#1
I've really wanted to learn "The Great Die-Off" by Rise Against, however there are no videos of them playing this song live, or people covering the song. (Only drum covers, but pft I want guitar!) I've never tabbed a song by ear before. When I see some tabs, I think 'Wow, I never heard that guitar section in the background before until I saw someone actually tab it'. Anyways, back on topic. Are there any tips for tabbing by ear so I can create an accurate tab for this song? Or at least close so that perhaps a more experienced user can edit my tab to make it better.

EDIT: Oh yeah, and I can't find any tabs either!
Last edited by CatWithAMustach at Mar 2, 2015,
#2
Start with simple stuff. The more you do it, the better you get. In the beginning it's pretty much just trial and error. You just need to be patient. If you are having troubles with a part, slow it down (for example Windows Media Player can play the song at half speed).

Try singing the part you are tabbing. By singing it you will internalize the sound and it will become a lot easier to find the right notes on the fretboard (because you know the sound).

Theory knowledge can also help.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#3
It definitely helps to have a tool to slow down the song, especially when you're just starting out. I use VLC but I've heard some people use Audacity (they're both free programs as far as I know). VLC is nice because it allows you to make custom bookmarks for verse/chorus/etc. so you can keep track of where you are. Go ahead and check out Audacity as well though, because you might find it more useful.

Of course this probably isn't going to help if your ear is undeveloped. A good way to work on this is to start by figuring out single note lines, like vocal melodies. Power chord riffs are good too. Basically you want to start by learning linear lines (like single note melodies) and slowly work your way up to more complex chords that may have 5-6 different notes.

I listened to the song you mentioned and, while not the best to start off with, I think you should be able to tab a fairly accurate portrayal of the song.
Tabbing is painstaking in the beginning so be prepared to spend a couple of hours on this and still not have it come out perfect. As with any skill, though, keep at it and soon transcribing will become much easier and the only struggle you'll have is finding the time to do it.
i see your girl
G A Y
she leavin wit me

F O R
I'm playing wit her booty
in the back seat
M A D D E N
#4
As a beginner what I would suggest is getting some slow down software like imspazzen suggested and use your instrument while transcribing. As you get really good you might not even need it, but for now. Play along to what you hear (repeat the measure/section/chord) until what you play on your guitar sounds like the recording. Trust your ear, if something you transcribed sounds wrong - it almost always is.

It's in my opinion when I started much easier to transcribe a clear lead part/solo than rhythm guitar (unless it's very straight forward) so I'd recommend doing that. If you're doing all instruments, it will be a great help to start out with drums and bass. The bass notes will most of the time tell you what your chord/root is as it's the foundation and in most hard rock/metal music, it doesn't deviate much from what guitars are doing. For bass transcribing, there's a good trick which involves shifting the pitch up 1 octave (+12 semitones) as it makes those "hard to hear for sure" notes quite bright and clear. In general, start with what you hear clearly and are confident you can transcribe before you move on to what you have no idea plays. You'll miss lots of details on your first tab and that's OK, when you listen again in some months with a more developed ear - it may blow your mind that suddenly you hear stuff you didn't even realize was there. Good luck
#5
Thanks for the tips. I know you can play the same notes on different strings, are there any good ways to know what string plays with note? For example, the 5th fret on the B string is the same as the high e string. Should I just go with common sense? Power chords I can guess are much easier to tab by ear than indivdual notes.
#6
^ Use common sense. If it feels awkward to play and there is another way of playing it, use the way that feels best. It is not always even possible to know the exact fingering but that doesn't really matter. If it sounds right and is easy to play, it is good.

In the beginning I would avoid tabbing songs that have really fast solos/riffs in them. Start with something simple enough.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#7
Start off with very simple songs. You don't have to like the song or anything, just for practice. For example, you can try to learn songs by Beach Fossils. They have super easy songs. Anyway, listen to a certain riff, and try to find at least one of the notes in that riff. Chances are that the next note will be very close to the note that you found. So just go fishing. Play other notes around the note that you found until it sounds right.

For the same notes on different strings, usually a good ear can tell the difference between someone playing, for example, an E on the G string (9th fret) or on the B string (5th fret). They have different qualities. The more you listen, the more you get used to being able to tell the difference.

I use Audacity also. It is soooo helpful because you can slow down any section of the song, and loop it for as long as you'd like. You can also manipulate the audio to try and isolate the guitar from the song. I do this all the time. If you want more specifics on this method, I can show you.

There are actually quite a few things that I do when I start learning a song by ear. I'll do a quick list, in no specific order.

1. figure out the root notes of the bass
2. try to figure out the chords (if any) based on the root notes of the bass
3. try to figure out guitar leads
4. repeat a certain section a million times until I get close to it
5. figure out if song is in standard tuning
6. figure out lowest note being played by guitar and/or bass
7. import song to audacity and try to isolate guitar/bass
8. slow down track in audacity
9. WATCH LIVE RECORDINGS of the song (this is soooo helpful too)
10. watch other covers (if any)
11. study terrible tabs as a guide (if any)
12. listen to the song carefully while only focusing on the guitar (with headphones)
13. try to mimic riffs, melodies, or chords in head (or hum)
14. go fishing on the neck
15. take a bathroom break
16. write down what i've figured out (in tab format)
17. if there is a melody where there is a lot of hand movement or finger stretching (more than normal) then you might want to try with a capo. just place the capo on the lowest note being played. that will act as an open string.

There's lots of stuff to do... But I love learning songs by ear, and tabbing them too. Some people hate it though. Hopefully you will get better at it! Cheers.
#8
Well, I've been tabbing for over 5 years now (and have made close to 170 tabs), so I can probably give you some pointers.

First, as a fellow man who has tabbed stuff from Rise Against, I'll start by saying that Rise Against plays some complex stuff. I don't mean complex chords or hard to play or things like that, but the way they play makes it so that it can definitely be a bit of a challenge to learn by ear. Learning their songs first is a tad bold, but if you're the head-on approach kind of guy, then the more power to you.

Fortunately, The Great Die-Off doesn't sound too hard, but don't expect to get it 100% right on your first try. Almost nobody does. As others have said, the thing with learning by ear is that you get better at it the more you do it. So you have to keep at it until you're absolutely positive you're not overlooking something. After you've done it for a while, you'll hear what you might have missed when you try again. How fast that takes depends on how often you try.

Ok so moving on, the first thing to do is work with one section of a song at a time (verse, chorus, etc.) with one guitar (lead or rhythm) at a time. Excluding times when they play the same thing, this helps adjust your focus to one particular sound, and will become even sharper the more you go. Now, a lot of tabbing is pretty much taking everything one note at a time. Power chords are simple enough, but when the leads are playing is when you really need to listen up. The chorus in The Great Die-Off is a good example. During the Chorus, there's both a lead and rhythm guitar (sometimes you get lucky and one is on the left speaker and the other is on the right, so keep an ear out for those) playing. The rhythm is just doing some power chords, so that seems easy enough. But the lead is playing something else.

Now, this is just based on what I'm hearing, so I might be wrong, but it sounds to me like he's playing 2 notes somewhere around the G and B strings (possibly B and E). So based on that assumption, what you'll want to do is first find the root note (that is, the lowest note that doesn't change as often) and assume it's position is on the G string. Then you listen for the higher notes that seem to change more frequently. Which, naturally, we'll assume is on the B string. You experiment with it a little, look for the combo, play it and compare. If it sounds right, then you know what to look for and what to work with. It might not sound any different from just saying 'Match the notes', but that's pretty much all tabbing is. Constructing one note at a time to make it easier to learn.

Quote by CatWithAMustach
Thanks for the tips. I know you can play the same notes on different strings, are there any good ways to know what string plays with note? For example, the 5th fret on the B string is the same as the high e string. Should I just go with common sense? Power chords I can guess are much easier to tab by ear than indivdual notes.
It's tricky, but it helps if you recognize the pitch on the string and compare. Like, if it sounds sharper, then it's probably a string higher, or if it sounds a little more muffled, then it's a string lower. It's not entirely obvious sometimes, so just go with whichever one is easier (so you don't have to jump down the whole neck, for example).

As other's have said, having a program that slows down the track is just about essential. Especially for learning solo's. I use Window's Media Player.

But here's a bonus that a lot of people don't know about. If you use headphones, and you plug the cord HALF WAY in (doesn't stay in for some), you'll pretty much cancel out the voice and other noises playing in the song and will just hear the rhythm guitar. I've found this to be incredibly handy and use it for almost every song (in case I'm actually hearing the rhythm when I think I'm hearing the lead). So doing that AND slowing down the track helps just as much. Try it!

Of course, if your computer has a good sound system like mines does, you can simply just toggle on voice cancellation in the speaker settings. Does the exact same thing.

If you still can't figure it out after that, then, as other's have suggested, try starting off with something easier. Just something to get solid experience to work with when you try again.

Hope this helps! Sorry for the wall of text, lol. Best of luck, bud!
I still haven't forgotten to tab out Ballad of Hollis Brown for you. I'll work on it soon enough.
Cheers!

P.S. Let me know if you need help learning anything from The Great Die-Off.
There's nothing left here to be saved
Just barreling dogs and barking trains
Another year lost to the blue line
Last edited by Joshua Garcia at Mar 6, 2015,