Hearing more numbers

Hi all
I purchased the IFR programme many years ago and keep dipping in every now and then. Although I have just really started I have a question. When I am in the 1st environment I can definitely hear one easily and when I listen to songs out of the programme most of the time I can hear it. The other numbers though is not so easy. In the tracks I can distinguish 2 and 3 but if I listen to other music I can not follow any other numbers. I know it will come from experience but when I listen to other music it just seems magical to produce this lovely sound with just 7 notes.


Welcome to the froum @Philrab66 .

I started from pretty much ground zero about 5 years ago having spent nearly 60 years believing I was ‘tone deaf’. I’ve always loved listening to music, but I was doing it totally passively. I now has plenty of evidence that my subconscious understands all this stuff. To me IFR ear training is a path towards developing conscious access to that understanding. It’s been a long road, and i still have a long way to go, but I hear, do & understand things now that would have seemed like pure magic to to me of 5 years ago. I use the Sing the Numbers (& Feel the Numbers) for 20-25 minutes 4-5 days a week (sometimes more), and I’ve been through the Ear Training for Musical Creativity workshop several times. Indeed I’m on the workshop that is running right now. Each time through I’ve understood more.

Most people seem to progress faster than me. Maybe you will too? That doesn’t bother me in the slightest; I’m just delighted that I have a better understanding that I used to, and I can see a road to further progress.

I’m having fun. I hope you do to. Keep at it. It works… :smiley:

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I feel you! Real music out in the “wild” is a lot more complex than “Sing The Numbers”! I can also usually “feel” which note is supposed to be “1” by listening to a song and asking myself “if I were to end this song now, which note is it begging me to end it on?” I’m also noticing that notes 2 and 3 don’t seem to be the most likely “next” notes for me to be able to easily notice within a general song. But I often hear another note playing that fits especially “nice” with the overall song – and I’m noticing from playing simple little 2-note “chords” on my midi keyboard while the song is playing – that this is very often either note 4 or note 5 that I’m hearing.

I’m only just starting though (only been “singing the numbers” for about a month now), so we’ll see if at some point I start to hear notes 2 and 3 in songs as well. Perhaps I’ll be able to “hear” note 4 or note 5 in real songs reliably before I can hear the others?

I’m also noticing that note 2 is hard to sing. It sometimes feels like it “clashes” with notes 1 and 3. I’m sure that’s because it’s not at (or at least not close enough to) – a nice low-integer-ratio of frequencies to sound consonant with notes 1 and 3, so it’s taking a while to get it right, and it sometimes “feels” different coming down to it from note 3 versus coming up to it from note 1.

I will keep at it though. I wish you luck in your training, fellow student!

@Nate_B You’ve probably come across this already, but just in case not, that relationship is often described in terms of relaxation & tension, i.e. 1 is super relaxed (it’s ‘home’), 3 is pretty relaxed (comfortable, but not home), and 2 is more tense, giving a feeling of wanting some movement up or down to a more relaxed place.

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Thanks for everyone’s comments. There must be a lot of similarities in most songs as there are so few notes. And I guess the 4 and 5 comes up most as it does with chords in songs.


I experienced something the other day that I think you may find it helpful to know about. I was listening to a song and I could swear I heard “2 1 2 1” being played. I can’t always hear the note “2” at this point, it was just that one pattern I recognized.

But it got me thinking that maybe that’s how it works? Maybe like with language, where you’re recognizing entire words and not just individual letters, you recognize entire patterns of notes and not just individual notes.

Maybe all “being able to hear notes 1, 2, and 3” really means is being able to recognize “2 1 2 1” if it’s played, AND being able to recognize “1 2 1” if it’s played, AND being able to recognize “2 3 2 1” if it’s played, AND being able to recognize “1 2 3” if it’s played, and so on…

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Good point @Nate_B . I’m pretty sure that’s a major reason why the Sing The Numbers trackas are arranged as they are? @MireiaClua isn’t just singing random groups, instead she’s singing carefully chosen examples of the sort of musical phrases that exist in ‘real’ music. :smiley:

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Great comments all, and welcome @Philrab66 to our forum! It sounds like you’re all doing great, focusing on exactly the right things. Let me just add that what we’re really trying to learn is a new practice of listening more actively for the tonal numbers in the music we hear and in our own playing.

So what we’re really talking about is a new level in our relationship with music. We’re no longer content with learning random licks and songs and just saying, “that sounded cool”. Of course it sounded cool. But what was it? Was it the 6- chord? Was it the notes 3, 4 and 5?

If you’ve spent a long time playing music without this awareness of the tonal landscape, it can be easy to misunderstand this new project as a one-time quick fix. We think that we can go from total darkness to full knowledge of the world in a single day. But this isn’t how it works. What we can do in a single day is open our eyes. We can begin to listen for the tonal numbers. We can begin to notice and identify some sounds that we recognize (e.g. Phil’s experience with note 1).

This is more important than you realize, because now you’ve begun organizing the world into sounds that you recognize and sounds that you don’t. And for the first time, now you have a framework for storing your discoveries about new sounds. So if tomorrow you discover a heartbreaking melody that is so gorgeous that you just need to understand it, now you have the tools to identify those sounds as b6, 5, 4 and 3 (for example). And from that day forward, nobody will ever have to tell you any “theory” about how to use notes b6, 5, 4 and 3, because you already experienced their magic for yourself. So this is how more and more sounds get moved from the pile of sounds we don’t recognize to the pile of sounds that we do recognize.

But what we’re trying to teach is a new practice of enlightened listening and a conceptual framework for storing those discoveries. And to be sure, we’ll try to help you make all of the most important discoveries in the beginning, because this is what gives you the foundational vocabulary that you need to start recognizing everything else. But I just want to assure everyone on this thread that you shouldn’t be troubled by the sounds you don’t recognize yet. Ultimately it’s not about how many sounds you have personally discovered and clarified. It’s about awakening your consciousness of the tonal landscape so that you can start to accumulate and remember the discoveries you make.

This is why we have always resisted including “self-tests” with our Sing the Numbers course. The real test isn’t whether you recognize the sounds. These sounds are only the beginning. The real test is whether you’ve been able to integrate these two skills of active listening and tonal visualization into your daily music practice. Get that part right, and you have a lifelong process for recognizing ALL of the sounds.

I hope that helps illuminate the path a little bit. Thanks for the wonderful contributions you’ve already made, and I invite you all to keep thinking and sharing on this topic.



Well said David, and thanks for your input. I definately feel that my consciousness has been awakened. Particularly by taking part in the Ear Training workshop, I feel I’m starting to both internalise the sounds and locate them on the map. But as you say you have to take it slowly, and not get discouraged.


@mem @ImproviseForReal @MireiaClua Yes. For me this particular run is feeling especially fruitful. It almost feels as if the previous 4 or more years of IFR study have been preparation for this last few weeks (& the weeks to come, hopefully).

In my self-directed use of StN & FtN I’d slowly worked up to about ‘Lesson 9 & a half’. Stepping right back from that point for the course, starting again from 1.2.3 and slowly expaning I’m feeling so much more connection with & understanding of the tones. :smile: