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Sharpening your musical ear by singing numbers instead of words

December 13, 2012

Could you sing “Will the Circle be Unbroken” using the musical scale numbers instead of the words?  If not, you really don’t know where you are in the song at any given point.

Lets sing the words first so I can show you what I mean:

Will the cir-cle…be unbro-ken…by and by lord by and by…

there’s a better…home a wait-ing…in the sky lord in the-e sky.

If I were to sing it with scale numbers, we’d sing:

5 6 1 1…3 2 1 3…3 2 1 2 1 6 5…5 6 1 1…3 5 5 3…1 2 3 3 2 3 2 1.

Sound stupid?  Believe me, this will make you powerful!  Very powerful!

Did you know that the first word in the song (will) was the 5th note of the scale?  If the answer is no…then you don’t know music as well as you thought you did.  I know you know the do, re, mi scale, you’ve learned it from your guitar teacher and from the movie “The Sound of Music.”  Do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do.  Or 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

Will is 5.  The is 6.  Cir is 1. cle is 1.  That’s the first phrase.  So what is the second phrase?  Be is 3. Un is 2. Brok is 1.  en is 3.  Will the circle be unbroken is: 5, 6, 1, 1, 3 2 1 3.  Wish I could sing this to you in the blog, but you know the song so push away from your computer and sing.

What would the notes be on your guitar?  Open 4th string, 2nd fret 4th string, open 3rd string, open 2nd string, 2nd fret 3rd string, open 3rd string, then open 2nd string.

Now lets analyze that first string of numbers up above.  5 6 1 1.  We started on the 5 of the scale and started walking up the scale to 6, then we skipped a note (7) and went up to 1 (which is the same as 8).  Then the second phrase was: “be unbroken.”  3 2 1 3.  What was that all about?  We descended down the musical scale 3, 2, 1 and then back up to 3 again.  We were just walking down stairs then leaping back up the stairs, skipping the 2nd step.  So when A.P. Carter wrote this song, he was just playing around with the musical scale, running up a while, down a while, and skipping a step every now and then, when he felt like it.  Sort of like Tom Hanks dancing all over that floor piano in the movie “Big.”

So where did “Will the Circle be Unbroken wind up at the end?  Right! It went: 3, 2, 1.  It ended on 1.  If you sing “Will the Circle be Unbroken” in scale numbers, you’ll know exactly where you are in the song at any point you choose.  This means that you are never “musically” lost.  You might have a great voice and be able to sing in tune real good, but do you know which note you’re singing?  If not, you might be in the same situation with your guitar playing as well.

I have an easy and fun solution to rid you of this problem.  I’ll sing you two more songs with the words, and then with the numbers, then suggest a few more songs for you to try on your own.

How about Mountain Dew?

Oh they call it that good old mountain dew… a-and them that re-fuse it are fe-ew….

I’ll hush up my mug… if you’ll fill up my jug… with that good old moun-ta-in dew.

6 6 5 5  6  1 1 2 1 3…3 2 1 1 6 1 1 1 6 5…

5 5 5 6 1… 1 1 3 3 2 1…1 1 3  3 2 3 2 1…

Isn’t it scary how similar Mountain Dew is to Will the Circle be Unbroken?  About 75% or more!  And we might have never realized it, if we hadn’t analyzed them with scale numbers.

How about:

Roll in my sweet baby’s arms…roll in my sweet baby’s arms…

Lay round the shack…till the mail train comes back…and I roll in my sweet ba-by’s arms.

3 3 3 3 1 6 1…3 3 3 3 1 1 2…

1 1 1 3…3 3 4 4 1 6…6 6 5 7 1 2 3 2 1.

Wow, did you notice the last 4 notes of all 3 songs were identical!  So as far as the last 4 notes are concerned, they are all the same song!  This may seem like a beginner exercise, but I betcha even some of the pros couldn’t do this.

Now I’d like for you to try: What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Salty Dog Blues, Blue Moon of Kentucky, Home Sweet Home, I Saw the Light, Amazing Grace, Way Downtown, Swing Low Sweet Chariot and Long Journey Home.  Feel free to choose your favorite songs instead if you like.  The more you do, the easier it will become.  By the time you’ve done a dozen or so, your ear will start to develop.  You’ll literally know where you are musically in every song you encounter, and this will help every facet of your life as a guitarist, singer, and musician.

This exercise is one of the many chapters from our 2-hour video called: UNDERSTANDING THE FORMULA OF MUSIC MAKES IT SO EASY.  It’s the background that every musician needs, and its as easy as watching TV.  Give us at 800-543-6125.

So if you wanna be a great musician, all you gotta do is train your fingers and your ear.












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