Hi all

OK so I've been playing acoustic for about a year now and really enjoying things so far but would like to starting training my ear.

Ive worked a couple of very simple riffs out by ear but that was nothing I just heard it in a song and new i would be able to find the notes because they where very simple such as king's of leon wait for me.

Anyway am I staring out too early? The only real key I know from memory is the c major for now but that's just in open position. Obviously I want to learn full songs and chords by ear not just a few simple notes but I'm assuming I need to know all the keys first?

Any help / guidance will be very much appreciated.
Last edited by blueguitar990 at Aug 6, 2017,
You can't really start simple ear training to early, it's great you're already doing it! And no, you don't have to have any theoretical knowledge to learn songs by ear. It helps a ton, but it's not absolutely necessary.

I recommend you start by learning melodies by ear first. Chords are tricky even for experienced people, and guitar riffs can sound really messy and hard to dissect. Make sure that if you hear a note, you can find it on guitar reliably, and then apply that ability to a whole melody. You can also learn vocal melodies on a guitar no problem, if you have trouble finding easy guitar melodies.

If you want to start learning chords by ear, start with something really simple. It's not really realistic to learn a jazz song or a prog rock tune by ear for a start. Pick a simple song with open chords and start with that.
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Theory: Not rules, just tools.

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*note that by fan i mean that guy who wants his friends to know he knows this totally obscure hip band that only he knows about with 236 views on youtube. lookin' at Kev here
I think starting ear training before you learn theory makes a lot of sense. Learning the theory behind the sounds is much easier when you already know the sounds. And nothing really makes sense in theory before you know it in practice.

But yeah, if you want to learn songs by ear, the first step is to internalize the sound. You want to know what sounds you are looking for before you try to find them on your instrument. I would actually first suggest trying to figure out melodies that you already know, for example some simple children's songs or whatever. Something that you know "by heart".

What I mean by "internalize the sound" is that you can for example sing the melody without having to listen to the record, so that you know exactly what pitches you are looking for.

When you have internalized the sound of the melody (you don't need to memorize the whole melody at once - you can learn it in smaller chunks, which is actually what I would suggest doing in the beginning), find the first note on your instrument. After you have found the first note of the melody, pay attention to the direction of the melody. Does it go up or down (or maybe the same note is repeated)? Are there leaps or is it stepwise motion? If there are leaps, are they big or small? Is there repetition? Thinking about stuff like this will give you at least some kind of an idea where the next note may be located on the fretboard.

None of this really requires any theoretical knowledge. It's all about singing a note/hearing a note in your head and trying to match it on your instrument.

But knowledge of theory will of course help. Most melodies will mostly use notes in the key scale (for example if the song is in the key of C major, it will mostly use notes in the C major scale). So figuring out the key of the song will help, because this way you will have some kind of a point of reference and you know what the most likely notes that the melody may use are. This also makes recognizing patterns much easier. Figuring out the chords behind the melody will also help because the melody will most likely use chord tones, and again, it will give you another point of reference. But you can definitely start doing it without knowing theory.
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Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.


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