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Bach Project Takes Off from the Street: "Recording the 48"

Each of the two volumes of Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier contains one prelude and one fugue in every major and minor key. Often called “the 48”, or the “Old Testament” of piano music, it is perhaps the most important keyboard work of all time. The first stage of a new recording of the complete set by pianist Martin Sturfält is now available from Piano Street for listening and downloading; seven of the Preludes & Fugues from Book 1 as well as two from Book 2. Whatever you are doing at the moment, take a three minute break and refresh your mind with the free sample we offer of the Prelude and Fugue in E-flat from Book 2. Read more >>

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Author Topic: Detecting modulation  (Read 5495 times)
kghayesh
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« on: February 22, 2006, 11:45:11 PM »

When listening to some phrase of music and modulation ( straightforward e.g: dominant, supertonic....etc. ) is taking place, how you can detect it just by your ear, that is without looking at the score?? And i mean detecting modulation was to which key.

I am asking this because of the modulation question in the aural test of grade 8 ABRSM. My aural teacher tells me to hum the starting note and keep it in my mind until the end of the phrase played and then compare them to know the interval and thus know the modulation destination.

I heard that this method is unmusical and unreliable as well, so does anybody has any idea about how to figure out this thing ?
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pianistimo
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« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2006, 01:07:08 AM »

maybe humming the first note as he says and going through a list of interval songs
2nds =happy birthday
3rds=michael row
4ths=here comes the bride
5ths=twinkle twinkle
6ths=my bonnie

maybe make some up for minor thirds going down.  most classical composers are going to modulate in an expected way from the tonic to V or to iii or III or to the related minor - or stay in the same key and go to the minor. down to IV is more difficult because for many people - it sound similar to V.  it tricks the ear and you can't figure it out - unless you make a plan. 

i have never been super great at ear training - but there are some sites you can practice. will look them up again.  practice makes perfect, right?!

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sissco
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« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2006, 01:09:55 AM »

Just wanted to say that! Just compare it with the beginning of well known melody's and songs  Wink Damn you own me pianistimo  Cheesy
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pianistimo
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« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2006, 01:24:14 AM »

 Wink

here's a cool site where you can practice.  they also reminded me that if you listen for accidentals, you're given a clue with what pitch you are ending up modulating to.  these things take endless  practice though - so i think you'll like this site:

www.smu.edu/totw/modulate.htm
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steve jones
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« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2006, 01:58:30 AM »


I tend to just hear modulations by ear. But then again, I hardly have to give them the attention you'll need to in your exam.

Not sure if the excert will be from a famous composer or not. But if so you could learn to recognise some of the major composer's cliche modulations by ear. I mean, Beethoven has a couple that are unmistakably.

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mcgillcomposer
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« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2006, 04:24:34 AM »

Ah see...perfect pitch isn't just a parlour trick! Wink  It's good for some things.

- A
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prometheus
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« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2006, 06:38:39 PM »

Perfect pitch won't do anything for this as far as I know.
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mcgillcomposer
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« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2006, 07:09:14 PM »

WHat the hell are you talking about?  With perfect pitch you can easily tell to which key the piece has modulated...that's what this is about, no? 
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steve jones
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« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2006, 10:04:17 PM »


I think its more about recognising which degree of the scale has been modulated to. The dominant and relative major / minors are most common, and arent difficult to recongise by ear.

To name the key would be more a test of pitch identification, and hardly relevant to theory (probably more important for a vocal artist).

But maybe I have gotten the wrong end of the stick and are talking rubbish. If so please disregard my comments.

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mcgillcomposer
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« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2006, 02:13:55 AM »

OK, I see what you're referring to.  It's just with perfect pitch, one can identify the exact pitch, and then of course compare it to the tonic to obtain the scale-degree...although I think this post probably applies to those without PP.
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prometheus
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« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2006, 06:17:45 PM »

With perfect pitch you hear absulote 'tone colours'. With modulations you have to hear relative relations between keys. You could focus on the differces between the two keys in terms of notes. But when the 'new note' appears the modulation hasn't happened yet. The modulation happens the moment the new tonic has established. So this is an issue of note dominance, not hearing absolute 'tone colours'.
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mcgillcomposer
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« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2006, 08:03:10 AM »

With perfect pitch you hear absulote 'tone colours'. With modulations you have to hear relative relations between keys. You could focus on the differces between the two keys in terms of notes. But when the 'new note' appears the modulation hasn't happened yet. The modulation happens the moment the new tonic has established. So this is an issue of note dominance, not hearing absolute 'tone colours'.

You make a good point.  I had interpreted the question as referring to the modulation after the new tonic had been established...thanks for clarifying Smiley
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michael_langlois
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« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2006, 01:01:01 PM »

.
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fencingfellow
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« Reply #13 on: March 14, 2006, 06:28:03 AM »

The easiest way to recognize modulation would not be to listen for a pivot (this would be better if you have a score to look at), as pivots are frequently diatonic chords in both the former and the new key.
Instead, listen for the new dominant.  Frequently the composer will use a dominant 7th chord, which has a very distinct sound that you should be able to easily pick up on.  Following the dominant chord will be the new tonic.
Now that you know which chord is the tonic, just try to listen for which pitch of the chord is the root, and compare it to the root of the old tonic.
If old key was major, common new keys would be IV, V, iii, vi.
If old key was minor, common new keys would be iv, V, III, VI.
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