#1
Hello all! I play electric guitar, but I don't like to play for other people because every time I do people aren't happy with the repetoire of songs that I know and start trying to request what they want to hear. I know there are a lot of guitar experts out there that can hear a song once and play along to it, or at least something close; I was just wondering...how long does it take to develop this skill? I've only been playing for about two years, but I love to play and sing along, and I would love to get there eventually. Any hints on how to start going in the direction of being able to pick songs up quickly by ear??
#2
Quote by tiredhead04
Hello all! I play electric guitar, but I don't like to play for other people because every time I do people aren't happy with the repetoire of songs that I know and start trying to request what they want to hear. I know there are a lot of guitar experts out there that can hear a song once and play along to it, or at least something close; I was just wondering...how long does it take to develop this skill? I've only been playing for about two years, but I love to play and sing along, and I would love to get there eventually. Any hints on how to start going in the direction of being able to pick songs up quickly by ear??


It's close to impossible to hear a song and play it right then and there but you could transcribe on the sight and for that I would recommend that you TRANSCRIBE and build your ear.
#3
i've only been playing for about 3 years, and I consider myself pretty good, and so does everyone around me, and im mostly self taught, and playing by ear just came to me. i think if you can find what key the song is you can easily figure out the rest most of the time
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#4
I found that transcribing by ear actually became easier once i knew how to sing. I could recognize pitches in my head and quite accurately transcribe melodies i had stuck in my head.

The intro to Fiction by Avenged Sevenfold I had played on the piano (i'm not a good piano player) by remembering the melody and the pitches and being able to sing them back and match them to keys. My buddy had said "you should learn fiction" after i played some random crap tune on my piano and he sat there watching me transcribe it slowly. 7 minutes later i had the intro down and he was pretty impressed (not to mention i was impressed with myself)
#5
Quote by WastedRespect
It's close to impossible to hear a song and play it right then and there but you could transcribe on the sight and for that I would recommend that you TRANSCRIBE and build your ear.

No its not. It just takes time and familiarity with music in general, the more time and effort you put into it the quicker you can pick up on it.
#6
My teacher showed me how to do it, its a speed thing. He took like 5-6 years to learn it. So its a while
#7
Quote by z4twenny
No its not. It just takes time and familiarity with music in general, the more time and effort you put into it the quicker you can pick up on it.


Play any classical piece in any instrument and hear one piece of music at sight and play it immeadiatley. I dare you. Same thing applies to sightreading at 200bpm. Practiality is sometimes past our grasp.
#8
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Quote by tiredhead04
I know there are a lot of guitar experts out there that can hear a song once and play along to it, or at least something close; I was just wondering...how long does it take to develop this skill?

If you're talking about just jamming along to a song and not playing it exactly, then it's all up to how much you practice. You'll obviously sound more convincing if you're a good player, but in order to "pick up" a song by ear you need to do exactly that; train your ears. There are a lot of ways to do it, and somebody else can explain it a little better since I have perfect pitch and thus never had a problem playing along to songs in terms of key.

What I can tell you is that what you'd ultimately like to be able to do is hear something in your head and play it back exactly. This'll come from a lot of listening on your own, as well as a lot of improvising; in your listening, listen to as many styles of music as you can, since convincing improv is much more about the phrasing and rhythmic ideas than it is "hitting the right notes".
#9
The way to get better at learning by ear is by learning songs by ear.

So when you want to learn a song, don't go to tabs/chord sheets as your first port of call. Instead grab out the guitar and try to play along. Rewind and fast forward until you get each part right and then move on. It takes some time at first, but as you do more, you'll get better, and eventually you should be able to hear chord progressions just by listening to the song, and not even have the guitar with you.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#10
thanks for the advice all! I've tried playing along with songs and figuring out parts mostly single note stuff; my trouble seems to be with being able to find the right chords since their are so many options: different chords, different guitar tuning, and with or without capo. I assume I will probably get better at recognizing chords the more I do it though. I appreciate all of the feedback!
#11
Regarding different tuning.... best to look it up on the net. Andy McKee is at least kind enough to put the tunings on the cd sleeve. Others have not always been so kind. For people who can actually hear that a guitar is tuned to C6/9 without ever having tuned to it before or even played in it... Well done to you... but I doubt you could on go number one (of course proceeding to tune it string for string after hearing it... and then getting the fingerings right as well... etc etc).

As for recognising your chords, a little program called EarMaster Pro can definitely help you. It has little melody exercises too... transcribing exercises, rhythm exercises, chord sequences, scales, etc. It has a jazz section too.

Avoid tabs like the plague... unless you are seriously stuck on something. Then its ok to cheat. But after cheating, make sure to memorise that sound.
#12
Quote by tiredhead04
thanks for the advice all! I've tried playing along with songs and figuring out parts mostly single note stuff; my trouble seems to be with being able to find the right chords since their are so many options: different chords, different guitar tuning, and with or without capo. I assume I will probably get better at recognizing chords the more I do it though. I appreciate all of the feedback!

On the contrary - in most songs, there are only a few possible chords to be played at any particular moment. One of the best ways to learn songs by ear is to familiarize yourself with the types of chords in each key. In any given key, you have 7 chords:

I-ii-iii-IV-V-vi-vii*

The capital roman numerals are major, the lower case are minor. This means that once you establish the key of a song, you know that you have 3 major chords to work with and 3 minor chords (the 7 diminished is rarely used). Thus, figuring out the chords of a song is a simple matter of trial and error.

The next step in the learning process is to start hearing the most common chordal movements within a key, so that you can instantly recognize them without having to do guess work. Most guitarists can recognize a I-IV-V type of movement due to their exposure to blues and the like, but you should also learn to recognize a I-V/vii-vi, a ii-V-I, a vi-IV, etc. etc.
The way you do this is by figuring out the chords to songs and then taking note of why the songs sound the way they do. If you hear a cool walk-down from C to Am in the key of C, you should say to yourself "hey, that sounds really cool. I'll have to remember that that's what a I-V/vii-vi sounds like."

In short, really start familiarizing yourself with roman numeral analysis. Simply knowing the letter names of chords won't help you to put them in the context of the key they're in.
#13
Quote by Glen'sHeroicAct


I-ii-iii-IV-V-vi-vii*

The capital roman numerals are major, the lower case are minor. This means that once you establish the key of a song, you know that you have 3 major chords to work with and 3 minor chords (the 7 diminished is rarely used). Thus, figuring out the chords of a song is a simple matter of trial and error.


The problem with this is that even very simple songs use chords outside of those 7. It's easy for a beginner to get frustrating thinking that it has to be one of those chords, when often it's not.

My general rule of thumb for figuring out chord progressions is:

1) Find the root. (This doesn't always work if there are inversions, but it's a good starting place).
2) Identify major or minor
3) Identify 7ths or extensions.

A lot of people learn to recognize the quality of a chord (major, minor, 7th, etc) by separating the chord out into its component notes and singing them as an arpeggio.

If you're serious about improving your ear, I highly recommend two things: first, download the functional ear trainer from Miles.Be, and second get a good book on ear training. My experience is with Keith Wyatt et al's "Ear Training for the Contemporary Musician" but there may be other equally good options.

I recommend it highly. It can take a lot of work and a long time, but it pays huge dividends for you development as a musician.

That being said, as far as the original question is concerned, here's the thing:

Be happy to play the music that you want to play. Be okay with saying, "Sorry, I don't know that one." If you can say that with a smile, it'll be no big deal. Sometimes you start feeling bad or inadequate because you can't think of something to play, or people are asking you to play something you don't know. Be happy playing the stuff you can play, and don't be upset if you're asked for somethign you can't play.

Every guitarist has limitations.
#14
Quote by WastedRespect
It's close to impossible to hear a song and play it right then and there but you could transcribe on the sight and for that I would recommend that you TRANSCRIBE and build your ear.


I was jamming right along with some Gorod, playing each riff/lick after a single repetition.

I've also got a friend who has perfect pitch and could do that with literally anything.

It is difficult, but its far from impossible.
Last edited by Life Is Brutal at Jan 29, 2012,
#15
I'm not at the level I want yet, but I've been playing for seven years. However, I've only actually been a serious musician for about 20 months or so. I can transcribe many things if I take the time to do so, and some things I can hear and instantly play back, or hear a chime and go "Hey, that chime plays an A major arpeggio, A C# E."

It's taken a lot of listening, and a lot of theory knowledge. If you want to learn how to listen to something and play it, then you need to understand it. Theory explains why something sounds the way it does, and when you know that, you can put a name to something you hear and recognise it elsewhere. There are many lessons on UG, and musictheory.net is a good resource to begin with for theory. It's the language of music, so learn it and don't be a tourist.

Other than that, you have to become familiar with your instrument. If you hear a melody, can you whistle it back? Excellent, you can hear something and instantly play it back. Now you just need to actually listen to the notes you're whistling back, and hear the relationship between all the notes. Like the chime example: I hear an A, then based on the sound of the intervals I heard, I realised it played C# and E, an A major arpeggio. I can whistle that, but can I play it on guitar? I know the notes on guitar, and I knew the relationship between the notes I just heard, so even if I didn't know the key, it's just a matter of finding what key it was in, and bam, I can play it back.

I'd get a start on transcribing very simple things and recognising the sounds of different intervals. That site I linked to has an ear trainer you can use to help yourself identify the sound of different intervals.
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#16
I can play most melodies (except when they're semiquavers at 240bpm, haha) by ear but I'm weak with chords progressions, as they run through faster than my ear can keep up. If I had time I can do chords after a few goes as well. I've played guitar for about 10 years and have strong relative pitch.
#17
Quote by HotspurJr
The problem with this is that even very simple songs use chords outside of those 7. It's easy for a beginner to get frustrating thinking that it has to be one of those chords, when often it's not.

My general rule of thumb for figuring out chord progressions is:

1) Find the root. (This doesn't always work if there are inversions, but it's a good starting place).
2) Identify major or minor
3) Identify 7ths or extensions.

A lot of people learn to recognize the quality of a chord (major, minor, 7th, etc) by separating the chord out into its component notes and singing them as an arpeggio.

If you're serious about improving your ear, I highly recommend two things: first, download the functional ear trainer from Miles.Be, and second get a good book on ear training. My experience is with Keith Wyatt et al's "Ear Training for the Contemporary Musician" but there may be other equally good options.

I recommend it highly. It can take a lot of work and a long time, but it pays huge dividends for you development as a musician.

That being said, as far as the original question is concerned, here's the thing:

Be happy to play the music that you want to play. Be okay with saying, "Sorry, I don't know that one." If you can say that with a smile, it'll be no big deal. Sometimes you start feeling bad or inadequate because you can't think of something to play, or people are asking you to play something you don't know. Be happy playing the stuff you can play, and don't be upset if you're asked for somethign you can't play.

Every guitarist has limitations.

You're right - there are many songs that don't include the basic 7 chords in a key, and a guitarist shouldn't assume that a chord HAS to be one of those. However, your method of finding the root and then determining chord quality leaves little room for advancement. When you just search for the root of each chord as it comes along, you have no context in which to place each chord; you don't know why the artist is using the chords they are, and you don't know how they fit into the key. You'll just end up having to learn every song you hear from scratch, picking out the bass note of each chord on your guitar. With roman numeral analysis, you learn to hear what chords are likely to follow other chords, and you'll also learn to identify the exceptions to the basic I ii iii IV V vi vii* chords by hearing different substitutions and labeling them within the system.

There's a reason why every music school uses roman numeral analysis. You can recognize harmonic movement when the bass note isn't clearly audible; you can analyze music without needing a guitar or piano for reference; you can quickly transpose any piece of music without needing to work out each chord at a time; you can compose music without having to guess which chord should come next in a progression; the list goes on.
#18
Quote by GoldenGuitar
I've played guitar for about 10 years and have strong relative pitch.


And tonal memory!
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#19
Glen's -

No real disagreement with anything you wrote in your second post. I perhaps should have been clearer about that as a "starter system" for identifying chords. Certainly it goes a lot deeper (and I have no problem with your advocacy of the roman numeral system in general - I only took issue with saying it's going to be one of those 7 chords).

And understanding how notes (and thus chords) relate to the tonic is the whole idea of the functional ear trainer, which I recommended, so I'm really not advocating that should be his long term approach. Rather, I was trying to give him a simple system he could start to apply today (find the root, identify the chord) as well as tools for a more thorough understanding (the functional ear trainer, Wyatt's book).
#20
^ I hear what you're saying. I probably should have worded my first post differently, as it does seem to mislead the reader into thinking that the 7 diatonic chords are the only ones you'll find in a song. Anyway, I very much agree with you on the subject of ear training. Everyone who wants to be a better musician should start doing it as early as possible.