Extended exercises for SINGING THE NUMBERS

The end page of SING THE NUMBERS 1 lists several things we can do as “next steps” - which I take to mean after we find that following the initial set of exercises is leading to “mindless practice” where our mind is not fully engaged. (Took me 2+ months to get to that point).

Here’s some ways I’ve tried to extend the Sing the Numbers exercises so that I don’t do mindless practice:

  1. Do the Sing the Numbers exercise as instructed, sing back what the track just sang, but also sing another note or two before the track sings the next segment. This makes me think and feel a little more deeply.

  2. Write down the note sequences on a piece of paper for a track, and then “flip the exercise” by singing the numbers in the empty space BEFORE the next segment. So instead of hearing the track segment and singing that afterwards, sing the next sequence coming up and let the track confirm you got it right. That is, if the next track sequence is 5-6-3, sing that, and let the track sing it back to you.

  3. Using the same piece of paper from above, sing some the sequences over the IFR backing tracks, changing key each time you do it. I find this to be a completely different experience than singing back the numbers - I actually have to aurally visualize the sounds more clearly.

  4. Get a list of children song (like from here on the Internet https://us.napster.com/artist/the-countdown-kids/album/100-favorite-kids-songs) and see if you can sing the numbers to the first phrase or two of different songs. If you get muddled and want to throw up your hands, search the internet for the sheet music of the song and see where you’ve gone off track.

I’d be interested in other ways others have found to extend SING THE NUMBERS.

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These are great suggestions- I’m going to try these later. The one exercise I have played around with is playing and singing. I have to listen for a few bars to get the tonal centre and key then off I go. Not easy on violin but great practice.

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Hi @hender99, Wow! Thank you so much for sharing these, this is really great. For instance, I really like the idea of writing down the notes and singing before, so we can test our ability to sing to the right pitch. I will for sure try these when I practice sing the numbers. Another thing I have done, is to hum the note (pitch) instead of singing the numbers in these exercises. I try to alternate between the two (singing the numbers and humming). I think doing both helps me strengthen my connection with the notes.

David.

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Abour singing numbers

During the day
Ithere a lot of moments
to sing numbers…
during walking , houseworking…

I myself enjoy it
and helps to listen and to sing more attentionfull.
:slight_smile:

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yeah, i do that all the time too.

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freedom off numbersinging
gives wings…

:eagle::bat::butterfly:

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Hi @hender99, I am Mireia (the voice in STN). I love all the different ways of practicing with STN that you described. Thanks for sharing them!

I want to share with you another variation that I call “Feel the Numbers”. For this, you can use backing tracks with the 1 chord in the background, for example, the ones from “IFR Jam Tracks Level 1: Seven Worlds”. The idea is to create your own tracks to practice recognizing short melodies by ear:

1) RECORD YOUR TRACKS. Over an instrumental track, record yourself playing/humming different note sequences like the ones from Sing the Numbers, but without saying the numbers. Just the sounds. Leave a free measure after every musical phrase. If you make the tracks long enough and random enough, you won’t remember what numbers you played. Create many of them, matching the content of STN. For example, you can create a track that is slow and meditative only using notes 1, 2 and 3. Then, a second track using numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.

2) PRACTICE RECOGNIZING NUMBERS BY EAR. Save all the Feel the Numbers tracks you created and store them in your computer or device. Use them regularly as a part of your ear training routine to practice recognizing sounds by ear. It’s like Sing the Numbers, but without knowing the numbers. Listen to each phrase and sing/play the numbers after.

Here are two examples:

Feel the Numbers track 3 (notes 1, 2, 3) - sample

Feel the Numbers track 6 (notes 1, 2, 3, 4) - sample

You can use them to sing back the phases in numbers only with your voice, or you can just play the notes on your instrument without singing the numbers, only copying the same phrase. Both ways of using them have their benefits.

Cheers,
Mireia

P.D: This idea I presented is similar to what @Michiel_Koers shared in this forum a while back. In his variation, he did this exercise with a friend instead of recording it. It’s very interesting too! (Link below).

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Hi Mireia, your voice is now pretty deep in my head after listening to you for 45+ minutes a day for almost 3 months. Thank you for the suggestion about making my own backing tracks without numbers to play back on my piano. And thanks to you and David for the SING THE NUMBERS materials, because that finally got me over my frustration with ear training the traditional way. which I tried many times and always quit after a few days. What you’ll have done in IFR (all of it, not just Sing the Numbers) is just amazing for someone like me to whom the traditional ways of learning music just doesn’t connect, except superficially. Or someone like me who’s nearly 70 years old and is questing to learn as much of all this as an old head can handle. Thanks.

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Ahah that is so true! Even when it’s completely unrelated to music, if I think or must say a number for whatever reason, I hear Mireia’s voice in my head!

David.

do you ever plan on releasing these kinds of practice tracks?

Oh my!! :see_no_evil:

Dear @Michiel_Koers, I agree that this kind of exercise can be very helpful. The reason we haven’t published a collection of these exercises is because for most people, the exercises need to be accompanied by a structured program in order to be helpful. For a while we were debating whether to include this kind of self-text exercise in my audio course Sing the Numbers. But ultimately we decided against it because we felt that too many students would get hung up on the testing. One of the biggest challenges we’ve seen with our own private coaching students is their mistake of wanting to test themselves too early. I think that much of the way ear training is talked about in mainstream music teaching causes students to approach it with a kind of “quiz” mentality of just trying to get the right answer. This is a mistake, because the only true way to develop your ear is through your own love of music and your sensitivity for the sounds. So as a self-study course, we felt it was important to center the student’s attention on the practice itself, which means enjoying and contemplating the sounds while also being aware of their tonal numbers.

But in our workshops where the student has a complete program guiding his learning each week, then self-test tracks can be a useful part of this. So in my workshop “Ear Training for Musical Creativity”, we do use these self-test tracks. We call them “Feel the Numbers” tracks (the natural complement to the “Sing the Numbers” tracks). But even in these workshops I find that these self-test tracks are often a distraction. Students get hung up on “passing the test” and they spend way too much time just guessing at tonal numbers when their focus should be on falling in love with the sounds. But since I can be there to coach them every step of the way, this is one of the most important things that students learn from the workshop. More than just learning to recognize sounds by ear, they learn how to study the sounds for themselves so that they can keep learning on their own after the course is over.

We also do something very similar in my workshop “Recognizing Chords by Ear”. Here again, 99% of our focus is on studying the chords, appreciating their internal voice leading, jamming over backing tracks to get to know the unique feel of each chord, etc. But then I also provide “Feel the Chords” tracks to give students the opportunity to recognize the chords by ear on their own. But again, I think this only works because it’s a group workshop and I can help students avoid the pitfalls of focusing too much on self-tests and quizzes.

But with all of that said, I think it’s great when students make their own self-test tracks. It’s so different when you’re controlling the entire process. When you’re the one recording the melodies, thinking carefully about how to structure the phrases so that they’ll have just the right difficulty level, thinking about the progression in difficulty from simple phrases to more complex, and finally listening to your own self-test tracks and trying them out, all of this is a very complete musical education. Far from just being a passive listener taking a quiz, this is much more like an art project because it requires you to get your hands dirty and work with the sounds in a variety of ways. So we think that this is a fantastic activity and it’s something we encourage everyone to do!

Best,
Mireia

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Mireya, i aim to make my own feel the number tracks soon, but I would like to use the plain vanilla versions of the backing tracks you use in SING THE NUMBERS 1. That is, the tracks without your voice singing numbers. From what I can tell those tracks are not part of the jam track collections I bought ,and I bought them all, although I didn’t check every track. Any suggestion?

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Dear Allan, I just sent you a private email with the instrumental tracks so you can create your own Feel the Numbers tracks. I hope you enjoy the process! :wink: Let me know if I can help you in any other way.

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Hey @MireiaClua , first of all: very cool that you sent hender99 those tracks. Stuff like that make me love IfR (the company) a lot!

Thanks for your extensive reply to my question.
I understand why you don’t want students to test themselves too early. However, the flip side is: I often struggle with knowing when to add new material to my practice. I feel aimless sometimes and practice a bit of that and a bit of that. Any advice on how to know when to stay on certain exercise and when not to? How do you know when you’ve ‘mastered’ something?
Thanks!

I am not sure if you’ve seen this video before, but posting here in case it helps:

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The best explanation I’ve ever heard about mastery uses the example of eating with a fork. You have mastered eating with a fork when you get the food in your mouth every time. You can move on to other utensils at any time, but you need to keep coming back to the fork until you never miss.

That’s what they call effortless mastery. Its not that you master something with no effort, but that you know you have mastered something when you can do it effortlessly.

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Effortless mastery’[1] sounds like a variation on the end point of a 4 stage sequence I’ve come across. I’ve seen several ways of phrasing it, usually variations on something like:

  1. Unconscious in-ability - You don’t even know what you’re doing is wrong.
  2. Conscious in-ability- You’re aware it’s wrong. You’re working to get it right.
  3. Conscious ability - You’re getting it right, but you have to be actively thinking about it to do so.
  4. Unconscious ability - It just happens… :smiley:

[1] Have you come across the book ‘Effortless Mastery’ by Kenny Werner? Interesting read.

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I hadn’t seen it yet, but i’ll check it out for sure. Thanks!

Thanks. I don’t recall having watched that before? Great advice. Prompted by that I decided to have a week of running through some of the earlier STN[1] tracks as a sort of refresher (even though those tones are of course in the later weeks too!). It’s proving an interesting & useful exercise seeing how those reduced tones sets go now. I still have a long way to go yet on ear training, but when I remember what these track felt like when I first heard them I realise that I’m at least on my way. :smiley:

[1] & ‘Feel the Number’, FTN, tracks too, as I’ve done the ‘Ear Training for Musical Creativity’ workshop.