You’ll ace this one, if you’ve played through “New Ears Resolution.”  If not, it may be tricky.


Below is a recording of the pattern in all 12 keys.  Submit a “comment” at the bottom of this post, if you need a chart to play along with the recording.

Note that this phrase traverses the first five chords of the standard “Someday My Prince Will Come,” a long-time staple of Miles Davis’s book.  That “harmonic quote” was not intentional.  When you start creating patterns in a “stream of consciousness” manner, elements of your repertoire tend to crop up in various guises.

Multi-instrumentalist Kevin McCartney recently taught me about the ebb and flow of tension and release created by Cuban clave patterns.   In this exercise, the many accidentals create a bit of harmonic tension, which is then released through resolution to adjacent diatonic notes.  Note in particular the tension created by Si, Di, and Le.

Upon further reflection today (during surgical anesthesia!), it occurred to me that this phrase uses all 17 notes in the scale:  the 7 diatonic pitches, the 5 sharps, and the 5 flats.  For a horn player, G# and Ab are identical.  However, a symphonic violinist thinks of them quite differently.

What you hear in this recording is actually 5 clarinets.  Took me about 20 takes to get 5 usable ones.

2 thoughts on “TEST YOUR EAR!

  1. Hi Craig, I hope everything is very good for you with this new year. I am a saxophone player and my question is: Instead of thinking and practicing the fingering in 12 keys with one name for each key , C, F, Bb, Eb, etc….do i have to think that that the fingering for each key is C key? Let say when I play an Eb -7 arpeggio like Eb Gb Bb Db in the key of Db Major do i have to name the notes under my fingers “D F A C ? It is like thinking and practicing the sax technique in just one key name (C) instead of 12 different key names ?
    Thank you very much, Craig


    1. Hi Pascal,
      When using the revolutionary “New Ears Resolution” ear training method (see: https://craigbuhler.com/play-by-ear/ ), you learn what each degree of the scale FEELS like and SOUNDS like. Then you learn to locate that sound-feeling on your instrument in any of the 12 keys. When i produced the recording you are hearing, i did not need to read music on a chart. Once you understand the pattern, you will be able to play it in any key.
      As a “doubler,” i used an “A” clarinet, a “Bb” tenor sax, an “Eb” alto sax, and a “G” alto flute. I learned to play any song i could whistle on any of those horns in any key. You no longer need to memorize the song. Rather, your brain computes the fingerings in real time.
      It’s very liberating for those who want to play melodies by ear. It also gives you the background you need to start improvising on the spot.


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