View Full Version : Man.....playing by ear is nice

05-06-2006, 03:28 PM
I recently had a jam yesterday with a dude on my block, he's been playing for 3 years. He knew how to play probably like 90% of Metallica songs almost perfectly including the solos along with other tunes from bands GNR, zeppelin, megadeth, etc.Yea he knew tons of songs compared to me, I know songs that guitarist "should" know but I just mostly work on technique, theory, writing, and just jamming/improv.

And get this, he doesn't even read or look at tabs. All he said he would do was play with the albums and I could tell. I would play a line and he would follow it right away even if it was unorthodox or weird o_O.

He didn't understand much theory because he would play something he wrote and I would ask what key and he didn't know <_<. I have guitar lessons so my technique and theory is better than his but his ear is awesome <_< plus his song ideas were better and lively ;_;. I was really impressed......Yea my ear is decent, I just read tabs mostly <_< but yea any tips or exercises on how to do this because I don't think im ready to take on harder song....................<_<

05-06-2006, 03:31 PM
Yea, I guessed i've always ignored ear training for some reason and realized it would help you overall in just song writing and being a musician in general, so now I feel inspired to start.

05-06-2006, 06:38 PM
I remember back when I got my first guitar, an acoustic one. I was thrilled to finally play along with my favourite songs by Iron Maiden etc. I thought mostly about the melodies. Melodies and solos, not that eager about the rhythms. Well, I couldn't play any solos, so the main melodies were my aim. I tried to emulate what I heard, but if I failed, I'd find a tab, and hopefully find out about it.

That's it really - sit down with your favourite records and play along.

Also, you might want to play through some scales, and hum the notes as you play them. Familiarize yourself with the intervals. Try to identify for instance a perfect fifth, minor third, augmented fourth, etc.

I'd say I've got quite a good ear myself these days, yet, I occasionally meet trouble, actually I sometimes fail in deciding whether I'm hearing a major or minor based tonality. Still, I am able to play most standard lead melodies.

Keep on listening and playing!

05-06-2006, 06:54 PM
Definately play more along with records. It's the tried and true method of learning licks and melodies whatever your particular idiom of music may be.

Theory is kind of worthless without proper Ear Training.

05-07-2006, 12:03 AM
I learned to play guitar ALL by ear, and over time (a very short time) I discovered that I was able to just recognize parts and knew how to play it. I learned Zeppelin, Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Van Halen, just to name a few.

I would just put on the record and listen to the parts over and over and just be able to figure them out. All my friends would always be amazed because they would give me an album and ask me to learn a song for them and usually I could get it within an hour.

After a while you start to notice parts in one song that sound like parts in another song. For instance, it is always easy to tell when someone is playing a D chord, or a G chord.

I do read music but I just learned to depend on my ear because most of the stuff I play is not written on paper anyway. Why should I spend all this time reading when I can figure it out by ear.

05-07-2006, 05:35 AM
wow its been forever since ive been on here!

i play violin, and have since i was about 5 or 6...and so i naturally learnt most by ear. i personally believe that this is one of the best methods of learning as it helped me HEAPS with all my final exams at school and everything. playing and learning by ear also betters your ability to pick certian pitches etc. however as you said it means that until two years ago my theory was pretty poor.....
the best way to do it is as somebody (soz cant remember who!) already said, just record and listen until you can play along with it....i reckon its worth it (but i am slightly biased lol!!);)

05-07-2006, 02:56 PM
Music is about sound, which requires hearing. To be a good musician, you must develop your ear. Most of us that started in the 80's didn't have tab or internet-style resources. We had to learn by ear. Satriani, Vai, Malmsteen, etc. all developed their ears to an amazing extent, through hard work, and you can tell. Vai and Satriani in particular emphasize how important it is in their lessons and articles.

Of course, nothing is wrong with knowing theory (so you can talk with other musicians and learn new or complex ideas from books, etc).

05-07-2006, 05:03 PM
Hello there:

When you read biographies or articles about respected American musicians of the old school, who made their mark between 1940 and 1980, many of them reveal that playing along with the radio or records was a major, if not THE major, method of learning the art. This was especially true of blues players who lived in remote areas of the U.S. that offered little exposure to professional music except for radio, and records if one was lucky enough to have them.

With the current wide availability of internet and other broadcast sources for music, the necessity of learning by this method is much less acute.

I think learning by ear is every bit as valid as learning to read music (by eye). Your ear can learn to recognize the movement of melody and rhythm. It's just a different sense one uses. Learning to read and write music by notation, for the eye, however, has the great advantage of preserving the music, for transportation across time and space. Recording music can also preserve music, but it's much easier and cheaper and practical to preserve and reproduce music in standard notation than it is to record it. Therefore, the ability to read music by eye is awarded a higher status than the ability to play music by ear.

Each method has its advantages in specific applications. Yet, one should remember that it's possible to be a blind musician but not possible to be a deaf musician (the rare genius of Beethoven notwithstanding).

05-07-2006, 05:09 PM
I agree with the idea of learning to hear intervals, easily learned in this type of order:

learn how fifths lay out on the fretboard and memorize their character
----3---------------------------------------------------each pair represents a fifth

work this out for the other intervals too... and don't forget to internalize their "sound character" I guess. The fourth, fifth, octave sound very stable. You should always be able to hear if you're in a major tonality (major third interval, major chord) vs. a minor tonality (minor third).

here are some major third and minor third intervals. notice the minor third is simple the third lowered a half step ......


there is a distinct difference in character between music based around minor chords (1, b3, 5) and major chords (1, 3, 5). minor sounds sad, duh, and major sounds happy.

Play a minor chord, sounds sad. play a major chord, sounds happy. Not hard.

Once you have all the basic intervals down and internalized, you should move on to triads, how different types of triads form basic types of chords (major, minor, diminished, augmented). Only once you memorize these basic triads in all 12 keys in all inversions (that is, learn all the different voicings of these triads on guitar) should you proceed to learn to build extended chord structures with 9ths, 11ths, 13ths, etc.

It can be tedious sometimes, but the end result makes it all worthwhile, and is necessary if you want to become a proficient musician.

- Dave

05-07-2006, 08:15 PM
Thanks so much guys. Surprisingly my ear isn't that bad I could figure out a lot of songs and parts by ear. I just haven't practiced it enough I should be doing more ear training than finger exercises and practicing theory. Since I grew up in this generation of Tabs and the Internet I've become lazy about my ear. Some songs are too hard though, it's either some parts are too fast or you can't even hear some of the notes.

05-07-2006, 09:37 PM
Check out this link to teoria. They have ear training with audible intervals and you have to "guess" by practice.. Here is the link.


Just click on English or Spanish and you need high speed but it is awsome. I run through the intervals every day and usually get 9 out of 10. I have trouble with major 6 and minor 6 for some reason. Check out the link though...

05-07-2006, 09:45 PM
This link lets you create intervals ascending or descending that it asks for and you can try your hand at finding the notes.


Check out the link.:rolleyes:

05-23-2006, 07:00 PM
I just want to tell you guys about this wonderfull little program I downlo..ehm..bought a while ago. ;)

btw! this is going to sound like an add, please don't hate me for it and read on, its worth it.

earmaster (damdadam, notice the drama)

anyway, it has a bunch of exercises, and they start with just letting you compare intervals, (which is the greater interval) first minor/major seconds, then thirds, 4/5 and so on, working you way up to comparing all possibal intervals, at different pitches and so on.
It really developed my ear fast.
then they have interval identification, chord progression training and a bunch of rythm training exercises.

you should really try it out, its shareware so you can try and use it without buying it.

(and now, to prove I'm not hired by them to advertise, and to avoid being banned from this forum, which would suck bigtime.(I'm guessing you don't like people actually advertising.)
anyway, for those of you who deside to keep using it after the trial time
is over, there is always a way, but i recommed that you get a hold of earmaster 4 (and NOT earmaster 5). Simply because its a lot easier to get ahold of a seria...ehm..I mean...ehm...permission of couse.. hehe..well you understand anyway, yes?

Addition: checked out the links above, its not unlike those, but I find the program more easy to use. (I'm not saying its not simply because I've been using it more) anyway, trying both out might be a good Idea.

05-23-2006, 10:37 PM
I bought EarMaster and it's great. I suggest you do the same. :)

05-24-2006, 04:16 AM
I had a trial version of earmaster for a while. I thought the harmony stuff was a little funny in the way they set it up. It would start getting hard and then out of nowhere there would be a lesson on recognizing plagal cadences. You work on a bunch of extensions and then near the end learn triadic bIII's and bVI's. Slowly would get more difficult and then suddenly take a huge step backwards...

maybe the full version is different.

05-24-2006, 07:30 PM
Yes indeed it is different, you can select which cadences you want to practice and really create your own routine.

Not to sound like a sales pitch, but I think my ear would be less developed, hadn't it been for Ear Master.