#1
Hello Everyone,

I am trying to be the best player I can be and have dreams of being a professional musician (don't we all haha). Anyway I know that all of my guitar idols learned songs from their idols by ear. I have been transcribing songs by ear more and more, but it is still very difficult. I have however been thinking about just learning songs exclusively by ear. No tabs or video lessons. Has anyone done this or would you guys recommended it. I am trying to get very good at guitar and I repeatedly hear that learning by ear is the best way.
#2
The more time you spend consciously developing your ear, the better it will get. This is a crucial skill.

I don't think draconian rules like "never look up a tab" are that useful, as I'm a fan of moderation in all things. But ... you know, if that's a challenge you want to set for yourself, your ear will probably improve quickly.
#4
I learn exclusively by ear and sheet music.

Learning by ear benefits you in a lot of different ways. You become more aware of what you play opposed to "0000000h3000000". You learn things faster (once you've done it for a while), you learn things better (in my opinion), and it opens up new doors for improvisation and coming up with own ideas.

You will also find that after time it will help you develop your own style more easily. If you learn songs by your favorite bands by ear for a while you can see their styles mix up when you try doing something original. I could go on but i don't think i have to. Ear is a great way to learn.

I believe it's a bit like victor wooten said when he spoke on the subject of music in general, he compared it to a language. When growing up you learned to speak by trying to imitate people who could already speak really well, by listening to them! BY EAR! Same approach should go for music, hearing stuff you want to imitate and then trying imitate them.
Fusion and jazz musician, a fan of most music.

Quote by Guthrie Govan
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"Only play what you hear. If you don't hear anything, don't play anything."
#5
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also, watch groove workshop. it'll help you.
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#6
You'll find that most adept musicians learn by ear. The trick is to not to give in to tab/lessons if given the choice. Also start easy.

And by "easy" I mean Nirvana/Green Day/Bob Dylan easy. Not shreddy mcshredface's slowest song.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#7
I felt like when I first started learning by ear. I couldn't learn anything that was past my skill level.

And anything I did learn. I didn't have to practice it slower until I could play it full speed.

Its just more of a natural and beneficial way to learn.

Quote by AlanHB
You'll find that most adept musicians learn by ear. The trick is to not to give in to tab/lessons if given the choice. Also start easy.

And by "easy" I mean Nirvana/Green Day/Bob Dylan easy. Not shreddy mcshredface's slowest song.


Yea, Id throw in some theme songs in there as-well. single note melodies helped me in the beginning. I would recommend starting with single note tunes.

If your having to much trouble try songs like deck the halls Christmas song. The ventures - peter gun.

It wont be long you'll be picking up tunes you hear on the radio while your just jamming.
#8
I always recommend learning by ear. Tabs can be a fun and easy way to learn, but learning by ear is almost always, if not always, the best way to learn. Also, playing along with a record is also a great way to train your ear, even if you did learn by tab. (that's an instance where the evils of learning by tab are diminished.)
#9
I'm gonna have to go against people here and say it's not always the best way. If it's a song you want to learn for fun, go ahead and learn it by ear, but if it's a song you're learning because you need to get better at a certain skill, use tabs or sheet music. I think if you want to be a very skilled guitarist with a great ear, you're gonna get there a lot faster if you use tabs (though I'd recommend only ever using Guitar Pro if you're serious) and sheet music to find new technical exercises and when you aren't playing guitar, actually do listening exercises. I actually transcribe music professionally now as one of my means of income, and I never need my guitar to transcribe, because my listening exercises were done without my guitar. It's very easy as a musician to use your instrument as a crutch, using it to compose or transcribe, both are practices that I heavily disagree with, so, again, it's best to use your time with your guitar to improve your skill and your time without it to improve your ear. If you do it right, you can become a better musician every hour of the day, with or without your instrument.
#10
Quote by CelestialGuitar
I'm gonna have to go against people here and say it's not always the best way. If it's a song you want to learn for fun, go ahead and learn it by ear, but if it's a song you're learning because you need to get better at a certain skill, use tabs or sheet music. I think if you want to be a very skilled guitarist with a great ear, you're gonna get there a lot faster if you use tabs (though I'd recommend only ever using Guitar Pro if you're serious) and sheet music to find new technical exercises and when you aren't playing guitar, actually do listening exercises. I actually transcribe music professionally now as one of my means of income, and I never need my guitar to transcribe, because my listening exercises were done without my guitar. It's very easy as a musician to use your instrument as a crutch, using it to compose or transcribe, both are practices that I heavily disagree with, so, again, it's best to use your time with your guitar to improve your skill and your time without it to improve your ear. If you do it right, you can become a better musician every hour of the day, with or without your instrument.


^ All this. Thanks to tabs and tabbing over the years I've been playing, I can learn a song by ear. Unless you've taken lessons, and have an understanding of music and your fretboard, learning by ear will be very disadvantageous.

And guitar pro definitely makes you a better musician without even playing. Some of my last few GP tabs I submitted, I didn't even need to pick up my guitar to figure out.
Last edited by ruker at Jun 4, 2013,
#11
What I do is learn most music from a reputable tab book so I can see the tab and staff notation. See and learn the musical patterns. When I do easy stuff, I learn by ear. I always try to imitate other guitarist when I play along with the recording to match their phrasing. In time, I think the benefit of ear training , among other things, is to develop an ear for detail and tones. I can now hear guitar in crisper detail, I can hear patterns, I can hear oh that's the diddly do bluesly lick and I know where to find it. I can get the music in my head in longer lines and play them in slow motion in my head. I can now tell a difference between intervals too. Music theory has helped me finally with vocabulary on these things too and compart them in my brain.
#12
I'm going to add that learning by ear for a beginner is so difficult. Id be surprised to hear anyone say they have never learned from tabs.

weather you play it on your guitar, or on guitar pro you still hear it, so your still transcribing. Just because you get it on your first try doesn't mean You don't need your guitar or more practice.

So many tabs are wrong. If you transcribe music for an income. You might need to start checking your work with a guitar first...
#13
Learn concepts on paper, learn music by ear. If you ever hope to become a professional, you'll need to actually know what you're playing and how communicate it. Being a professional musician takes a whole lot more than rocking out.
#14
I can see some people praising tabs above.

I'd like to point out the following:

1. Most tabs on this site are incorrect.

2. Tabs sometimes force you into illogical ways of physically playing parts.

3. If you ever write your own material, knowledge of tabs will not help you.

4. Eventually you will have to or want to learn songs that there are no tabs available for.

5. You cannot rely on tabs as quick reference material during a gig (unlike chord sheets).

6. The people who wrote the tabs did them by ear. They wrote them for people who cannot use their ear.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#15
Doing everything by ear is no doubt good for the ear and the soul, but there comes a time when you don't want to keep re-inventing the wheel. Tabs are fine as a rough guide. Use them, but check them - by listening - and improve them if necessary. That way you're still using your ears but missing out some of the donkey work.
#16
Quote by AlanHB
I can see some people praising tabs above.

I'd like to point out the following:

1. Most tabs on this site are incorrect.

2. Tabs sometimes force you into illogical ways of physically playing parts.

3. If you ever write your own material, knowledge of tabs will not help you.

4. Eventually you will have to or want to learn songs that there are no tabs available for.

5. You cannot rely on tabs as quick reference material during a gig (unlike chord sheets).


Can't argue 1 and 2, but at the same time, how is nothing rather than something helpful? 3. Actually yes, knowledge of tabs will most definitely help... ever heard of guitar pro? 4. That's when you put your tabbing knowledge into action, it's why this site is still alive... people learning to tab. 5. Chord sheet is not your ear... so if you can't reference a tab quickly, why should you be allowed to reference a chord sheet?

Quote by AlanHB
6. The people who wrote the tabs did them by ear. They wrote them for people who cannot use their ear.


You have 0 tab contributions... I wouldn't suggest telling us why we tab. Personally, I tab because it's fun, and gives you a deeper understanding of the music (something learning solely by ear might never afford you). Only like 3 of my 110+ tabs were of request.
Last edited by ruker at Jun 5, 2013,
#17
Quote by ruker
Can't argue 1 and 2, but at the same time, how is nothing rather than something helpful? 3. Actually yes, knowledge of tabs will most definitely help... ever heard of guitar pro? 4. That's when you put your tabbing knowledge into action, it's why this site is still alive... people learning to tab. 5. Chord sheet is not your ear... so if you can't reference a tab quickly, why should you be allowed to reference a chord sheet?


You are coming from the position of making tabs for other users. Im commenting on why you shouldn't rely on tabs to learn songs.

Anyways to address:

Incorrect advice is better than no advice. You have to unlearn it to get it right. Thats why it is not helpful, worse than nothing.

3. Copying numbers on a page does not help you develop creativity. Is just copying numbers on a page.

4. If you created your own tabs you would have started learning by ear. Pure reliance on tab does not develop understanding of the instrument or sounds.

5. It's not about being "allowed", more a point that in a gigging scenario it's a lot easier to read a big letter C than random little numbers whilst playing in low lighting.

Quote by Ruker
You have 0 tab contributions... I wouldn't suggest telling us why we tab. Personally, I tab because it's fun, and gives you a deeper understanding of the music (something learning solely by ear might never afford you). Only like 3 of my 110+ tabs were of request.


Without going into personal reasons why people make tab, the main reason that people look up tab is because they can't figure out a song themselves. No need to take it as a personal shot, that's just the truth.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#18
Making a tab means you're doing something by ear. Learning by tab is completely useless, and should be the last of the lastest resorts if you simply cannot work something out.

I don't understand the point of tabs anyway - if you're going to put so much effort into a transcription, why not just do it on a staff? It's easier to read and tells you a lot more about what you're playing.
Last edited by cdgraves at Jun 5, 2013,
#19
Quote by AlanHB
You are coming from the position of making tabs for other users. Im commenting on why you shouldn't rely on tabs to learn songs.


Actually, I'm coming from the position of someone who was able to develop a great ear for music thanks to tabs.
Last edited by ruker at Jun 5, 2013,
#21
My guitar teacher doesn't even know what tabs are haha! He's only 27.

But for real, I recommend learning by ear but you have to some form of theory because it becomes easier to relate things you be hear by ear. It makes it easier to categorize the way you learn things as opposed to learn everything as one huge glob.
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#22
My advice is to learn as much as you can by ear. However, if you have dreams of being a professional musician, and being assured a living, you will have to know how to read standard notation.
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#23
Quote by ruker
Actually, I'm coming from the position of someone who was able to develop a great ear for music thanks to tabs.


Its ALWAYS going to be better to learn by ear. ITs doesnt matter if you tab or not if you transcribed the music you did it by ear..

The fact that you tab was like you said cause it was fun for you. You don't develop your ear by learning random numbers on paper. I wouldn't give tabs credit for my hard work. no way man.

If Its to difficult for any of you to learn by ear.. by all means grab the tabs, and act like a robot while your at it. But Its Always going to be better to learn by ear.

Also another thing about tabs. Its up to the Taber on what position they tab in. and in most cases my hands are smaller I find myself usually wanting to playing in a different spot.

Its the difference between linear vs vertical. I'm more of a vertical player.
#24
Quote by ruker
Actually, I'm coming from the position of someone who was able to develop a great ear for music thanks to tabs.


Well this is a circular argument here so I'm gonna step off my horsie.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#25
I do want to say, the amount of anti-tab talk is ridiculous. I understand disagreeing with the word processed numbers we see in the tabs section, it's why I bough Guitar Pro within a few months of beginning guitar, and that's vastly helped my playing, and, as mentioned, nowadays, the pieces I learn are incredibly advanced pieces that I learn purely to advance my ability, and Guitar Pro tabs save me a lot of time. Speaking from my own experience, a lot of pieces you will have to learn for money, for a covers gig, or something, you can save yourself a lot of time by using a good quality tab, as they're always famous pieces. I recently worked in a Pit Orchestra, and so many guitarists who learn by ear would be without hope in this situation, as you're asked to work exclusively from sheet music. Guitar Pro can actually help you learn notation, to a certain extent, and it makes writing music a lot easier, so I wouldn't be too quick to look down on the usage of tab, especially when reading standard notation is arguably a much more useful skill to have than being able to learn by ear.
#26
Quote by CelestialGuitar
I do want to say, the amount of anti-tab talk is ridiculous. I understand disagreeing with the word processed numbers we see in the tabs section, it's why I bough Guitar Pro within a few months of beginning guitar, and that's vastly helped my playing, and, as mentioned, nowadays, the pieces I learn are incredibly advanced pieces that I learn purely to advance my ability, and Guitar Pro tabs save me a lot of time. Speaking from my own experience, a lot of pieces you will have to learn for money, for a covers gig, or something, you can save yourself a lot of time by using a good quality tab, as they're always famous pieces. I recently worked in a Pit Orchestra, and so many guitarists who learn by ear would be without hope in this situation, as you're asked to work exclusively from sheet music. Guitar Pro can actually help you learn notation, to a certain extent, and it makes writing music a lot easier, so I wouldn't be too quick to look down on the usage of tab, especially when reading standard notation is arguably a much more useful skill to have than being able to learn by ear.


Thats cool man, Theres nothing wrong with learning tabs.

For all you know what really helped you was practicing 6 to 8 hours a day. It doesn't take a complex song for a beginner to practice. using guitar pro at that point seems over kill. I never enjoyed using guitar pro.

If your stuck on how to write your own stuff and make up your own solos. you need to learn music by ear.
#27
Thanks everyone for their replies. I think I'm just going to learn exclusively by ear. All the great players did it so why shouldn't I? For those of you that have been learning songs by ear for awhile (years) how good are you at it now? Can you hear something and then know pretty much how to play it? I'm just curious what the future holds with my ear training.
#28
Quote by Chorstman
Thanks everyone for their replies. I think I'm just going to learn exclusively by ear. All the great players did it so why shouldn't I? For those of you that have been learning songs by ear for awhile (years) how good are you at it now? Can you hear something and then know pretty much how to play it? I'm just curious what the future holds with my ear training.


When i started learning by ear (almost 2 years ago now) it took me a good while to figure stuff out, probably a bit longer than if i would've learned it by tabs. But the stuff i learned stuck with me much better and felt easier to play and practice.

After you've done it for a while you can really start doing wonderful things. I could easily learn songs faster and better by ear than with tabs after doing it for a month or two. And ideas for own songs become much more clearer in your head after you've developed your ear.

I still have a long way to go to be able to hear anything and being able to play it (like guitarists such as Guthrie or Alex Hutchings), but i can learn much quicker and better from it. My own songs develop faster and my songwriting has evolved thanks to a better ear.

I can however now after two years learn almost any song i want by ear, given the time to work it out. I've recently started learning a lot of guthrie govan, joe pass and dream theater by ear and it works great. I'd recommend you get yourself some kind of software though for slowing down really fast parts when you get to more advanced stuff, it helps.
Fusion and jazz musician, a fan of most music.

Quote by Guthrie Govan
“If you steal from one person it's theft, and if you steal from lots of people it's research”


Quote by Chick Corea
"Only play what you hear. If you don't hear anything, don't play anything."
#29
Quote by Chorstman
Thanks everyone for their replies. I think I'm just going to learn exclusively by ear. All the great players did it so why shouldn't I? For those of you that have been learning songs by ear for awhile (years) how good are you at it now? Can you hear something and then know pretty much how to play it? I'm just curious what the future holds with my ear training.


You hear the sounds in more depth and notice more things about the same music you've heard your whole life.

Listen to the intro of ac dc's dirty deeds. Is that last chord a D? or an A?

even the intro to crazy train. If you know the song, I'm sure you play A and B. But what about D?
#30
Quote by CelestialGuitar
I do want to say, the amount of anti-tab talk is ridiculous. I understand disagreeing with the word processed numbers we see in the tabs section, it's why I bough Guitar Pro within a few months of beginning guitar, and that's vastly helped my playing, and, as mentioned, nowadays, the pieces I learn are incredibly advanced pieces that I learn purely to advance my ability, and Guitar Pro tabs save me a lot of time. Speaking from my own experience, a lot of pieces you will have to learn for money, for a covers gig, or something, you can save yourself a lot of time by using a good quality tab, as they're always famous pieces. I recently worked in a Pit Orchestra, and so many guitarists who learn by ear would be without hope in this situation, as you're asked to work exclusively from sheet music. Guitar Pro can actually help you learn notation, to a certain extent, and it makes writing music a lot easier, so I wouldn't be too quick to look down on the usage of tab, especially when reading standard notation is arguably a much more useful skill to have than being able to learn by ear.


still unclear how this is superior to standard notation in any way. I play in a professional cover band and learn new songs all the time... by ear, and read standard notation for jazz charts. No need for goofy software or memorizing numbers.
#31
Quote by Chorstman
Hello Everyone,

I am trying to be the best player I can be and have dreams of being a professional musician (don't we all haha). Anyway I know that all of my guitar idols learned songs from their idols by ear. I have been transcribing songs by ear more and more, but it is still very difficult. I have however been thinking about just learning songs exclusively by ear. No tabs or video lessons. Has anyone done this or would you guys recommended it. I am trying to get very good at guitar and I repeatedly hear that learning by ear is the best way.

don't limit yourself like that. for the most part i learn and learned by ear. but i learned some stuff by tab and videos and online or video lessons too. why not? if you don't have a teacher, make knowledge available to you however you can.
#32
Quote by cdgraves
still unclear how this is superior to standard notation in any way. I play in a professional cover band and learn new songs all the time... by ear, and read standard notation for jazz charts. No need for goofy software or memorizing numbers.


For cover bands I also find it easier to actually memorise the songs if I learn/transcribe the song myself. I don't use any chord sheets on stage anymore.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#33
Standard notation is superior but for a beginner it is discouraging. There is enough to think about with technique and the fact that there are more than one way to play a lick. Tabs are good for beginners and for note intensive songs and such but ultimately you want to graduate from them and stop using them as a crutch.
#34
How about if you buy a tab book of your favourite band, or get one with a bunch of classics (don't go to the internet, the tabs are usually wrong), learn complex stuff from that, whilst developing your ear with simple stuff, then eventually you won't need the tab books.

I would say my ear is pretty good, but i used tab when i was starting out. I still consult a tab if i really can't get the hang of something, but if it's incorrect or written in a way that is correct, but kind of awkward to play, i make adjustments in order to sort out any bum notes or make it easier.
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#35
i started playing about 2 years ago , i used tabs and progressed fast .. my technique got better but my improvisation sucked i could improvise using a bunch of licks but could not play what i had in my head so i counsulted my friend hey told me to stop using tabs and play mostly by ear as without a good ear you are like a color blind painter, with tabs you cannot capture the essense of the song the flavour of the bends and vibrato.. now i'm using mostly my ear and playing is now more fun . and my playing have improved drastically and now i can play what i hear in my head music is a hearing art . makes sense to learn it by hearing also.
#36
Quote by sweetdude3000
Standard notation is superior but for a beginner it is discouraging. There is enough to think about with technique and the fact that there are more than one way to play a lick. Tabs are good for beginners and for note intensive songs and such but ultimately you want to graduate from them and stop using them as a crutch.


I think standard notation is "discouraging" only because standard beginner repertoire is crap. Nobody buys a guitar to play "Hot Cross Buns". Unless a student is learning in the very institutional tradition of classical music, guitar teachers need to put some effort into presenting realistic repertoire in standard notation.
#37
I've been playing bass for over 25 years, and I have learned by ear. I know haters are going to scream it's only four strings.... sush.
For the first five years I never used tab.. (before the current internet age whippersnappers) and just practiced my balls off... there were some albums that I knew so well that for added difficulty I would try and play it everywhere but were it would be played on the fretboard.
Now fast forward... Even after taking off a few years to raise my kids I can still jump into a situation and pick up fast. It is a skill that, if continuously practiced, is a great asset. Although take the time and learn some theory and learn your scale runs and possibly some sight reading. You'll understand walking bass lines much better. then you also won't give the other person a blank stare when they tell you to play something just by notes or say the key of....
#38
Quote by Chorstman
Thanks everyone for their replies. I think I'm just going to learn exclusively by ear. All the great players did it so why shouldn't I? For those of you that have been learning songs by ear for awhile (years) how good are you at it now? Can you hear something and then know pretty much how to play it? I'm just curious what the future holds with my ear training.

Because they didn't have a way to instantly access thousands of transcriptions and other musical resources, free of charge without even having to get out of bed?

You honestly think if all these freely available resources were available fifty years ago that people wouldn't use them out of principle?

Nothing wrong with tabs, just be aware of their limitations and don't neglect your ear training. It is admittedly very easy to become a paint-by-numbers guitarist, just mechanically following instructions. There's dozens of them out there on YouTube, the musical equivalent of talking parrots who are adept at mimicry but don't actually understand what they're doing or why they're doing it. You're obviously a little more enlightened than that, you're aware of the pitfalls so are unlikely to make the same mistakes, tabs or no tabs.
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#39
Okay first of all learning by ear is a slow process so it might not be a good idea to just pick out tunes by ear like that exclusively. The best advice I can give you is to pick a song that you think is at your level for transcribing and work on it for an hour a day. That's the best way in my honest opinion you can still learn by tabs for now but when your ears start to really develop you can just throw away the tabs and just figure out a song out just by ear.


You can't develop a great in ear in just a year it takes time it's pretty much a slow process it takes years to develop a great musical ear even if you have a talent for it just remember that it's a journey don't get your expectations to high and set realistic goals.


Remember you just need to transcribe an hour a day and you'll be great in a matter of time.