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Octave Glissando - Voice and Ear Exercise

In music it is not essential to be able to recognize absolute pitch: It is not really crucial if we tune to 432 or 440 Hz. But what is greatly important is to be aware of the interval relations with regard to their consonance (blending) and dissonance (beat tones) – to recognize purity.

It is a great ear and voice exercise to relate to notes not as the habitual fixed point but to slide attentively through intervals of wider or smaller range.


In this basic exercise the octave, ratio 1:2, constitutes the frame and 128 Hz, C3, is the constant reference note (and in the video the dot representing this frequency ought to light constantly), while slowly raising the pitch until we reach the octave, 256 Hz. The notes are represented by pure sine frequencies which cannot entirely be compared to the experience of performing the same pattern with the singing voice.


Note among other things how the strongly dissonant intervals in the area of the semitone will cause an almost physical sensation of throbbing (beating notes), and how there is a natural merging of reference tone and voice at harmonic intervals like minor & major third (5:6 and 4:5), perfect fourth (3:4), perfect fifth (2:3) etc.


The video is only a sketch: Please do your own elaboration! Adjust the length of the sliding sequences to your own lung capacity and make it feel more organic by using an acoustic drone like that of a shruti box in a pitch which is comfortable for you.

A video of a Shruti Box drone at C3. Optimally use a real instrument!

The octave glissando exercise may be considered the first stage of an exploration of the harmonic series with the voice, without doing actual overtone singing. The following stages would naturally be as follows:


Overview of glissando exercises based on the harmonic series. Human proportion study by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528). Please notice the harmonic measures at the far left: 1/1-1/2-1/3-1/4-... etc. As a tactile accompagnement of the exercise you may use hand movements to indicate the slow pitch sliding.


A) Octave, 1:2.


B) Perfect fifth, 2:3:4 (sliding through the octave, dwelling on the fifth along the way)


C) The harmonic triad, 4:5:6 (sliding through the perfect fifth, dwelling on just major third along the way. Extension: continue with ... :7:8).


D) Wholetone steps, 8:9:10 (sliding through the just major third, dwelling on the just major second along the way. Extension: Continue with ... :11: …:16)


Video demonstrations of these exercises will follow!

Dissonances and consonances between reference tone and intervals within the octave frame as for a composite tone (inserted frame). 100 cent is an equal tempered semitone. 

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