Chroma Buckets

Thoughts and responses regarding the research at
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Postby zacxpacx » Sun Dec 02, 2012 12:38 am


Since I plan on playing chroma buckets for at least a month, I figured I begin a log today of observations and strategy development. My plan right now is to master the C major scale and adding notes over a span of 2 weeks and then to add the black key notes nearing the end of my month.

The Magic Number 7 suggests that the black key pitches are derived from the “fundamental” seven white pitches, so I want to make sure I have those perfected before moving on.

The way I play chroma buckets right now is a bit different than I originally anticipated I would. Originally, I had planned on receiving a target tone, clicking the chroma buckets to find out which matched the target, placing the tone in the bucket, and repeating. What I’m doing instead is clicking a single bucket several times to get the pitch sound in my head, repeatedly clicking the next tone button until I hear the pitch I’m looking for, then checking to see if it’s right.

I’ve been working with the pitches C, E, and G. I added A last night. At the beginning of each session I start with one pitch. Once I’m consistently picking the pitch out from the stream of next tone sounds, I move on to a new pitch. Again, I wait until I’m consistently finding my new pitch in the stream on next tone sounds, and then I begin to look for both of the pitches I’ve memorized so far.

As of now, I’m not really sure how this game will play out. I think I’m using the chroma to successfully identify the pitches and not scale-degree feeling. When I first begin my training and I hear a C, I don’t instantly “know” and begin picking out where E and G are. They have to be added one-by-one for me to successfully pick them out. This independence from one another is promising, but for all I know I could still be learning the scale-degree feelings not the chroma. I could be learning scale degree feelings and just not creating the internal “ladder” I describe in my DAMNIT! post.

Once I’ve started using all the C major notes, I plan on using the 1 4 5 1 cadence strategy Nikolaus suggested. If I can still identify all the C major notes then I will move on, adding the black key pitches. If not, I will have to rethink the game. If I can identify all the chromatic tones with the randomized 1 4 5 1 cadence, then I will be convinced I am using chroma sound and not scale-degree feeling. Scale-degree feelings, however, aren’t even the most troubling of my worries.

My biggest worry right now revolves around how to develop categorical perception. The way I’m playing chroma buckets, even if I’m using chroma to identify tones, doesn’t seem like some magic-pill way to develop categorical perception. It’s a memorization strategy in which I consciously compare new pitches to me memorized chroma (if it is chroma I’m memorizing). In a color analogy, this is akin to showing a person who sees colors in a continual spectrum one point on the spectrum and telling them “this is purple”. Then you flash a bunch of colors and they pick out the instances of “purple”. You can continue to add colors this way, but it doesn’t change how they perceive colors. If you put them in a colorful room, they may be able to name some of the colors, but they still perceive all the colors in a spectrum. They are just comparing certain colors with the memorized “points” they have, a conscious process. I haven’t changed how they perceive colors, just trained them to name a few.

But then, how do children begin perceiving pitch categorically? It has to be a subconscious process, a change in actual perception, not development of a strategy or skillset. WHaP has children play games with colored balls associated with fixed pitches. I’m playing with buckets that have fixed pitches. Maybe it’s repetition. Maybe you have to be a child.

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Postby zacxpacx » Sat Dec 08, 2012 2:54 pm

To Nikolaus:

You said your 1 4 5 1 cadences should have a random timbre and be played in a random octave. How do you play your 1 4 5 1 cadences during your ear training? Do you just play them on a piano yourself or do you have some computer program that does it for you?

I'm getting to the point where I'd like to use the 1 4 5 1 cadences with my chroma bucket training. If it is just a computer program, could you send it to me? If it's just you playing on a keyboard, do you think you could record some 1 4 5 1 cadences and send them over?

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Postby Nikolaus » Sat Dec 08, 2012 5:44 pm

never said any of that actually, though i've thought about implementing random octaves and timbres from time to time in order to prevent myself from recognizing the key from the outset (which i became very good at doing in one timbre). so... what did i do? i created tracks, or i downloaded FET (it has a random cadence function) and used it in conjunction with other note recognition software. but here'd be a software solution to your problem (or workaround):

download FET 2
select random cadences
select only '1' as a possible answer

so every time you want a random cadence, then just click the '1' button.

use this in conjunction with chroma buckets

just click '1' - that'll give ya your random cadence
then test yourself on a new note using chroma buckets

as for random timbres and what not, my experience with AP has taught me that it's better just to keep all the ear training in one timbre.

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Postby zacxpacx » Mon Dec 10, 2012 9:08 pm

To Nikolaus or someone else familiar with FET v2:

I downloaded the application and got it running fine. I ran into a problem after the first question though. Random cadence in a random key works totally fine, but even if I set Note Choice only to 1, it will still play notes that aren't the tonic. After the first round, it will play a random note after the cadence despite having Note Choice as only 1. Furthermore, even if I knew the correct degree, I couldn't select it because all the buttons are disabled except for 1.

Now do I get it to not play any note at all after the cadence? Or to at least get it to only play the tonic?

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Postby zacxpacx » Mon Dec 17, 2012 2:25 am

So I contacted Alain, the creator of FET, and it turns out that what I'm describing is a legitimate bug in the program. Two days ago, Alain sent me an email saying he's gonna try to fix it.

My ear training has been on hiatus for about a week now. I'll resume chroma buckets once the FET bug has been fixed and I can use random cadences in conjunction with my training.

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Postby Nikolaus » Mon Dec 17, 2012 10:06 am

why not just keep on going with chromatic? no reason to stop right now. in the meantime, download version one of FET.

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Postby cjhealey » Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:45 am

These are the problems I see:

1. You can't learn it one note at a time.

Think of getting 12 very subtly different shade of Cream showing someone one and then expecting a person to be able to name that specific shade perfectly correctly every time they see it.

What we're talking about is something more akin to watching a black and white movie and trying to identify the colours of the actors' clothing by the different shade of grey we see.

Good luck... If you only know one of the possible shades that will appear, it will be incredibly hard to consistently pick it out amongst all that grey. And when you have multiple shades of grey together, the contrast will alter your perception somewhat etc.

2. You can't learn it in isolation.

Learning absolute pitches in isolation is like trying to learn a language by memorising the sound and meaning of various nouns. It's absolutely useless.

Imagine someone said to you:
"Hello, if you wouldn't mind, could you please come with me to my car while I fetch my hat?"

If all you could understand were the nouns... you'd still have NO idea at all what was said to you. All you get is that he said something about a car an a hat.

I think if there is any hope of achieving it, you have to do it USING MUSIC!

My suggestion would be this:

Get all the Bach Chorales... they would be perfect for this.

Get a recording of a piece in C Major and give the person the target pitch ("C"). Then play the piece and have them indicate each time they hear it.
Then go through and isolate all the "C"s they didn't hear and have them hear them again in context.
Then move to a different key and repeat with the same target pitch.
Then move through the rest of the major and minor keys (with a different piece of music for each) using the same reference pitch.

Now go back to the piece in C Major, and pick a different (but commonly occurring pitch eg. "G") give them the reference tone "G" and then get them to indicate somehow each time they hear that "G".

Then give them both C and G as reference tones and ask them say "C" or "G" out loud each time they hear the appropriate pitch.

Now move to a different piece with a different key.
Do the G, then do both G + C.

Repeat through all other major and minor keys.

Return to the C major piece and use the note "A" this time. Then add C & G.

Repeat through all other major and minor keys.

Continue until all 12 pitches are being heard.

Then have them transcribe the music to manuscript by ear.

Now repeat with other music until the need for reference tones is gone.

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