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Tonescape Exercises

Anchor, 2nd, 7th

Anchor, 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 6th


So far in the tonescape, you’ve learned to recognize the anchor, one and two higher, and one and two lower.

So, you have a feeling for each note’s distance from the anchor, in terms of how much higher or lower the note is than the anchor.

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But the reason the anchor stands out at all, is because it’s not only the middle note of the tonescape [play], but it’s also the lowest note [play], and the highest note [play].

That means we have three different versions of the anchor inside our tonescape. We have our lowest note [play lowest], and then we can move through each of the notes in the tonescape [play] until we arrive at another version of the anchor [play middle]. And then we can keep going [play] until we arrive at still another, higher version of the anchor [play highest].

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Notes that have this relationship—of feeling like higher and lower versions of the same note—are called octaves. “Octo” is the Ancient Greek and Latin word for eight, and it’s also where we get words like “octopus” (which has eight arms), or “octagon” (which has eight sides), or even “October” (which was the eighth month in the Roman calendar).

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In the tonescape, each eighth note has this quality of feeling like a version of the same note. So we have [sings 1-8]. And then again, [sing higher 1-8], which is a little high for my voice to sing.

Note number 1, and note number 8 are both versions of the anchor. And this gives us a new way to name our notes, using numbers that repeat each time we reach an anchor. So we have [sing: Anchor, 2nd, 3rd… Anchor]. And then again, [sing: higher Anchor, 2nd, 3rd… Anchor].

So the note we’ve been calling “one higher” [hum] is the 2nd, relative to the anchor [sing: Anchor, 2nd, Anchor]. And the note we were calling “one lower” [hum] is the 7th, relative to the anchor [sing: Anchor, 7th, Anchor].

Now, since each note can have different versions in different octaves, there are also different versions of the 2nd and the 7th. That means you can have a 2nd that’s one higher than a lower version of the anchor, like this [sing: lower 2nd, Anchor]. Or, a 7th that’s one lower than a higher version of the anchor, like this [sing: higher 7th, Anchor].

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And so you can’t quite rely on the feeling of a note being “higher” or “lower” than the anchor in exactly the same way you have been.

Instead, you have to start hearing the quality of “2nd-ness” or “7th-ness” independently of the “highness” or “lowness” of the octave. And there are two tonescape exercises that will help you get there.

The first tonescape plays just these three notes—the Anchor, 2nd, and 7th,—but it plays them in different octaves, like this [demo].

The different octaves can take some getting used to. One thing that will help at first, is to bring each note you hear into your comfortable vocal range by humming it.

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So, hum whichever version of the anchor feels most natural for your voice. For me, it’s this one [hum]. Then hum the 2nd and 7th that are closest to that anchor, like this [sing: Anchor, 2nd, Anchor, 7th].

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Now, each time you hear a new note in the tonescape, listen for which of the three notes in your comfortable vocal range best matches the note you hear, and hum it in your comfortable vocal range, like this [demo].

You don’t need to name the notes, until you feel comfortable humming them first. And once you can hum the note, then hum your way back to the anchor to hear which note it is, like this [demo].

Once you can do this with the 2nd and 7th, the next exercise adds the 3rd and 6th, which are versions of the notes two higher, and two lower than the anchor. You can do the exact same thing: first bring the note into your comfortable vocal range, and then hum your way back to the anchor, like this [demo].

Before long, you’ll start to hear whether each note is an anchor, 2nd, 3rd, 7th, or 6th, regardless of its octave. And you’ll also start to recognize the note without having to hum it first.

So give it a try. Feel free to experment and come up with your own techniques to help recognize each note you hear. And when you’re comfortable naming each note without having to hum it first, that’s when you’re ready to come back for more.