I am new to guitar theory and thus I want to ask you about the thing in the topic.
Do you do it via programs like Transcribe! and find every note via matching it with the looped and slowed replay of part of the song or you support yourself with part of musical theory to do it efficiently? If the second one is a viable choice then what kind of knowledge do I need to cover songs myself?
I usually just listen to the melody and then play it on my instrument. It's very easy to do once you figure out the key, which is also easy. Figuring out the chords can also make it easier to figure out the melody.
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You kinda just sit down and do it. Use your ears, your memory, your voice, and your instrument. And try to work out whole phrases at a time when you can, not just individual notes. Your ears won't develop by playing hunt-and-peck with single notes.
It depends what my aim is. If I want to learn something complex, playing a melody over a rhythm, or a difficult and complex guitar piece, then I will like to use a program like transcribe.

If it is just learning the chords to a pop song I like, I can sometimes do it from memory, or on one or two play throughs of the track. or I might replay a section a couple times to get it, using whatever audio thing I am listening to it on.

If I am using transcribe, theory doesn't come into it too much, I just listen and pick out the notes and find them. It's more sort of surgical at that point.

If it is listening to a pop song, then definitely theory comes a lot more into play for me.

You will want to learn about roman numerals/functional harmony, and get a lot of experience with it. It's kind of something you learn from learning a lot of songs, which lets you learn songs more easily. Not so much something you read in a book that helps you ear out songs now.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Aug 15, 2015,
I'd say definitely learn by ear. It's one of the things that help you evolve most as a musician, out of all the things you'll ever do as one

Mostly i just sit down, listen, and sing along with what i am learning. If you can sing the melody it is very easy to find it on your instrument. I'll do the same with basslines, chords (try to sing the arpeggios as they go by) and solos.

When it comes to theory, it is simply a matter of learning how everything fits together and start seeing patterns. For example if i can't figure out the chords to a song, i look at the melody, most of the time the melody will contain the chord tones needed for me to figure out the chords. You can also look at the pitch collection used, maybe only the notes C D E F G A B are used in the piece, then i know it is C major or A minor (depending on where it resolves to) and then i know i have certain chords that fit into that key.

There are really a lot you can do with theory in combination with the ear. Getting your fundamentals down in both a theoretical way (knowing the terms and what they represent) and in a aural way (knowing what these things sound like) is very important.
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Theory knowledge has to do with ear. I don't think you really know theory that well if you only know the explanation but not the sound.

But yeah, when I try to figure out how a song goes, theory knowledge does help me. I don't choose to use it. It is always there. I really can't be without using it, because when I figure out how something goes, I usually also know the explanation (I know what's happening in the music). Theory and ear go hand in hand. It's really not "either or".

But yeah, in the beginning it's just trial and error. What helps is if you know the melody so well that you can sing it. Know what pitches you are looking for before trying to find them. So sing the melody, then try to match the pitches on your guitar.

Knowing the key does help. If the song is in C major, you'll know that it will most likely use notes in the C major scale most of the time. But that doesn't mean it can't use other notes. And as theogonia777 said, figuring out the chords helps too. And figuring out the melody can also help with figuring out the chords. It kind of works both ways (though in pop music singers usually use the pentatonic scale which means the melody may not imply a clear chord progression).

I think using real life examples is the best way of learning theory. So just learn songs by ear. That way you'll notice some common practices. Theory just gives names to stuff that happens in music. Sound first, theory second. That also makes you understand it a lot better. I would suggest learning about keys first. If you understand keys properly, you already know a lot. (Learning about keys includes scales, chords and intervals - those are all needed to understand keys.)
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I am new to guitar theory and thus I want to ask you about the thing in the topic.
Do you do it via programs like Transcribe! and find every note via matching it with the looped and slowed replay of part of the song or you support yourself with part of musical theory to do it efficiently?
I do both.
That is, I use my ears, with the help of Transcribe to make sure of details.
Theory helps, in that once you know the key (or even once you identify the first chord -not always the key chord!) you can predict what other chords you're likely to find.
But that can cut both ways, in that music often confounds your expectations - limited theory knowledge (or taking it too seriously) can prejudice your ears. ("That sounds like a major chord there, but it can't be because that's against the rules...." )

IOW, "efficiency" is more down to careful listening (trusting your ears) and use of the software - less to theory.
The more you do it, too, the easier it gets. You start to get to know typical song formulas: when the repeats come, how bridges work, what kinds of key change you might expect, etc.. Naturally, that can still lead to expecting things that don't turn up (or not expecting things that do), so you always need to keep an open mind (open ears).
Last edited by jongtr at Aug 15, 2015,
Knowledgeable theory. I can understand it easier. I will submit one theory for my project. Thanks for your wonderful tips for make theory.