Why Guitarist Struggle With Aural Skills - Part Two

Read part one of this article here.

Ultimate Guitar

Read part one of this article here

Aural skills is key to becoming a good musician and guitarist. Unfortunately, many guitarists struggle with this skill and because of that, they are not reaching the level of playing that they could or should be reaching. A lot of this has to do with the way the guitar is constructed which was discussed in part one of this series, but there are two other main reasons guitarists lack aural skills, besides the obvious one of not training aural skills, which will be discussed more in depth in part three of the series. In the end, I will also give you another great exercise to implement in your ear training routine.

Lack of playing with other musicians.

In the age of the youtube rockstar it is very common for players to spend most of their time practicing/learning at home by themselves playing over backing tracks and the like. I have been guilty of this a lot myself, and I don’t wanna imply, that there's anything wrong with it. But this should not be your only way of playing/learning/using your instrument. You need to get out there, to practice and play together with other musicians. The benefits of doing this are many and include among others everything from improved general musicianship to just feeling more inspired to practice. But it will also improve you aural skills a lot. When playing with others you simple have to listen to the music. Over time this will train your ears. Also, guitar is a midrange instrument and if we only train our oral skills with our guitar, we will only train our aural skills in this area of frequency. In order for us to fully develop our ears we have to also train outside our comfort zone of the midrange guitar frequencies.

The way we learn guitar is hurting us

Most guitarists are learning to play either through tablature or youtube-videos. Others might learn through instructional material or a local teacher, that probably also uses tablature and/or video to teach. This is not necessarily bad in and of itself, but it will often bring some negative consequences with it, if you ONLY learn in this format. The tablature system is very easy to understand and because of that a lot of people who otherwise would never have learned to play the guitar are now playing and enjoying the instrument. This is of cause a great thing.

But because of the easy accessibility of the tablature system the person learning this way does not automatically develop their overall musicianship. One might compare playing tablature with writing dictation. It is essentially a method of “put your finger here, play that string, produce this sound” much like the “write out whatever I say”-method of dictation. Just as taking dictation will not develop your imagination or ability to write independently, so musical dictation (learning everthing through tabulature) will not develop your ear and musicality. At least not very far. This does not mean that tabs can’t be useful from time to time, but it should not be your only way of learning the guitar. Preferable you should be learning through listening or reading music. The problem with this approach is, that we are often just expected to be able to do it, and if this is not automatically the case, then most people give up. I will write more on the specifics on how to do this in a future lesson, but for right now, I want you to do the following ear training exercise:

YouTube preview picture

About the author: Janus Buch is professional guitar teacher, trainer and instructor running the Guitar Academy in Copenhagen. Here he offers a range of different programs and by far the greatest value for money Guitar Lessons in Copenhagen. If you are serious about your guitar playing progress the guitar academy is the place for you.

6 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I'll always be grateful for my middle/high school concert band and choir experience for this reason. Playing alto saxophone in concert band may not seem like the coolest thing, but it definitely helped to learn these skills when you have to balance your sound and stay in time with 40+ other people.
    I bet you have superears at this point.. And alt sax i pretty f...ing cool if you ask me. I don't know if its cool, when you are a kid, but it is damn cool when you are a grown up.
    Appreciate the comment. I'm definitely happy with my ears. That kind of experience is invaluable.