Fantastic project, and bless him, he published blog posts about how he did this.

Glory: Oh wow!

Christopher: Anyway, I chatted with George a few times back in 2014 when we were developing this stuff, and he had this great exercise, which was basically what we just both demonstrated, talking like a robot. So if you have someone who says, "I cannot sing at all," you just have them do that. You say, "Hello, my name is Jeff," and hold on that last word, and they're singing a note." And you say to them, "You're singing a note." And if you're doing this live in a lesson, fantastic. Find that note on the piano and say, "You just sang an E flat." Now they know they can sing an E flat. And so George tells them, "This is your note. This is a note that you can sing. From there we can build."

Glory: Right.

Christopher Sutton Ear Training Fun

Christopher: So we do a similar thing at Musical U. We kind of lead people to singing a note, and then from there we can start talking about vocal control, and doing slides up and down in pitch, and helping them get to the point where they can hear a note, and immediately bullseye the right pitch. At that point they're away, you can do anything you want to in singing once you have that fundamental pitch ability. So that's the approach we take, and if you have any students who say, "I can't sing," try that with them. Show them that they can sing a note, and then start exploring from there.

Glory: I love that. I think that's hilarious. I'm actually going to do that with my students this week. I do have a couple that, when we're doing certain pieces, of course I teach piano and I don't teach voice, but as you said, it is a part of the music. Even when I'm asking them just to sing a melodic line they'll say, "I can't sing," even though obvious they can. But I'm going to use that. I'll say, "Well just sing your name." And so, "Yeah, you can sing one note." So through developing our ear training, and understanding that pitch goes up and goes down.

Glory: So now how do we get started if we want to take these talents and just improvise? Because you can improvise both vocally and musically, on your instrument. So if it doesn't come naturally, and a lot of, not only music teachers, but music students, they play what's on the page, because they've never been taught how to improvise. I think there's that crossover that, if you've never been taught as a teacher, you're also afraid to teach improvising. So what would be one of the things that we could do just to get started to explore ourselves as improvising, and then to help our students get started improvising?

Christopher: Definitely, yeah. What we've found is that when people come to ear training, improvising is one of the three reasons they do it. They want to either play by ear or they want to improvise, or they want to write songs or compose. So when we're talking about finding ways to apply ear training and connect it to a musical life, this is a great example.

Christopher Sutton Ear Training Fun

Christopher: I'll talk about improvising, a lot of it applies to playing by ear too, and there's kind of one key concept that I think can make it accessible both to the teacher and to their students. So at Musical U, it's a bit like singing, the first thing we have to do is address the emotional and psychological aspect of it. Improvising is scary, we just come out and say it. It is, if you're coming from the sheet music world, where notes can be right or wrong, and you make a mistake and that's a bad thing, improvising is really scary, because there is no right and wrong, and you are constantly worrying about playing a wrong note or making a mistake.

Christopher: So the first thing we try and encourage people to do is to start shifting their perspective and seeing this as a completely different musical skill. This is not something where you have to get the notes right, and it's something where practicing means making mistakes. You are going to play notes that sound bad, and once you kind of really accept that and give yourself that space, you can start doing things like exploring how to recover from a mistake. So if you play note and it sounds bad, what can you do to find a note that sounds good? Often just a little semitone one way or the other, a half step, will get you there.

Glory: I was just going to say, one semitone away, yeah.

Christopher: So you need to get into that space, and so we have training that helps people explore that. But at the heart of it is what we call playgrounds for improvising. Because we want to do the same thing a playground does for a child. When you have children, as you would know Glory, I've got two brilliant little ones myself, and you want to let them explore and experiment and try new things, but you don't want them to kill themselves. That's why we have playgrounds, they can try out all the different activities, they can go nuts, they can do things that feel dangerous, but at the end of the day you know it's a safe area. So we call that playground because that's what we're trying to create for improv. We're trying to create a context where the musician can explore and experiment and try this, and always feel secure that it's going to sound pretty good. If it's okay, I'd love to just share an example people could get started with, if you want to try this idea.

Glory: Absolutely. Yeah, thank you.

Christopher: In fact you had a guest recently, Carol Metz I think.

Glory: Yeah.

Christopher: And she was talking about getting started songwriting, and how it can be helpful to have parameters to help you not go nuts in the vast abyss of what is possible. We do use a similar thing. When we say playground, what we mean is a set of constraints you're going to follow. They're not strict like rules, it's just the idea of, this is the space I'm going to work in. And what that does is, it helps you be aware of what's possible without being overwhelmed. Because that's the other thing that trips people up with improve, it's the fear that I might make a mistake, and it's the overwhelm of, any note is possible, how do I know what note to play?

Glory: Yes, exactly.

Christopher Sutton Ear Training Fun

Christopher: So what we try and do with the playground is always make sure there's a clear set of constraints for people to follow, and then we point them to what we call the dimensions, the different avenues they can explore. So if we take the single note, we might apply a constraint like, you're only going to use certain notes from the scale, or you're going to stick in this key, or you're going to only play notes with quarter note rhythms, so just straight on the beat in four-four time.

Glory: Yes.

Christopher: Those might be our constraints, but what that does is, it immediately challenges you to say, if I'm only going to play these notes and these rhythms, what can I actually do creatively? And of course you have dynamics. You have the volume of each note, you have the precise timing of it and how you're playing with the beat, you have the articulation depending on your instrument, all kinds of different things you can do with the timbre. So once you set up your constraints, it frees you up to explore what's possible.

Glory: Absolutely.

Christopher: I said I'd give an example of the playground. One we start people out with, and if anyone watching is nervous to improvise themselves, or has a student who is, this is a great one to begin with. It's what we call a three-note playground. You're going to literally just stick to the notes C, D, and E in C major. You can pick the first three notes of a different key if that's easier on a different instrument, but the idea is you just take the first three notes of the scale, and your constraint is, I'm only going to use those three notes.

Christopher: But what we do is, we have people start out even simpler, and we say just play the note C. And take a minute or two, just with that one note, we're not going to get overwhelmed by all the possibilities, we're just going to stick with that one note, but see how different you can make it. See how much you can bring variety into it, and how much you can push to the extremes of volume, of timing, of articulation, of timbre. See what all the possibilities are just with that one note. And once you've explored that, now you can start seeing, "Can I make this musical? Now that I know what my dimensions are, what my space is, can I come up with something that actually sounds a bit like a melody, even though I just have one pitch?" And you can play around with that for a minute or two.

Christopher: Then of course you can start adding in the second note. Now, having been restricted to just that one note, you realize how much power that second pitch has, and you can play around with those two note melodies. Then eventually introduce the third. It sounds so simple, but if you try this out you'll find that in five or 10 minutes your relationship to improvising completely changes, because it makes you aware of what's possible in ways that most improvisers aren't.

Christopher: If you think purely in terms of scale patterns, or in terms of vocabulary, like licks, like a jazz musician or a rock soloist would, this completely transforms your perspective, and it liberates you and gets you in touch with your musical instinct. So a lot of our members come I thinking, "I don't have any instinct for what notes to play," because they're in this vast abyss of overwhelm where anything's possible, and they don't know what they can do. So by putting them in this playground they realize, "Oh I do, I kind of have that feeling for what would sound musical. I can make my timing choices in a way that sounds good and accurate and interesting."

Glory: I love that. I'm totally going to use that. And I love the word playground, because it is a playground, and even if you think of a child going to Disneyland, it's like what do you want to do first? There's so many options that you can't even make a decision. Just by going to the playground and saying, "Well let's just go on this swing, and just have that one note." I really want to challenge the musical teachers and listeners on the call today to just share with us in the chat box, do you consider yourself someone who can improvise? So just even a yes or a no, just leave us a little comment, because to really develop your musicality, I think improvising is a part of that. Because if we just put ourselves in the box of always reading notes and never really explore the other opportunities in the playground, there's other things that we can do. So engaging and challenging ourselves to just do the one note, or do the two, or even if we think of just the three black keys, sometimes that's simple too. Because if we just know, there's no wrong note, there's just those three, and maybe I'll use the other hand or the other two. So I think really improvising, it can come more naturally if we just simplify the process.

Glory: I have a question for you. When you are doing this with your students, would you provide sort of a harmonic chord structure below their improvising, would you do this as a duet? Or do you let them just do it all by themselves?

Christopher Sutton Ear Training Fun

Christopher: To begin with, definitely let them do it by themselves. This first exercise we would start them with, we want to give them complete blank canvas, with these constraints that let them feel like they can experiment. Because as you would know, as soon as you add some harmony underneath it becomes a lot more complex aurally, and there are some really interesting things to explore there, particularly when you're really listening to the influence of each pitch, but it complicates things dramatically as a starting point. So for us anyway, what we do is, we gradually introduce that kind of thing. Then your backing track can be a playground. You can say, "Here's in G, here are five notes that work well with it, go nuts." And you can explore a different set of dimensions, and how those notes relate to the harmony. But to begin with we find it's better just to give them the space to try whatever they want to without worrying, "Does this work with that music?" They're just finding, "What is the music I want to make?"

Glory: Right. So that kind of leads them to ... There's a difference between composing and improvising. I mean composing, they're literally making a plan where they're going to use this as a piece, whereas I think in improving, they develop little licks. I've seen master musicians that can just lay down anything, but when you actually listen to them you start to recognize that musician, because that's their lick. When the improvise and they're jamming you can, "I know who that is." They start to develop their own style. So I think it just is a wonderful approach that you are sharing at Musical U, that if you are afraid of getting started, this is a stepping stone, and I'm really grateful that you have developed this product Christopher. Because I know for myself, I shared my story with you on the podcast, I was kind of thrown into it to just say, "Here's a lead sheet, and just go play," where our family was all musical, and most of them all played by ear. Then I obviously went on and did the classical training. But I really missed learning this step that you are offering, which is how to start.

Glory: Because it gives especially young children, I think the younger that we can open them up to this, the more musical they can develop in a faster way. They just kind of absorb it. And they're not as afraid. You take your daughters to the park, they're not afraid to go jump on every single thing and just play, because that's what they think of it, and children do as well. I think that as parents and as teachers, we need to provide that opportunity for our children and for our students to say, "Come on, I'm going to go to the playground with you, and I want to go on those rides and things with you, because that's what makes it so much fun."

Christopher: Absolutely.

Glory: It's really a cool thing. I did share at the top of our call that we were going to offer our listeners an incredible gift, I call it the wow gift, from Musical U. The word that you need to put in the chatbox is "musicality". Can you tell us about the gift that you've created for our listeners? I know it's a fantastic gift. I went and checked it out myself and went, "Wow!" That's why I'm calling it the wow gift from Musical U. The word is musicality, and then Sheena will go ahead and give you the link. So tell us about this amazing wonderful gift you've given us today.

Christopher: Sure, I'd love to. We've been publishing free articles, tutorials, resources, since 2009 on every aspect of ear training you can imagine.

Glory: Yes.

Christopher: But if you head to our website and click on "learn," you'll find all kinds of goodies there. But over the years we realized some of these articles hit home and resonated with people much more than others. So what we did was, we took a handful of the most popular ones, and where it had been kind of a 1,200 word blog post, we went nuts and made it kind of 3,000 to 4,000 words, and all kinds of illustrations and examples and exercises, and beefed them up to an extent where it was worth codifying it as a PDF, something you could print out, have on hand as a reference.

Christopher: So the gift today, which I'm delighted to share with your audience, Glory, is a set of five PDF guides. You can download them right away, you chance print them, or just look at them digitally, and they're on these kind of hot topics. One of them is all about how to learn to sing, as we've been talking about today. There are some good details in there for that next step. I mentioned, once you can sing one note, how do you move on from there. That guide tells you a great exercise anyone can do to start hitting different notes right on tune.

Christopher: We also have one all about the circle of fifths, which is obviously at the heart of a lot of music theory concepts, or can be, that can be tricky for people to wrap their head around. It can be overwhelming, it can be hard to understand what it's for, even if you understand intellectually what it is. So that guide is all about the circle of fifths, where it comes from, how it works, how to learn it, how to use it. And those are just two, there's a whole set of guides, and if you type in musicality in the chat, you will get the link to download them right away.

Glory: Wonderful. Well thank you so much. That is a very kind gift, and I know that I've already got it, I'm printing it off, and I'm going to be using that. And I'm also going to be following through on the things that you shared with us today, which was about ear training, and how we can engage and help our students really be open to learning and doing ear training in a fun and engaging way. And also by using solfa, and I mean intervals, solfa, it does tie it all together, but getting them to sing that, to find their voice. Even if they think they're tone deaf, let them find the one note that they can sing. And to improvise, even if they're just starting on one note, and then of course grow to two.

Glory: So I think we've covered a lot of fantastic information today. Thank you again, Christopher, for sharing so generously for us. I know you're in Spain, and you looked out your window and it was a beautiful day, and I looked out my window and I had to go get the shovel and start my car from inside the house, because it's freezing out here.

Glory: I just wanted to give a shoutout to all of our listeners. I know we've got a lot of comments on there. Christopher will jump in, and I will as well, to answer any of your questions and be of service to you. Be sure to check it out, the link is in the chatbox, just type the word musicality, and you will have access to the five PDFs that he has so generously shared with us today. So as always, teach with passion, and thank you Christopher.

Glory: Any closing words as we sign off today?

Christopher: No, just a thank you. Thank you to you Glory, it's been really fun to have the chance to chat. And I just firmly encourage everyone, whether it's playing by ear or improvising, give yourself a very simple starting point, and you'll find it comes a lot more easily than you might have expected, so go for it.

Glory: Go for it. I love that. Have a very musicality, Musical U, and musical day. Did I get that? Thanks for joining us. This is Christopher Sutton and Glory St. Germain signing off.

Christopher Sutton Ear Training Fun

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