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Practicing IFR Exercise 2 with "Amazing Grace"

Hi David,

I would just like to say that I am excited about your method as I am already seeing music in a much simpler way than before. Would you kindly answer a question for me please? Will I achieve the same effect with Exercise 2 if I play different songs with many different interval jumps in all 12 keys? For example, Amazing Grace starts on a perfect fourth, playing it from any note on the sax will lead to the same goal? Or does this complicate the idea?

Regards - Shane

David's response:

Hi Shane,

Playing popular melodies from any random starting note on your sax is a fantastic exercise. Just keep in mind that what we're really trying to learn in Exercise 2 is where all of these sounds are located on our tonal map.

So rather than thinking about the first two notes of Amazing Grace as merely an interval jump of a perfect fourth, it's much more valuable to focus on exactly WHICH notes these are. In the case of Amazing Grace these first two notes are note 5 and note 1. The entire first line of the melody, expressed in tonal numbers, would be something like this:

5       1       3 2 1       3          2        1         6       5
A -   ma-     zing     grace,   how   sweet   the   sound

(I hope those numbers match up with the words when you read this. Sometimes it's hard to line things up so they look right but I think you get the idea.)

Your assessment of that first interval jump as a perfect fourth is right on. (Nice!) But instead of just focusing on the interval, you should practice naming every note by its exact position in the tonal octave, exactly as I have shown above. This is what teaches you to recognize the major scale in the melodies all around you, because these tonal numbers always sound the same, no matter what key you're playing in.

Playing activity

If you especially like this song, then a GREAT exercise would be to do the following:

1) Continue figuring out the rest of the tonal numbers for the entire melody, following exactly as I have started above.

2) SING THESE NUMBERS every day. Sing the entire song with the same feeling and emotion you would express if you were singing the words, but sing the tonal numbers instead.

3) Then PLAY the song on your sax every day, and choose a DIFFERENT KEY every day!

By doing this, you will not only develop a deep understanding of this particular song. You will also be strengthening your ability to understand and recognize each note of the major scale. And this is what will enable you to play not just Amazing Grace but in fact any song you can think of, just by remembering how it sounds.

David