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14.3. Training Yourself

There are three kinds of exercises available in Solfege:
  • "Listen-and-identify" exercises will play some sort of musical structure, and ask you to identify, classify, or label it according to widely-used conventions.
  • "Identify" exercises will show you some sort of musical structure (usually in Western classical notation), and ask you to identify, classify, or label it according to widely-used conventions.
  • "Sing" exercises will provide a specific musical structure, sometimes partially-completed, and ask you to sing the completion of the structure.
Unlike many commercially-available aural skills computer applications, Solfege often relies on the user to know whether they performed the task correctly - and how correctly. This is especially true of the "Sing"-type exercises, since Solfege lacks the capability to receive sung input from the user. This requires at least two things to be kept in mind: firstly, that it is to your own benefit to honestly tell Solfege when you correctly and incorrectly provide a solution, since this helps Solfege to focus on your weaknesses, and to more accurately track your progress; secondly, there are many degrees of correctness when it comes to music, and harmonic and melodic dictation are particularly prone to these forms of partial correctness.
When you encounter a rough spot with your aural skills development, remember that it takes a significant amount of time and effort to build your musical sensibility. It is easier for some people than for others, and most people will have an easier time with some exercises than with others. Although the prevailing cultural thought about musical sensibility (and aural skillls) still suggests that an individual either posesses musical ability or cannot acquire it, recent research has suggested that any hearing person with enough determination, dedication, and the right instruction can develop their musical sensibility and aural skills to a very high level.
With that in mind, the following sections aim to help you incorporate Solfege as part of a complete aural skills development program.

14.3.1. Aural Skills and Musical Sensibility

When somebody decides to receive musical training, what they are really doing is developing skills and acquiring stylistic knowledge required for participation in a particular kind of music. There are many different kinds of training, and the time spent in a classroom is not as important to musical development as time spent elsewhere, taking part in real, musical situations. Many different kinds of skills are useful for musicians, depending on the kind of music in which they intend to participate. A folk singer who plays guitar might wish to memorize the chord progressions, melodies, and words for thousands of different songs. An oboe player in an orchestra might wish to make their own reeds from cane tree bark. Most musicians need to be able to listen to music and perceive certain structures that other musicians use to describe their work. These structures are explained by "music theory," and the skill set used to hear these things in music is called "aural skills." Musicians train their aural skills by a set of procedures known as "ear training," or "aural skills training."
Musical sensibility is developed when aural skills are used to help a musician gain an understanding of how and why their music (and other people's music) works and sounds the way it does. This understanding is key to having a sense of the procedures and conventions that an audience will expect of a performer, and therefore to the performer's ability to produce aesthetically pleasing music.
Having a well-developed musical sensibility and set of aural skills are both important aspects of being a musician, but they are by no means the only aspects. More than anything, a musician (or an aspiring musician) should be talking and listening to other musicians.