#1
Looking for some advice on this subject. I've been playing on and off for about 15 years. Only in the last 4-5 years have I really picked up playing on a sort of regular basis. I don't have the time I once did as a teenager, full time job and kids. I do play when I get the chance, which is not as often I'd like but o well. My skills are developed enough to where I should have been learning stuff by ear long ago. Tabs and instructional videos are where I get all of songs from. I've tried many times over the years to transcribe but I just can't seem to do it. Was wondering if anyone could maybe give me some advice on how to improve in this area.
#2
I would recommend singing the stuff you want to transcribe along with the recording. If you are able to sing it then it is only a matter of finding the right note on the guitar that matches your voice. Preferably you'd want to start simple with this, maybe some simple riffs that are not too fast, or even vocal melodies of popular songs.

Another way to work on your ear is picking a random note on your guitar and figuring out something you know the sound of really well from that note. For example, everyone knows how "Happy Birthday" goes, or christmas carols, or themes to movies/TV-shows. Select a starting pitch and start figuring out these different tunes that you subconsciously know and you will help your ear a lot.

Also, get yourself some software that will allow you to loop and slow down sections of music. There are a number of these you can find, look around and see which UI is the most natural for you. (Recommendations: Anytune, Transcribe, Amazing Slow Downer, Riffstation)

Lastly, have patience when starting out with this. You don't need to transcribe a whole song or even a whole section of a song in one sitting, when starting out it might be better to just focus on 3-5 notes at a time and really get them down. Eventually 5 notes will become 10 notes, 10 notes will become the verse, the verse will become the whole tune. You work in steps, most important thing is to do a bit of it at every practice session. I am currently transcribing a solo for a lesson with one of my students, and even though i have been transcribing for years i don't do a whole solo in one sitting, i do bits and pieces and work on them, then string them together.

Hope you found that helpful.

Best Regards,
Sickz
Fusion and jazz musician, a fan of most music.

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#3
Forget about tabs. That's how. If you have always learned from tabs, don't expect yourself to be able to play by ear. It's a skill that you need to practice.

Start with simple melodies and riffs. In the beginning it's just trial and error and takes time. If you find some part hard to figure out, slow it down. Windows Media Player can do that. I think even Youtube can do that.

What may help is knowing the key the song is in. That way you'll know what notes it will most likely use, but remember that accidentals are also very common.

When you listen to a song, try to sing the melody you are trying to figure out. That way you'll have it in your ears, and you don't even need to listen to the song any more to know how the melody goes. Just hum the song and try to match the pitches you are singing.
Quote by AlanHB
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#4
Quote by scrumss3
Looking for some advice on this subject. I've been playing on and off for about 15 years. Only in the last 4-5 years have I really picked up playing on a sort of regular basis. I don't have the time I once did as a teenager, full time job and kids. I do play when I get the chance, which is not as often I'd like but o well. My skills are developed enough to where I should have been learning stuff by ear long ago. Tabs and instructional videos are where I get all of songs from. I've tried many times over the years to transcribe but I just can't seem to do it. Was wondering if anyone could maybe give me some advice on how to improve in this area.


Hi,

I understand exactly what you mean.

The first thing I'd suggest, is you might be starting too advanced. Learning by ear is a developed skill, and if you haven't done it, then you'll likely run into things that are too advanced. Go listen to Zombie by the Cranberries, for example. Can you transcribe the guitar solo?

Start basic and get a few tunes under your belt....but, after you've done that for a while and have gotten pretty good at it, then try an epic well known solo. For me, when I was trying to do this, my song, the one that took a long time, was Hotel California. I did it, ultimately. And the one thing it did....

Was it made transcribing hundreds of other songs, easy, by comparison. Fighting through that single song honed my skills so much. For you it may be another song. Sweet Home Alabama, first solo is a great song with some difficulties too, subtle changes in half and whole steps over the same lick. Interval jumps, that are fast and smooth. I wore my casstee down to a nub.

My last piece of advice, is stop learning from tabs. Use them, if you need to, to check your own work, or references, but, write your own, even if they may be bad for a while.

Do you know the names of the notes of the neck of the guitar? Do you know chords and keys? These are also good references to help you follow where a song may be going when you transcribe.

Best,

Sean
#5
thanks for the replies. there have been some things that i've been able to learn by ear over the years. mostly simple things. but most of the time, i just can't seem to pin songs down.
#7
Quote by Sean0913
Hi,

I understand exactly what you mean.

The first thing I'd suggest, is you might be starting too advanced. Learning by ear is a developed skill, and if you haven't done it, then you'll likely run into things that are too advanced. Go listen to Zombie by the Cranberries, for example. Can you transcribe the guitar solo?

Start basic and get a few tunes under your belt....but, after you've done that for a while and have gotten pretty good at it, then try an epic well known solo. For me, when I was trying to do this, my song, the one that took a long time, was Hotel California. I did it, ultimately. And the one thing it did....

Was it made transcribing hundreds of other songs, easy, by comparison. Fighting through that single song honed my skills so much. For you it may be another song. Sweet Home Alabama, first solo is a great song with some difficulties too, subtle changes in half and whole steps over the same lick. Interval jumps, that are fast and smooth. I wore my casstee down to a nub.

My last piece of advice, is stop learning from tabs. Use them, if you need to, to check your own work, or references, but, write your own, even if they may be bad for a while.

Do you know the names of the notes of the neck of the guitar? Do you know chords and keys? These are also good references to help you follow where a song may be going when you transcribe.

Best,

Sean


Really great stuff right there.
I transcribed a solo and that opened up a whole new world for me. I think once you get that first break through it gets a little easier. Another thing to think about would be maybe get something that would slow down the music? I use amazing slow downer, its a pretty good learning tool because it slows down the music without losing pitch.

Also having a little theory knowledge helps as well. If youre having trouble getting some chords, sometimes thinking logically helps if you know how cadences work.
I.E I have C, and F already down and then it goes to another chord that sounds happy, maybe it could be a G? Since its the V chord in C.
#8
one of the things i think that hinders me are the vocals. sometimes they make it very difficult to hear wat the guitars are doing.
#9
Quote by scrumss3
one of the things i think that hinders me are the vocals. sometimes they make it very difficult to hear wat the guitars are doing.


There are things you can do that require a bit of investment on your end. One, is buy/invest a software or app that cancels out the center pan of a mix, which is usually where the vocals live, and the solos and guitar parts are usually pan left and right. The great thing about this, is they often can slow down and isolate passages (loop them) to make transcribing them easier.

I use Anytune Pro in my teaching studio, and I can put flags on certain passages, and iso/loop them as I wish. One of my most common uses for this, is:

Slowing down and looping a passage in real time allows me to set up practice speed passages by sections, for my students, to get them more familiar with playing/learning a part.

Best,

Sean
#10
Yeah like Sean says, start easy and go from there
there. I started on Nirvana, Green Day and other tunes.

I used to also play a game with the radio where I would try to figure out the chord progression of a song before it ended and the next one started.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#11
Quote by scrumss3
one of the things i think that hinders me are the vocals. sometimes they make it very difficult to hear wat the guitars are doing.

Listen to the bass, because most if the time it will be playing the root note of the chord you want. When you can hear what note the bass is playing, it's just a matter of recognising the the tonality (major, minor, dominant).
#12
I agree with a lot of the above. Forget transcribing and tabs. That was good to learn to physically play. It showed you what note to play and where to play it but now you are trying to learn to play just by hearing a song and recognizing the sounds (chords and notes) reading a tab or transcription or notation won't help develop your ear training as much as just playing and listening. Like MDC I listen to song and just randomly pick a key in my mind to work with. Maybe I'm listening to a song and I decide I'll mentally work in the key of C for convenience sake. I then listen and identify the general chords being played. Let's see, the verse starts on a major chord, then goes to a minor chord, then another minor and ends on a major. Now I have a rough blueprint to work from. I then find the root note of each chord on the low E string and play the chord that I heard at that spot in the song. It sounds a little out there but I can figure out most songs this way 99% of the time and very quickly. If there are some incidental chords with more intricate voicing, I go back and figure them out note by note if necessary.

This will help you hear the differences in the chord voicing. Even if you can only hear a difference between a major and minor chord you are in pretty good shape. Soon you will hear a maj7, 9th, augmented, diminished. It will happen if you stick with it. To get biblical "You can give a man a fish or teach him to fish". Tabs are what someone else did and made available to you. Listening and figuring it out yourself is the best way. Once you figure it out you don't have to write that song down or memorize it. You already learned it.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
Last edited by Rickholly74 at May 26, 2015,
#13
This is my recommended ear training program. It's a modified version of what worked for me, based on what parts of what I did I think were the most effective.

When you say that vocals get in the way of what the guitars are doing, that's a hint to me that you're taking the wrong approach.

Start with melodies. Don't worry about chords. In fact, start with super-simple melodies that you know by heart. Good sources of these are movie themes, christmas carols, and nursery rhymes. You're going to hunt-and-peck a lot, when you start out, and that's okay. Then progress to melodies of songs you listen to regularly - play the VOCAL melody. Again, hunting and pecking is fine, although eventually you're going to want to move away from that.

Once you've spent a couple of weeks doing that (try to do it as often as possible, but 10-15 minutes at a time is enough. If you've been doing it for 10 minutes and are getting frustrated - which WILL happen - quit for the day), download the functional ear trainer, a free download from miles.be. Work through it.

This is not the sort of work that you can cram. Again, 10-15 minutes a day, every day, is the best way to do this. Like with the first melodies you try to play, there will be times when this feels impossible. It will play a note, and you'll be all, "how the eff should I know what that is?". This is okay and normal.

As you progress through the FET, continue to listen to and try to play stuff you know. You'll probably find that finding chords starts to get easier. Working your way through the FET may take you months. (I have one caveat about the order they give you the exercises in. It has you do major scale, then major scale with accidentals, then minor scale, then minor scale with accidentals. I would do major scale, minor scale, major scale with accidentals, minor scale with accidentals).

If you are deep into the FET and still struggling to pick up songs in practice, go buy "Ear Training for the Contemporary Musician" by Wyatt et al. You will get more out of this book if you get it AFTER you've been working with the FET and transcribing melodies for a while. This is going to be about getting you to transcribe without hunting and pecking.

The process is slow. You will likely have weeks where you feel like you are making no progress, until bam, one day, the problem that seemed impossible yesterday is trivially easy. Then you'll be stuck for a while, and then BAM, again.

Bear in mind that this is a process. Your ear never stops growing and developing. e.g., you'll get to a point where you can hear basic triads, but inversions will confuse you. It will also take some practice to get what you can do sitting by yourself with your guitar to a place where you can do it dynamically while jamming with other musicians. Every music degree program in the world has an ear training component because there is always more to learn and do.