#1
I'm trying to improve my skill of figuring out relative chord changes just by listening to a song. Here's a song I'm trying to figure out by ear:

Springsteen - Out in the Street:

I spent 10 minutes trying to figure out the chords on guitar. I knew the key was A by playing around with notes on the guitar, but I couldn't figure out which chords were being played where. I looked up the tab, and suddenly the chords sounded right to me.

Does anyone have advice on how to pick up the chords in a song like this? I don't know why, but I had a very hard time hearing the Bm and F#m. And really, I have a hard time hearing any of the chords. Are there any tips or suggestions? thanks
#2
Before you can start hearing chords, you need to be able to hear individual notes. If you have trouble with single note intervals, chords are going to be even harder. A general method that works for most pop/rock songs is:
1: Find the key
If you can find the key, and know basic scale theory, you'll be able to halve the time spent looking for the right notes, and while outside notes/chords may curveball you, unless the music is super atonal you shouldn't worry.

2. Find the roots
If you can hear the intervals between the bass notes, that's half the battle done. Listening to the bass guitar helps, as even if it's walking or playing fills, it'll usually heavily imply of emphasis the root note of the chord.

3: Find the quality
Now simply find the chord quality of each of those bass notes. Simple major and minor chords are easy enough, 7ths are fairly common and not too hard, though some odd chords may pop up.

Another side note, is that after learning a lot of songs, you'll be able to recognise common chord progressions, as well as common cadences.
Quote by Fat Lard
post of the year, thank you
#3
Jimjambanx Hi. My biggest problem is with #2. I'm having trouble hearing the bass in the song I posted and in many other songs. It's almost like I have to turn the music up extremely high and go into uber-meditation mode to tune out the other instruments and hear the bass. I remember one time when I was violently ill with a terrible flu - I felt like I was a zombie. I remember hearing different things in songs and was, for whatever reason, able to easily follow the bass. I have great hearing, so no idea why being sick would've helped. I'm good at figuring out key and chord quality since I have a degree in music. It's hearing that bass that gives me the most trouble. Any suggestions on hearing it better? Maybe I need to stop trying to listen to it, and that'll paradoxically help?

I had this problem last year when learning Knockin' on Heaven's Door by Bob Dylan. I had figured out some notes on the guitar, which I thought were the bass notes. I then found a tutorial online that explained what the actual bass notes were. I had the wrong notes in the chord triads. It was really disconcerting because it made me question whether I'm capable of hearing bass.
#4
There is a physical reason why bass is harder to hear. The human ear is less sensitive to it, than mid-range. (Audio engineers know all about this (Fletcher-munson curve)).

The other thing is that, given the way a lot of instruments are built, the difference between two pitches a semitone apart in the bass end is very small, whereas in mid-range, there is a very big difference ... again, easier to distinguish when the difference is large.

One thing you could try is getting pitch shifting software (like Transcbibe), and raise the pitch a lot (even an octave) ... and work with that initially, then drop it down to confirm.
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Jun 28, 2016,
#5
Sometimes, the best way to conquer your weaknesses is to dive headfirst into them.

(you can do hi-cut things, low-pass things, or even buy a bass* and practice until your ears are used to listening to their notes.)

*if you have 300 quid
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that song actually has extended chord vocabulary, though. How confident are you in identifying extended chords?

The way the ear canal works, sickness might amplify different frequencies better.

----
Of course, these are suggestions, and I might be the worst person to ask.
Glad to cross paths with you on this adventure called life
Quote by Jet Penguin
lots of flirting with the other key without confirming. JUST LIKE THEIR LOVE IN THE MOVIE OH DAMN.
Quote by Hail
you're acting like you have perfect pitch or something
#6
TS if you're struggling to work out bass guitar by ear, try listening to some music where the bass is more prominent to get your ear accustomed to that frequency.

Try listening to some Level 42. Mark King is an amazing bassists. He also help popularise slap bass.
#7
Quote by jerrykramskoy
There is a physical reason why bass is harder to hear. The human ear is less sensitive to it, than mid-range. (Audio engineers know all about this (Fletcher-munson curve)).

The other thing is that, given the way a lot of instruments are built, the difference between two pitches a semitone apart in the bass end is very small, whereas in mid-range, there is a very big difference ... again, easier to distinguish when the difference is large.
I think that's the explanation - both things are the result of the same fact: the human ear is not as well tuned to frequency difference outside of its central range (the range of the human voice, essentially, which is practically identical to the range of guitar). We certainly hear bass, but find it hard to distinguish pitches.

(I've played bass, in some form, for as long as I've played guitar - 50 years - and got no better at being able to hear what the bass is doing on recordings - while I have got better at hearing higher pitch relationships.)
Quote by jerrykramskoy

One thing you could try is getting pitch shifting software (like Transcribe), and raise the pitch a lot (even an octave) ... and work with that initially, then drop it down to confirm.
That's what I do. Raising the bass an octave makes it way clearer: every pitch comes out crystal clear, probably because it's now within human vocal range (and guitar range). It even sounds louder than before. Always worth doing it by an octave, because then the key is the same - and a 4-string bass wont go lower than 6th string on guitar.
No need to drop it down to confirm, though. There's no mistaking what you hear at the octave.
Last edited by jongtr at Jun 29, 2016,
#8
Quote by glooper23
Jimjambanx Hi. My biggest problem is with #2. I'm having trouble hearing the bass in the song I posted and in many other songs. It's almost like I have to turn the music up extremely high and go into uber-meditation mode to tune out the other instruments and hear the bass. I remember one time when I was violently ill with a terrible flu - I felt like I was a zombie. I remember hearing different things in songs and was, for whatever reason, able to easily follow the bass. I have great hearing, so no idea why being sick would've helped. I'm good at figuring out key and chord quality since I have a degree in music. It's hearing that bass that gives me the most trouble. Any suggestions on hearing it better? Maybe I need to stop trying to listen to it, and that'll paradoxically help?

I had this problem last year when learning Knockin' on Heaven's Door by Bob Dylan. I had figured out some notes on the guitar, which I thought were the bass notes. I then found a tutorial online that explained what the actual bass notes were. I had the wrong notes in the chord triads. It was really disconcerting because it made me question whether I'm capable of hearing bass.
As suggested above, I really recommend downloading a copy of Transcribe. It's designed precisely for learning songs, by helping you listen in various ways: slowing down, looping short sections, raising the octave to hear the bass, splitting stereo, etc. It's my favourite piece of software of any kind, ever! http://www.seventhstring.com/xscribe/screenshots.html
Last edited by jongtr at Jun 29, 2016,
#9
What I have always heard is you learn to play all the scales in a key, you will start to recognize it. That is what they taught me in Nashville last year.
#10
In my younger days I would be able to hum the chord and get the note from a tuner than figure out what chord it was scrolling in a book

Now I'm able to just to hum a chord in my head and hum each note and play around with the fret board by locating the deepest note from a downstroke or highest not from a upstroke And just use my finger to climb my way into the chord by guessing and it's almost 90% accurate
#11
If I'm trying to figure out anything, I go straight to the bass line. Most pop music is all root position chords, so if you can hear the bass, you pretty much got it. You might go ahead and figure out which exact voicings are being used, which takes some practice (as well as knowing those voicings). It takes practice, but if you keep it up you'll soon be able to pick out enough material to figure out a fair amount of music.

I'd spend a half hour or so figuring out what you can by ear, and then looking it up. After a while you'll be able to tell by ear if you're playing the right chords. Jazz and classical music may take a bit more discipline.