#1
Sup MT,

I'm planning a series of lessons (on UG) to help beginning guitarists learn to play by ear. I have a plan for what to go over; starting with intervals, then scales, and building up step by step to transcription. This is stuff most guitarists should know, especially if they want to jam with other people, instead of downloading a tab, blindly learning the notes, and playing over the MP3 and posting it on YouTube.

I'm here because some UG articles are pretty clueless, especially about theory, and there might be stuff that I want to run by people who are better with theory than I am. Since this is an ongoing work (the plan is to submit section each week), I might need to bump it. But I do have a plan, with tons of notes, examples, and specifics to go into.

First off: the elephant in the room. Modes. The plan is to have a whole lesson devoted to scales, how they work, how they relate to intervals, major versus minor, and some more common "exotic" ones like phrygian dominant, harmonic/melodic minor, and dorian #4. But so far, the plan is to preface it with a bit about modes, but only to say that you probably don't need to know about them unless you plan to do jazz improv, and that if you think you need to learn modes, you probably want scales instead. Am I missing something?
#2
Modes is a testy subject. I would suggest you analyze them as extended chords to help beginner guitarists get a better grasp on their actual function in musical genre's like jazz.


EDIT --> If you read the Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine you can help your article by stealing or at least taking a little inspiration from the book.
#3
The point of the series is to train them to learn to play typical modern rock/metal from ear, though. I know a bit about modes, and their purpose, but I really don't think it's that important to the task at hand. The only reason I'm mentioning them is because so many kids think they need to learn modes, when what they really want, nine times out of ten, is how to use scales.
#4
the best way to address modes is to not bring any attention to them. all you need to put out is the major, minor, and chromatic scales to a point where you can address intervals, tension, and resolution. once the holy trilogy of tonality is there, scales/arpeggios/whatever shouldn't play a big role in teaching ear training at all, honestly. they're encapsulated within intervals.

have lots of practical examples from various songs across various genres, have lots of pictures/diagrams to break up the clunk of walls of texts that most of our articles are subjected to, but steer away from "guitar theory". ear training is a set of very simple principles and practices that are honed via repetition and it shouldn't be diluted to a 17 point program because you want attention or you feel like learning the shape of the dorian #4 is going to teach guitarists how to listen, replicate, chart, and format effectively.

Quote by Cavalcade
The point of the series is to train them to learn to play typical modern rock/metal from ear, though. I know a bit about modes, and their purpose, but I really don't think it's that important to the task at hand. The only reason I'm mentioning them is because so many kids think they need to learn modes, when what they really want, nine times out of ten, is how to use scales.


modes in any modern context is just going to be scales, and scales are, in fact, not what newbies should be focusing on. it should be touched on, but it's a drastically overprioritized part of the education process. the whole point of teaching people to use their ear is so they can pick up conventions themselves instead of relying on patterns they read about on the internet.

if you're going to have a POV for your articles, ear-training is an important and a solid one, but don't go back on it by adding unnecessary or contradictory information. stick to one focus and make it done well, and definitely don't write about something you "know a bit about" or you'll just be like every other beginner drone writing about how the phrygian superman scale is what makes yngwie sound chinese
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Last edited by Hail at Jun 15, 2013,
#5
What are we calling "playing by ear" here?

Playing by ear is something you can only do until you've figured out what you're playing. If you're working out the chords, melodies and whatever else while playing, you're learning by ear more than playing by ear. As soon as you know what's going, your playing is from knowledge, not strictly what you hear.

The only time you can really play by ear is in a free improvisation setting where you don't know what's coming up next and have to respond immediately. Ideally, the only "by ear" part is the brief time between hearing a change and figuring out what it is.
#6
Quote by Hail
the best way to address modes is to not bring any attention to them. all you need to put out is the major, minor, and chromatic scales to a point where you can address intervals, tension, and resolution. once the holy trilogy of tonality is there, scales/arpeggios/whatever shouldn't play a big role in teaching ear training at all, honestly. they're encapsulated within intervals.

The plan is to discuss scales as sets of intervals that are used together a lot. Which is why weird scales are even mentioned at all. The focus here isn't on theory, but applying it in a practical way that can be used for 99% of what they play. Most of it will be practice, which can't be taught, but there has to be a way to give them a head start in the right direction. To someone proficient in music theory, learning an Avenged Sevenfold song by ear is child's play. And yet, we have guitar tabs.
Quote by cdgraves
Playing by ear is something you can only do until you've figured out what you're playing. If you're working out the chords, melodies and whatever else while playing, you're learning by ear more than playing by ear. As soon as you know what's going, your playing is from knowledge, not strictly what you hear.

Fine, "learning by ear". Semantics.
#7
If it's a series of articles, you can address modes at the very end when your are talking about identifying non-diatonic notes. You can say "sometimes a b7 is used in a minor key and this can also be called the dorian scale" and then never talk about it again.

But most songs are diatonic. At first you would be talkng about identifying the tonal center, the assocated key and the chord structure. Then you have notes of solos and riffs, all of which are based on the major or minor scales and a lot that don't deviate from them.

You then have accidentals, and once all of these are done you can say "and now you know all the notes you don't need modes".

Modes on this forum generally tend to be either (a) patterns of common accidentals or (b) the major or minor scale and a lot of brainwahed kids (i play 7th fret, me phrygian).
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#8
Modes are fine to learn, but only after you know your way around the major/minor scale and how to harmonize them.

Quote by Cavalcade

Fine, "learning by ear". Semantics.


Well it's an important distinction. There is a HUGE amount of curriculum-based information available for Learning by ear (aural training), and you can easily draw advice for your column from basic college texts.

I use my ear training and theory knowledge all the time when learning by ear, but when playing by ear (like with other people), I don't get to hit pause and work anything out.
#9
Quote by AlanHB
If it's a series of articles, you can address modes at the very end when your are talking about identifying non-diatonic notes. You can say "sometimes a b7 is used in a minor key and this can also be called the dorian scale" and then never talk about it again.

But most songs are diatonic. At first you would be talkng about identifying the tonal center, the assocated key and the chord structure. Then you have notes of solos and riffs, all of which are based on the major or minor scales and a lot that don't deviate from them.

You then have accidentals, and once all of these are done you can say "and now you know all the notes you don't need modes".

Modes on this forum generally tend to be either (a) patterns of common accidentals or (b) the major or minor scale and a lot of brainwahed kids (i play 7th fret, me phrygian).

That's actually, more or less, what my outline looks like so far. It looks like I'm not going to mention modes until the end (if at all). But a lot of metal (which is what the focus is going to be on) uses some non-diatonic scales (mostly harmonic minor variants), it'll be important to go over a few of those, after the diatonic major and minor scales. But I'll have covered all 12 intervals by then.
The focus will (so far) be centered on metal because that's where the demand is. Most of the guitarists on here who want to learn to transcribe guitar melodies, want to do it so they can play metal. I'll include examples from other genres though, for the sake of familiarity and inclusivity.
Quote by cdgraves
Well it's an important distinction. There is a HUGE amount of curriculum-based information available for Learning by ear (aural training), and you can easily draw advice for your column from basic college texts.

You're right, and I shouldn't have snapped like that. But a college text won't tell you "you're wrong, you idiot, stop poisoning the minds of beginner guitarists with your half-assed theory".
#10
Indeed, the exclusion of bad information what makes an actual music education valuable. I would look at the layout of ear training books like the Ottman guides and "A New Approach to Sight Singing", which introduce aural/singing material in order of usefulness and difficulty. Learning to recognize specific, commonplace patterns can demystify a lot of the music one might try to learn by ear. You don't necessarily have to be able to identify every single melodic interval in a song to hear where the basic harmonies are, pick out the rhythms, etc.
Last edited by cdgraves at Jun 16, 2013,
#11
I may be el fuddy duddy here, but can someone point me to metal that's both in demand and regularly uses accidentals that aren't employed by other genres? The b2 and maj 3rd in a minor key would be what I'm talking about. The b5 and b6s are common to rock and blues, the maj 7 is simply the harmonic minor.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#12
most trvv kvlt metal i find (for reference, i'll say cannibal corpse and heavier) doesn't really use scales so much as a focus on a few particular intervals or arpeggios. it's a genre with a lot of "throw at a wall and hope it sticks" rather than overthinking.
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#13
Quote by Hail
most trvv kvlt metal i find (for reference, i'll say cannibal corpse and heavier) doesn't really use scales so much as a focus on a few particular intervals or arpeggios. it's a genre with a lot of "throw at a wall and hope it sticks" rather than overthinking.

Sometimes, actual scales are what's "thrown at the wall". Phrygian dominant is a common one in melodeath and thrash, for example:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVtrVEA9nKg
#14
i said trvv kvlt metal, not poser melodeath shit
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#16
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#18
Quote by Hail
most trvv kvlt metal i find (for reference, i'll say cannibal corpse and heavier) doesn't really use scales so much as a focus on a few particular intervals or arpeggios. it's a genre with a lot of "throw at a wall and hope it sticks" rather than overthinking.


Actually a lot of metal uses modes of limited transposition and bitonality.
#19
Quote by griffRG7321
Actually a lot of metal uses modes of limited transposition and bitonality.


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#27
sounds like motionless in white and dragonforce to me
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