I have been wondering a bit more about this. I can finally read most sheet music, and have started to be able to play by ear on my violin, but am still mostly clueless about the guitar.

Think the closest I have come to playing guitar by ear is when I tabbed out the chords to "Let Me Go" by Avril Lavigne.

Anyways, the reason I am needing help with this, instead of just sticking to sheet music and tabs, is I love to play the vocal melody lines to music, and have noticed it is kind of hard to find tabs for them. Especially since a lot of the artist I listen to are not really known about, or most people will probably not see a point to tabbing out their music.

How do I start playing by ear? Honestly, I can do whatever I want to the notes in my head it seems, but am having issues transferring what I hear in my head over to the fretboard(a little easier now that I am learning the note names).
Know your chords and scales, find the scale that fits your tune and sing the melody while playing it. That is the nuts and bolts, the rest is just practice.
After learning a lot of songs, you just learn to make more and more accurate guesses of what is played when you hear something similar to what you already know. If you the key of the song, it is easy to figure out vocal lines. Just find the starting note and go from there. Either the next note is the same, higher up the scale or lower.
1) Learn your major scale, learn to visualise the scale all over the neck
2) Learn Pentatonic scale and visualise
3) Figure out simple tunes i.e christmas songs or nursery rhymes through trial and error - you'll find that these songs basically are sequences of notes in the major scale/pentatonic which makes it easy to figure out
4) Learn intervals, this will either help you A LOT or bore you out, depends on your enthusiasm. Go to website find out all the names of the intervals and how to play them, then use songs to reference which interval sound like, i.e Perfect Fifth - God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen. Perfect fourth - That wedding march song. Minor Third - Smoke on Water Riff.
5) Through trial and error figure out melody lines from your favourite songs

After a while you'll find theory very much demystified, practical and applicable to your playing.
Once you get a bit of headstart on this, download this program called Transcribe, slow down songs and figure out how to play the solos note for note.

THEN, finally, when things gets heavy, you'll find that you're able to play what you hear in your head easily.

I recommend you figure out single notes stuff first before moving on to chords as chords can be very tricky especially with voicings and the extensions, not every song is G D Em C you know

Hope that helps, good luck!
So.. I guess I wasn't stupid when I wrote a song earlier this year based off of a scale?

Back to practicing every scale I can I guess...
Quote by matthewzguitarz
So.. I guess I wasn't stupid when I wrote a song earlier this year based off of a scale?

Back to practicing every scale I can I guess...

Instead of every scale, you can reduce your effort by learning to recognise intervals by ear. They sound the same, just higher or lower, depending where they're built from.

If you know their sounds, and know the corresponding shapes on guitar (there's only a handful of these), you can then make the transition from what you hear (in your head, or from someone else) on to the guitar.

If you want to recreate melodies, then concentrate on the intervals of 1,2,3 and 4 semitones as most of the changes from pitch to pitch in the meldoy will usually be one of these (and typically these will be coming mainly from one scale).

cheers, Jerry
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Nov 11, 2014,
An interval is the space between two notes. For example, if you play the open 'A' string, and then play the fourth fret of that string, the name of that interval is called a "major third". The distance between the open "A" string and the 12th fret of the "A" string is called an "octave".

One thing you can do to practice ear training, is make some recordings of yourself playing simple intervals, just two notes for each recording; for example, the 5th fret to the 6th fret on the B string, the open G string to the 10th fret on the Gstring, the 1st fret to the 9th fret, etc.

Make a bunch of these little recordings, and use them kind of like "Audible Flash cards", you listen to the recordings in a random order and try to figure out what Interval each one is.
Quote by matthewzguitarz

Where can I find a place that explains intervals?

Hi Matthew,

I was waiting to see if a lesson I wrote on intervals would be accepted here on UG. (Save me answering twice!)

This may help you: http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/the_basics/drastically_reduce_learning_time_with_intervals_part_2.html

That lesson links to the first column I wrote on intervals.

If it's still unclear, let me know (message me) ... happy to help out.

cheers, Jerry