#1
I read that a lot of the greats all learned to play by ear. What i've taken from that is they would listen to their favourite records and try to figure them out that way. I use to always assume that you either had this ability or you didn't. But now there is a lot of material out there with books and programs trying to teach you to develop your ear. I am just curious what you guys think? Is it really possible that, with practice, I could throw a Pearl Jam song on and figure it out just listening to it if I have never been able to do something like that before? If so, is it better to just listen to songs and try to figure them out or use one of these training programs? I wouldn't even know where to begin considering the different tunings used, and capos, etc....Any advice?
#2
It's very much possible, and it comes with great perks. Learning by ear improves you in a very all around way. Firstly, your ears get better. Secondly, your technique gets better. Thirdly, your creativity gets better. I don't think i have to go on.

As you said, there are a few ways to develop your ear. I personally mainly learn from recordings, listening to the bands and musicians i like and learn it by ear.

Then you can also do what most of these training programs do. Interval and rhythm recognition. They often give you the tonic of the key, let's say C, and then play C and then another note, and then you have to recognize what note that is by using intervals. They might play a rhythm and have you write it down or something like that. It's mainly training you to recognize elements in music.

I think both methods have their place. I mainly learn songs by ear, that's just how i learn. But i do practice interval recognition cause i need to be able to sight sing in choir.

I would advice you to get a program to slow down songs though. Like Amazing slow downer, Anytune or Transcribe. Start simple and work your way up. You might have to start with easy pop songs and children songs, but it will pay off in the end. Three years ago i could only learn if someone gave me the tab for something or sat down and showed my how something was played, and if there were no tab for the song i wanted to learn i couldn't learn it. Nowadays i can learn ANYTHING i want, cause i learn by ear.

I know i rambled abit, but i hope that was to any help. If you have any further questions, send me a PM. Good luck, cheers.
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."
#3
I'm with Sickz. And to complement what he said, when you're trying to figure out a lick of your favorite guitarrist by ear, you're gonna make some "mistakes". But those mistakes are gonna become your own licks. So you're gonna start building up your own identity on the guitar.
#4
Quote by drb1982
I read that a lot of the greats all learned to play by ear. What i've taken from that is they would listen to their favourite records and try to figure them out that way. I use to always assume that you either had this ability or you didn't. But now there is a lot of material out there with books and programs trying to teach you to develop your ear. I am just curious what you guys think? Is it really possible that, with practice, I could throw a Pearl Jam song on and figure it out just listening to it if I have never been able to do something like that before? If so, is it better to just listen to songs and try to figure them out or use one of these training programs? I wouldn't even know where to begin considering the different tunings used, and capos, etc....Any advice?

No - because you have to do that thing that you call "something like that" before trying to tackle that Pearl Jam song. In other words, practice makes perfect.

I know you can learn it though, because I've learned to tackle a lot of stuff by ear myself. I started from simple sounding songs and then moved on to harder ones.

What you should do is just to grab your guitar, listen to a song you wanna learn - a tiny bit at a time - and try to figure it out on your fretboard. Then play the same part again, while jamming to it on your guitar, and if what you play sounds correct and not out of tune, move on to the next part. Rinse and repeat

As I said, it's better start with easy sounding songs. Don't be afraid to fail. If you don't figure it out, it's not the end of the world. Then look at the tab and learn from that. Maybe next time you'll get it right.

It helps to start with some bands that you know the tuning of. Also knowing how to use the pentatonic, natural major and minor scales will help too. You'll understand a song better when you're able to find out what key(s) it is in. Thent you can improvise your own solos on top of the song etc.

EDIT: The guys above me beat me to it
#5
One thing I will say is that learning to transcribe by ear has a learning curve like hitting a brick wall. It takes a fair amount of effort for anything to even start to work. Then it levels out since once you've got the basics down it's not hard to get to a more intermediate stage. Then advancing on is pretty hard again.
R.I.P. My Signature. Lost to us in the great Signature Massacre of 2014.

Quote by Master Foo
“A man who mistakes secrets for knowledge is like a man who, seeking light, hugs a candle so closely that he smothers it and burns his hand.”


Album.
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#6
Quote by drb1982
I read that a lot of the greats all learned to play by ear. What i've taken from that is they would listen to their favourite records and try to figure them out that way. I use to always assume that you either had this ability or you didn't. But now there is a lot of material out there with books and programs trying to teach you to develop your ear. I am just curious what you guys think? Is it really possible that, with practice, I could throw a Pearl Jam song on and figure it out just listening to it if I have never been able to do something like that before? If so, is it better to just listen to songs and try to figure them out or use one of these training programs? I wouldn't even know where to begin considering the different tunings used, and capos, etc....Any advice?


Playing by ear is greatly misunderstood by many in that some people think learning music theory and playing by ear DON'T go hand in hand. This misconception is spread by two seemingly opposite groups of musicians: the ones that are not motivated enough to learn some rudiments of music and get it 'close enough' through trial and error and musicians that learn to read music (in school band, piano lessons etc) but never bother to connect theory knowledge with the sounds they hear.

I was lucky enough to have been provided the education at an early age while 'hacking' away by ear with some 'non-schooled' guitar players and later in life worked with some incredibly talented musicians with varying degrees of musical knowledge that learned their parts by copying what they heard.

It is a developed skill that can be done by 'trial and error' or by learning some basics of the science of music but in both schools of thought the bottom line is for each individual to connect what they know to what they hear. The more you know.......

Good luck!
#7
Every good musician can play by ear. Most of them can also read music really well and know lots of theory.

I wouldn't count on the being one the rare specimens who get really awesome without ever learning how to play a scale or name chords.
#8
I don't think it's something that you have or you don't have. It's definitely something you develop over time. For me, I started off by learning strictly from tabs and then eventually I just started to pick things up on my own.

I can sit down for a few hours and learn a guitar solo by ear. I don't think it takes much talent so to speak to be able to do that. It's more so just trial and error. However, for people who can just listen to something and be able to play the chord right then and there and know what key it's in-- that's different haha
#9
Its one of the most important things no doubt, but to be able to do takes practice and dedication.

One thing is for sure though...if you want to train your ear to know and recognize things..hearing them isnt enough....you have to also sing them with your OWN VOICE.You ll find out that its not as easy as it sounds and not because you need to be a good singer,on the contrary, but because its the only way for your mind to internalize sounds.IF you can sing it you can play it.Even if its a superfast complicated solo it doesnt matter,slow it down with your mind as much as possible and try to sing what you hear.Even if you make mistakes(which you will anyways) it ll help you a million times and in a million ways in your development as a guitarist than reading a tab.

If you cant sing for example a minor seventh arpeggio(right now given the root) you dont know it even if you can already play it in all possible positions all over then neck.

So the best advice anyone can give you on this is:Sing what you play,play what you sing.Nothing ll help you more except of course if you invest in actual solfege lessons .
Last edited by Dreamdancer11 at Oct 24, 2013,
#10
Thanks for the replies. I might purchase a program like Transcribe! to help slow songs down and start working. I know it might be beneficial to practice with one of those books on ear training, but I imagine that would be boring as hell, trying to figure our individual notes on the fret board. I think I'd enjoy working out songs more. What type of songs should I start with? I assume simple strumming songs with acoustic guitars would be best? What do you think?
#11
I'd say there are two types of practicing you can do with learning songs by ear, atleast i do have two different "sets" of songs.

First we have all the music that i really like, and being a guy that listens mainly to jazz, fusion, funk etc, that is quite hard to pick out by ear without slowing it down. So that is a part of the set that i learn stuff with a slow down program.

Then i also practice learning by ear by memory, if that makes sense. Like taking all these songs that has been jam:ed into your head since you were a child and learning them on guitar. I mean, they are "a part of you" cause you know them by heart, why should you not be able to play something you already know, if you catch my drift.

So in the beginning i sat and learned like happy birthday and mary had a little lamb and such just my imagining it my head and learning it. Then as i got better i took other pieces, like the classical themes that are often used on TV, like Fur Elise, Rondo alla turca etc. Then i also started with silly songs i heard that got caught in my head, like the benny hill theme or inspector gadget theme. Nowadays i often sit at home with the radio on and whenever a popular song comes on i try to learn the vocal line on guitar. It's fun trying to replicate stuff on the spot, sometimes you do it, sometimes you don't.

Something that is very important to say aswell is that don't just learn guitar stuff by ear. If you like a piano line or a saxophone line or maybe a vocal line, learn it on guitar. Some of the best stuff i do when i improvise is with inspiration from pianists and saxophone players. Learn everything you can and want to, set no limits!

Cheers.
Sickz
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."