Modelling Approach

to Ear Training.


A model is an abstraction, which concentrates on the essentials of a (complex) musical design by combining simpler elements. This model builds scales from tetrachords. Tetrachords are 4 note block of pitches that represent half of an 8 note scale. By stacking two tetrachords a variety of commonly used scales can be built.



We covered the tetrachord in my first Ear Training post called “[The] Melodic Approach to Ear Training”. The tetrachord is a 4 note ‘short’ scale of just four notes. It is like a stem and the branch is the scale. There are four different  flavors of tetrachords:

  • Augmented      Do     1     1     1
  • Major                Do     1     1   1/2
  • Minor                Do     1   1/2    1
  • Diminished      Do    1/2   1     1

The second stem of a scale starts with the Perfect 5th pitch called, ‘So‘. There is one exception, with the darkest scale (called

  • Augmented      So     1     1     1
  • Major                So     1     1   1/2
  • Minor                So     1   1/2    1
  • Diminished      So    1/2   1     1
  • The second stem of a scale starts with the Perfect 5th pitch called, ‘So‘. There is one exception, with the darkest scale (called ‘Locrian‘) The Locrian scale has a flatted 5th note.

The Way to Say Solfege notes

Solfége is a term used for labeling note to be sung as singing numbers is awkward for the voice.  Just think of the note ‘Ti’ (sounds like ‘tea’) being sung:
7) SE-VEN or 5) FI-Veh 8) EIGH-Teh.

There are slight vowel changes in the Romance based language that simpler to pronounce than other languages.

Most notes can be sharped or flatted by half step by just changing the vowel. Examples are from the Key of ‘C’.

  • Do – (dough)  Di – (dee)    example: C, C#
  • Re – (ray)        Ri – (ree)     example: D, D#
  • Mi – (mee)     none            example: E
  • Fa – (fah)       Fi – (fee)       example: F, F#
  • So – (sow)     Si – (see)       example: G, G#
  • La – (lah)       Li – (lee)        example: A, A#
  • Ti  – (tea)       none            example: B
Notice Mi and Ti cannot be sharped because they already a half step away from the next note up. They are simular to the 5 sharps (Di, Ri & Fi, Si, Li), they all have the ‘ee’ sound,

What do you call the flats?

We see from the list of sharps in the solfege list from the previous page that the sharps were raised notes that were altered from the Major scale. Remember that the ‘C’ Major scale was the pattern that was the normal template we start with. No matter what Key you are in, the Major Scale is:

Do – Re – Mi^Fa   |  So – L a- Ti^Do
Maj. Tetrachord + Maj. Tetrachord

It’s about the intervals, not the names of the notes!
You are not concerned with pitch names, but you are are concerned with the interval’s relationship to the resting Key ‘Do‘; and Do could be any one of the 12 pitches. Music is a base 12 system, as pointed out previously, in Level One.

Note that the Major Scale has 7 individual (when not counting Do twice). There are 5 half steps between the whole steps. The 7 major scale steps plus the 5 altered (sharps or flats) make 12 chromatic steps.  Chromatic means all the colors.

This is why learning to read music is a different skill set than learning to hear music. It is also why I teach both skills and why ‘not all musicians necessarily need to read to play skillfully’. A well rounded musician should do both.

Why the color codes?

I use a system of colors that I feel makes sence to me. I usually use colored highlighters to mark up chord charts.

I use Blue, Yellow and Red when diagramming ‘Primary’ chords. The theoretical name for the 1st note is TONIC. The 4th note is called, ‘SUBDOMINANT‘. The 5th note is called, ‘DOMINANT‘.

Notice that the colors that make up the all the other colors are made from a combination of these primary colors.

When only two Primary colors are used the result is a secondary color.  The note between TONIC (Do) and the DOMINANT (So) is the MEDIANT (Mi).

The note between SUBDOMINANT (Fa) and the TONIC (D0) is SUBMEDIANT (La).

The last Secondary chord is the combination of last two Primary colors Red & Yellow  resulting in SUPERTONIC (Re)

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