Hi, this is Christopher Sutton, the Founder and Director of Musical U, and I’d love to share with you what’s new in Musical U this month.

You can watch the video below or read on to learn more.

We had two major updates inside Musical U this month:

The first is a comprehensive workshop on Musical Success, including how to set your vision, choose effective goals, create a step-by-step plan and get a lot more time for music practice.

The second is a new training module for recognising notes using solfa, complete with training and testing audio tracks and interactive quizzes.

New Workshop: Musical Success

It’s January, and a new year, and a lot of musicians start thinking about their goals for the year and what they might change about their music practice habits and so we created a new workshop specifically about these topics to help you really get the year off to a strong start.

The topic is musical success and the idea is to teach you everything you need to know to really get the most out of your music practice time.

That includes setting your vision for the year, defining the kind of training goals that are going to help you really get to that vision, creating an effective training plan to bring you to those goals step by step, and then a really big hot topic for musicians is how do you find enough time for it all? It can be difficult just to find time for your instrument practice let alone other things like collaborating or creating your own music or learning to play by ear. In the workshop we really dive deep into this question of time and how can you find more time for music and how can you actually maximize your use of time so that the same amount of practice time each week can go a lot further to helping you achieve those goals.

Then we talk about tracking progress and what you can do to make sure you stay on track with your plans and keep improving. Finally, getting support, which is a crucial part of it all because when you try and go alone, the odds of you getting there are so much lower so we talk about two different ways you can get support to help you stay on track and really get more musical success.

We round it out with a few examples of how all of this can be applied and some of the common questions musicians have on these topics. That’s an exciting new workshop to share with our members and it compliments a lot of the planning training modules and resources we already have as you may know, we put a lot of emphasis on planning and progress tracking at Musical U because otherwise, even with the best resources, it’s really easy to lose track of what you’re up to or find that you’re not using your time effectively.

We have a whole set of training modules inside Musical U to help you with planning and those will guide you through each step of what we talk about in the workshop from setting a good goal and to reach your big picture vision, to creating a plan to reach that goal step by step and then using the kind of progress tracking and support systems that can really help you have a lot more success.

New Module: Scale Degree Recognition

The second major update inside the site this month is a module that we’re really excited to introduce. It’s called Scale Degree Recognition. Now that’s not the most exciting title in the world but it is actually one of the most exciting topics for musicians. If you’ve ever listened to music and wished you knew what the notes were just by hearing them, this is what will help you do that.

We teach a couple of systems for doing this inside Musical U. One of them is solfa, the Do-Re-Mi system of naming notes. We already have several solfa modules and in fact a whole road map for learning solfa and using it to play by ear and improvise, but this new module fills in a gap that was there up until now, which is helping you really drill the core skill of hearing a note and knowing what it is.

Let’s take a quick look in the module. It’s, as always, a series of lessons starting with an introduction that gets across how to use the module and ending with the discussion where you can post any questions you have or talk about the subject with other members of the community.

Then the core material in this module is a series of lessons that introduce the notes of the major pentatonic scale one by one. At Musical U we use the major pentatonic scale as our core first step to these kinds of listening skills. It’s a bit simpler than the major scale, but it’s a fantastic place to start. It’s the perfect way to begin learning these skills without having to take on the full major scale and get overwhelmed. It’s an incredibly widely-used scale in music so this isn’t just a dummy or a place holder for you, this is something you can really use from the beginning in your musical life.

This is lesson one, which just introduces two notes, Do and So. You’ll see there’s a set of training tracks. We have them with a female singing and with a male singing and then a set of testing tracks. The idea with these tracks is you can listen and just gently start to introduce these ideas to your musical ear. The training tracks demonstrate and then the testing tracks give you a chance to test yourself so let’s give a quick listen.

Here’s a testing track for Do and So. You’re going to hear the scale for context and then you’re going to hear a mystery note and you need to try and identify was that Do, the tonic of the scale or was it So.

That’s your scale. Which of the two notes was that? Then you hear the note again and you have to try and come up with your answer. That was Do. It ends with a quick recap like that. Then each lesson has a couple of quizzes, in the first one you’ll hear the whole scale. In this case it’s just two notes, but as the lesson progresses you hear more and more of that major pentatonic scale. On the hard difficulty level you just hear the tonic, so it’s up to you to fill in the full scale in your head or by singing it out loud to then identify the notes from.

Let’s jump ahead just to really see how the module shapes up. Let’s go to our testing track for the full major pentatonic. These training and testing tracks are great because you can use them very flexibly. These are tracks you can put on your mobile phone or tablet or use at your computer. You can use the training tracks quite passively. For example, you might be driving to work and just reinforcing these sounds in your head and the testing tracks should have a little more attention paid to them, but again, you’re very flexible in how you can use them. Once you feel like you’re getting the hang of it, you can dive into the quizzes so let’s just take a quick look. You might notice we’re using our new quiz system here which we’ve been introducing gradually at Musical U.

With this new quiz system, if you get the answer wrong you get a chance to actually figure out the right answer too, so if we thought that was Mi instead of Do, we can hear what Me would have actually sounded like. Check what we were trying to get again. We might figure out okay if that’s Mi, so that must have been Do. And so on.

Those were the two main updates to Musical U this month: a comprehensive workshop on musical success and how to get more out of your music training time and an exciting new module to help you learn to recognize notes by ear using solfa.

Thanks for joining me for this look at what’s new inside Musical U this month and I hope to see you inside soon!