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Playing by Ear
Topic: The End Result Subtopic: General Level: All Levels Number of Readers: 73090

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Playing by Ear

I consider this skill to be extremely important and useful. If you can play by ear, you can learn from recordings and teach yourself. By listening to recordings and then playing them on your instrument, you are being influenced by whatever you are listening too, and it contributes to the end result, which is what you play.

'Having an ear' can mean a couple of things. Being able to hear a note, and then being able to mentally hear the note again in your head is an important thing to be able to do. Being able to tell which of two notes is higher or lower is also important. Being able to recognize types of chords(major, minor, dominant seventh, etc.) is important. Being able to tell the exact interval between two notes can be helpful.

I don't think I'd be able to teach someone how to hear music in their mind. But I can try to describe what it feels like for me. I can also say that I haven't always been able too. Being able to mentally replay a song is a skill which I think can be learned and improved. When I was young, songs that I heard on the radio, and then were 'in my head' would be vague. At the time, they didn't seem vague to me. This is because I had nothing to compare it to. It's only now that I realize that they were vague. Probably later on, if I improve, what I hear now will be considered vague. But it is clear enough in my head to be able to play back a song, and the most prominent parts (such as the melody) are clear enough that I can pick out notes and match them on my instrument.

Being able to tell which of two notes is higher is also a skill that can be learned. This is apparent from the fact that some guitar players who had a hard time tuning their instruments when they began can now do it in a flash. The only way to learn this skill is to practice. Tuning your guitar is an excellent way to practice.

Soon telling which note is higher or lower is easy. What's more difficult is being able to tell the exact interval between two notes. For those who have never done this, it may seem like an impossibility. It's not. Think of it this way. Can you hum a melody that is in your head, or mentally hear a melody in your head? If you can, then try to hear the melody of the Star Wars theme. If you can do this, than you can recognize a perfect fifth. The first two notes of the Star Wars theme is a perfect fifth. Every time you hear two notes, see if they can be matched together to sound like the beginning of the Star Wars theme. If they can, you know the interval is a perfect fifth. The beginning of other melodies can be used for the other intervals. The truth is though, that after a while, you'll just dispense with these melodies all together, and you'll just be able to compare what ever you hear to your own 'copy' of an interval within your mind. After a while, you'll be able to hear a perfect fifth in your head, and this is what I mean by your 'copy' of the interval.

Being able to tell the quality of chords is also something that can be learned with practice. After hearing a type of chord for a long time, you'll get an idea of what this type of chord sounds like. Then when you hear one, you'll be able to identify it. The first step to take should be to distinguish between major and minor triads. These are the two easiest. As you work your way up to 7b5#9 chords, needless to say it gets pretty difficult. But being able to tell the qualities of a few simple chords is very useful.

Generally, what having an ear really means is being exposed to the sound of a certain sequence of notes, until this sequence of notes is imprinted in your memory, and you can call it up whenever you want. At first, the sequence of notes will sound like it has no meaning, but when you've heard it enough times and understand it, you'll be able to recognize it every time you hear it, and it will have meaning. Being able to recognize other things, such as chord progressions and scales is also possible. Anything is.

I guess I should say something about perfect pitch. Perfect pitch is being able to tell what a certain note is by listening to it, without comparing to any other note. For those of you who don't have any ear training yet, this could seem like 'big deal' but once you start your ear training, you'll understand(or maybe you'll find out that you yourself have perfect pitch) I don't have perfect pitch, so I can't explain to you what it feels like. I'd really like it if someone who had perfect pitch could explain it to me, because I find it fascinating. Perfect pitch is a gift which some people have. But I'd also like to know if it can be learned. I'd don't know how you could go about doing this... if we stuck with the methods described above, what we could do is keep listening to a C note until it's imprinted in our memories. But it seems that by themselves, they all sound the same. I guess to the untrained ear, all intervals also sound the same, and when trying to distinguish chords, they also sound the same, so we could view all individual notes sounding the same as just the first step in obtaining perfect pitch. I don't know if this is true.

Anyway, some of the following lessons will deal with ways to develop and improve your ear. And remember, the reason that we want to develop an ear is so that we can hear and recognize things mentally... not only songs we hear, but also songs that our mind creates for us.

Things to remember from this lesson:

1. 'Having an ear' means being able to hear and recognize notes and relationships between notes mentally.
2. This is a skill, and it can be improved. For some it will be easier or harder, but for all, it can be improved.
3. Perfect pitch is being able to tell what a certain note is without having to compare it to another note.
4. Ear training is important for being able to replicate songs, not only from other sources, but spontaneously from our mind onto our instrument.



Questions
Question posted by Max on 2000-05-04
is there any tab & lyrics on R.L.Burnside "long Haired Doney " Jesse mae Hemphill Tab and or lyrics song title "you Can Talk About Me" Would appreciate your help regards max
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by mendeley wells on 2000-06-16
perfect pitch, you just know the note. its like seeing colors. for example a c could be a red and an a a blue. I have heard that perfect pitch is a skill that can be aquired through training. There are several programs that can be bought to do so. I couldn't begin to tell you where to find them seeing as how i don't need them but if you want them i guess its worth the search
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Daniel on 2000-08-02
Someone who knows a good program to train that perfect pitch? I tried a test-version of Auralia, but its very bad.
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by William James on 2000-08-10
I can play Chords and read notes but I don't know how to start to play by ear. CAn you give me some ideas? thank you.
There are 3 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Unknown on 2000-08-13
Ive been playing for about 3 years now.Ive learned the major and minor scales and like to improvise.I dont believe in doing covers and dont really persue them. I want to ask that is it really important to know the covers really well?
There are 1 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by mark on 2000-08-30
why is it that some songs i can play from ear straight away and others i have absolutely no idea about?
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Question posted by sticky fingers on 2000-09-24
i was curious as to some songs that i could start on tabbing by ear. start on some easy ones and work up.
There are 3 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by jason on 2000-11-12
i want to learn to play lead guitar but i dont know how to start. How do i start and what do i do??
There are 4 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by don juan on 2001-02-18
can anybody show me some blues licks?
There are 5 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by monty on 2001-04-08
i`ve been playing guitar 4 about 10 months now ,i play chords & read tabs &still can`t play by ear even how hard i try....does it normally take so long time or dont i just have chances to learning to..? how long did it took 4 u who can..?
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Question posted by Slimm on 2001-04-15
I play the guitar and write songs. When I play someone elses song I have no problems. But when I try to put music behind my lyrics thats when I run into trouble. I sing my songs how I want them to be sung, but when I try to play some chords I dont know what to play. Does any one know of any books or websites I can check out to help me acomplish this?
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Question posted by dont know yet! on 2001-04-18
duh, im dumb.i need to take a crappppp!
There are 1 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Aaron on 2001-08-06
What is the relation between knowledge of intervals (Perfect Interval) and Perfect Pitch? Are they related? Does one have to be learned before the other? Is one more important?
There are 1 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Tom on 2001-09-23
i have been playing for 4 years now and i play about 6-8 hours a day. im pretty much ok with things except how blues scales are formed. what is the blues scale made up of?
There are 2 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Beef Eater on 2001-11-05
I just cut the rottenest fart I have ever smelled. It was silent but deadly. My problem is that it appeared to have lumps in it. Is this something to be concerned about ?
There are 3 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by ranaloco on 2001-12-20
Dude if you all want perfect pitch and relative pitch go to www.eartraining.com Here is an overview. Perfect Pitch is being able to recognize any note. Relative Pitch is being able to recognize any chord and knowing the intervals.
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Question posted by GREG on 2002-01-21
YEAH UH I HAVE A BAND ITS ME (RHTHM) AND MY FRIEND (LEAD) BUT HES A NEGRO AND WE CANT JAM TOGETHER WE ALWAYS FIGHT WHY?
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Question posted by brenna on 2002-06-26
just kidding
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by please help me on 2002-08-19
i cant find the the tab / lyrics to the song where are you going bye davematthewsband if anyone nos where to get them please tell me thanx
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa on 2003-04-21
How du u play the song one voice by billy gillman What r the chords for it
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by scott windham on 2003-05-06
i have a very tough time getting trying to play a song all the way through,i make one mistake i get fed up with it-i try to remember what i learned the night before but i still get really tired of trying am i trying to hard or im not trying hard enough????????
There are 2 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Rubina Imastall on 2004-06-02
What colour curtains do u have at home? What type of fridge do you have? What colour is your linen press?
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Rubina Imastall on 2004-06-02
What colour curtains do u have at home? What type of fridge do you have? What colour is your linen press?
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Christopher Wilson on 2004-12-21
How do you know what chords go with what scales as there is countlees scales and even more countless chords and different variations of each chord. Please help.
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Susan on 2004-12-23
Does anyone have the chords and notes to the christmas song Do You Hear What I Hear Thanks, Susan
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by belsha on 2005-06-19
i read all of ur comments i find nuthin but the truth in u could u kindly give me some example how to apply modes n effective scales sorta al di meola thank
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Ramond on 2005-09-09
how come so many weiners waste time with stupid questions like why am i a weiner any way were can i find rich kids on lsd tabs
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