Playing By Ear

An article more for beginning guitarists, which discusses learning to play by ear, and playing along with CD's.

Ultimate Guitar
When a lot of guitarists start out, they want to play along with CD's, and show their friends all the songs they've learned. I myself sit in my room and figure out how to play songs by ear for fun. For beginner guitarists, punk rock is a very easy way to learn to play by ear, since it consists mainly of power chords and basic rhythms. But before choosing a song to learn, make sure you know what the tuning for the song is (standard, drop D, drop D tuned down one whole step, etc.). To start out, pick a song that is pretty basic, like a Nirvana song or a Blink-182 song. Listen to a riff, and then try to figure out what the first note is. If you play the CD and play the note or chord at the same time, you should be able to tell if it is the same note or not, if you listen closely enough. If it does not sound right, move the note or chord up and down one fret. If the note sounds way off, you may even try it on different strings. Do this for the rest of the riff, and eventually you'll have figured out how to play the entire riff. As you develope your ear and guitar skills, you will be able to figure out how to play more advanced riffs. You will be able to figure out chords and scales. You'll be able to distinguish the sound of a single note, and the sound of that same note with an octave played together. Here is a list of some bands to play along with: Beginning: 1. Nirvana 2. The Offspring 3. Blink-182 4. Linkin Park 5. Some System of a Down 6. Red Hot Chili Peppers 7. Deftones 8. Some Foo Fighters Intermediate: 1. Some Black Sabbath 2. Some System of a Down 3. Some Red Hot Chili Peppers 4. Audioslave 5. Rage Against the Machine 6. Some Foo Fighters Advanced: 1. Black Sabbath 2. The Beatles 3. Led Zeppelin 4. Metallica 5. Megadeth 6. Slayer 7. Ozzy Osbourne So anyway, I hope this article is helpful to anyone learning to play by ear. Please give me feedback (no pun intended).

33 comments sorted by best / new / date

    not a bad article, but i needs more "stuff" to it. i know it's hard to teach pitch recognition over the web, but it just seemed a little bare. and for the record, all posts that have anything to do with "you didn't list this band and that band" WILL be deleted from this article. let's keep these comments constructive. maybe someone can add a few tips about how to recognize pitch.
    Steph Bets
    i disagree about the beatles, their earlier stuff is way easy to figure out(i mean compared to their harder stuff, im not syaing that anyone could tab it, i know i cant tab it but i can figure some of it out)and i just wanna say, jimi hendrix has gotta be the hardest to figure out by ear!
    Emergancy Exit
    Offspring for beginers??? YEAH RIGHT theres friggin matalica songs easyer to play than most offspring songs
    I don't understand why Green Day isn't up there on the list for beginning bands to play along with. The have a lot of powerchords. I've only been playing for about half a year but I've learned like 15 of their songs by ear! Pretty good article but the guy picked too tough of a subject to cover. In my opinion you can't really teach anyone tips to play things by ear, the person just has to hear it themselves.
    most pointless article ever all that is just commen sense, and u only listed bands u like there are way more bands 2 play along wif that r a hell of a lot eaiser then linkin park songs.
    Mr. Clean
    Great article, playing by ear can sometimes be difficult, especially with different distortion on and depending on the speed of the guitarist
    Wow the comments are a hell of lot nicer in here than in the lessons archive, not bad lesson .
    I started this year am im playin the beatles now i dont think that they are that hard at all!
    i have to disagree with your list of advanced bands to play along with..i play along with them easily and i think im still a beginner.
    A cool exercise to start dev. an ear... give a friend your guitar to play. Instruct him to randomly play the 6th str open, 3rd fret, or 5th fret. Try to guess the fret. Actually play 2 notes first open and then another fret. Get to the point where you can do this up to the 12th fret. Remember them by assosiating them with songs that you know. Upon mastering this you shouldnt have any problem figuring out simple power chord songs. Keek practicing!
    I totally disagree....I think you should learn the neck and even basic chords before you try this..
    Maybe you might mention learning the basic keys? I really advanceed as soon as I started figuring things out by listening to music with my guitar and picking out notes in different keys until I found the right key. Once you find the key, the rest is easy because you know what notes are available to use for chords and solos. Also, it really helps to start learning the more commonly used chord forms and find out what type of chords the particular guitarist likes to use.
    this article sucks, ive been tryin to play by ear forever and do you really think i havnt tried that?
    nice article written like a true musician i suggest putting more slow songs in there instead of mostly rock and stuff...
    the first song i really could play well was a ramones song-simple but it definetly boosted my confidence to do more
    this "article" just states the obvious i figured that out in my first yea of playin i suppose it does work thought
    ^ it also results in a decreased UNDERSTANDING of music, and stunts your musical ear.
    This articule is fairly good but what about playing other that chords? I think you should have gone a bit more in depth but your off to a good start.
    the sweenz
    article is decent but i feel the author should have mentioned that beginners or even intermediate-level players should check their accuracy by searching online or getting tabs from here. by the way...i think that all of you should stop bitching and just play music.
    dude, this article is about as a blue fish. P.S. I agree with friggenjerk
    Im more on the beginer level and most of this seemed kinda obvious to me. I think it does need more "stuff" for the higher skilled people, and imo, playing by ear is a skill, not one that can be learned, but thats just what i think...
    Brand Nizzle182
    lol, this article really doesnt say anything. it kind of defines playing by ear but it's not all that helpful.
    hmmm recognise pitch, just keep on playing the guitar, until ur damn ***ing familiar with wad the notes and chords sound like, no easy way to learnin e guitar
    ehh, its a nice list of bands that are easy to copy.. decent article