Can anyone fully know a fundamental element, such as a chord, without having a term, a definition and description, and a memory of its sound? To fully apply fundamentals to musicianship, each concept needs to be connected to memory of sound, notation, and performance on an instrument.  


Playing music involves a combination of skills. You may be relying on reading and are not getting the full benefit of playing by ear or, you may know how to play music without understanding the scales, intervals, and chords that make it work. MusicGoals Eye and Ear presents drills that separate music reading, memory of sound, and instrument knowledge. With this separation you can fully understand the fundamentals of music theory and strengthen those skills that might be neglected.


An obstacle occurs when you rely too heavily on one type of musicianship skill. For example, reading music is more than reading notes on the staff. Sight-reading improves with knowledge of intervals, scales, key signatures, and chords. Reading intervals may be more helpful than reading notes because intervals tell your hand which way to move and by how far. In the same way, seeing a group of notes as a chord is better than reading individual notes. Your hand can memorize the shape of the chord and move quickly to it.


If you use guitar tab or someone shows you how to play a piece on the piano, you may not even know the note names. In this case you are using the minimum of musicianship skills. What happens when you learn the note names? You begin to develop a mental image of the instrument. With practice you can move your hand to any note without using your eyes. When playing fast or reading music, do you have time to look for notes?


Consider how the Note Names by Eye and Ear drill might be a starting place. At first you memorize note names using your eyes and looking for the notes on the screen instrument. The next step is to find notes on your instrument. Practice slowly moving your hand along the instrument and imagine the notes you are crossing over. Say the letter names out loud as you move. With practice you will get to the point where you can find notes quickly without looking.


Scales are a huge part of musicianship. Learning the concept of scale might begin with just the physical playing of it. Musicians practice scales to gain physical performance skill. Much goes into learning scales before we really understand everything they are in sound. Our system of staff notation is dependent upon the seven note scale. There are only seven letters in the musical alphabet. There are only seven places to put notes on the staff without using a sharp or flat. Understanding scale construction requires knowing about the intervals of half step and whole step. Learning tetrachords can make building and playing scales much easier. All this goes into scale construction before the fundamental concept of key center can begin to take on meaning.


These examples show how difficult it is to separate the different ways of knowing music fundamentals. Listening to a performance, can you tell if the performer is playing by ear, reading, or playing from physical memory? I am sure that some contest judges can tell based on experience. Most musicians will have an opinion. My guess is that most people will judge the quality of performance but may not be able to tell where a musicianship weakness may lie.


With MusicGoals objectives, you may choose to drill the music fundamentals by:


  1. Playing on your instrument

  2. Sight-Reading

  3. Playing by Ear

By isolating and improving the weakest link, you will improve the application of music fundamentals. You will gain a deeper understanding and skill that applies directly to your musicianship.


MusicGoals Objectives