Aural Comprehension Guide

David Loberg Code          Western Michigan University

Melodic Perception

The following page shows various conceptual models of how you might perceive a melody that you are sightreading. In the fixed pitch model, you sightread by identifying pitch names. This makes each note unrelated to any previous or subsequent notes, and makes transposition difficult. Unless you have perfect pitch, this is probably not an effective way of sightreading. In the second example, the melody is sung as a string of intervals. This strategy makes each note completely dependent upon all previous intervals. Get one interval wrong and the whole melody is off. The third example uses scale degree syllables. This relates all of the notes to the tonic and the tonic scale, giving you a fixed reference point for each note. If you have the tonic in your ear, you can miss a note and still get back on track. The disadvantage is that this system does not distinguish between alternate forms of various scale degrees (e.g., M3 and m3 are both '3') in the way that solfege syllables do, as illustrated in the fourth example.

Pitch Names


Scale Degrees



David Loberg Code, School of Music, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, 49008. E-mail: 
Revised: 28.Feb.99       (c) 1999