Learning songs by ear


deepiper9
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Joined: 03/10/20
Posts: 61
deepiper9
Full Access
Joined: 03/10/20
Posts: 61
01/12/2023 6:11 am

Not sure if this is the right forum for this, but I am wondering how someone learns to play  a song by ear. I can learn them by following the tablature and following the song lessons here. I have been on GT for almost 3 years. How long does it take to learn this skill? When I have tried before in the past I will listen to the song and learn a bit of it. But when I see it played on a video by the artist, or at a concert, it looks totally different than what I have tried learning and practicing. Thanks


# 1
ChristopherSchlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 8,312
ChristopherSchlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 8,312
01/12/2023 8:14 pm
#1 Originally Posted by: deepiper9

Not sure if this is the right forum for this, but I am wondering how someone learns to play  a song by ear. I can learn them by following the tablature and following the song lessons here. I have been on GT for almost 3 years. How long does it take to learn this skill? When I have tried before in the past I will listen to the song and learn a bit of it. But when I see it played on a video by the artist, or at a concert, it looks totally different than what I have tried learning and practicing. Thanks

Learning songs by ear varies greatly by individual.  But the same things have to happen regardless of the time involved.  You have to learn to pitch match, recognize interval distances, bass note motion, then chords & progressions.


I have tutorials that can help with ear training (aural skills).


Ear Training For Intervals
https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial/2401/

Ear Training For Chords
https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial/2414/


Most guitarists learn songs by ear as a practical consequence of learning a lot of songs, chords, licks.  It's a matter of knowledge & practical experience coming together instead of a consciously focused effort.


You learn one riff, lick, song by a certain artist.  Then you notice that artist continues to use variations on those particular riffs, licks, chords, etc.  Then you notice a similar pattern in songs by similar artists.


When I started playing guitar I learned all the basic open chords, some simple melodies & basic scale patterns, then barre chords.  Just like all beginner guitarists! I started to apply this knowledge to learning some Beatles & Monkees songs.  I learned the chord progressions of some songs with a chord book.  And some by trial & error.  Is it this chord?  No, maybe this one?  Yes! 


I learned a certain song used, for example, a D major chord which I played as a basic open chord.  Then I learned more chord voicings.  I gained more knowledge & playing experience.  Eventually I noticed that some of those songs I previously learned used more complex versions of what I had thought were basic chords.  So it was a higher voiced D major chord, and with an ornamental lick!


This is common path.  You learn the basics, apply them, then learn more & refine your playing as you improve.


Hope that helps!


Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory
# 2
deepiper9
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Joined: 03/10/20
Posts: 61
deepiper9
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Joined: 03/10/20
Posts: 61
01/13/2023 4:20 am
#2 Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

Learning songs by ear varies greatly by individual.  But the same things have to happen regardless of the time involved.  You have to learn to pitch match, recognize interval distances, bass note motion, then chords & progressions.


I have tutorials that can help with ear training (aural skills).


Ear Training For Intervals
https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial/2401/

Ear Training For Chords
https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial/2414/


Most guitarists learn songs by ear as a practical consequence of learning a lot of songs, chords, licks.  It's a matter of knowledge & practical experience coming together instead of a consciously focused effort.


You learn one riff, lick, song by a certain artist.  Then you notice that artist continues to use variations on those particular riffs, licks, chords, etc.  Then you notice a similar pattern in songs by similar artists.


When I started playing guitar I learned all the basic open chords, some simple melodies & basic scale patterns, then barre chords.  Just like all beginner guitarists! I started to apply this knowledge to learning some Beatles & Monkees songs.  I learned the chord progressions of some songs with a chord book.  And some by trial & error.  Is it this chord?  No, maybe this one?  Yes! 


I learned a certain song used, for example, a D major chord which I played as a basic open chord.  Then I learned more chord voicings.  I gained more knowledge & playing experience.  Eventually I noticed that some of those songs I previously learned used more complex versions of what I had thought were basic chords.  So it was a higher voiced D major chord, and with an ornamental lick!


This is common path.  You learn the basics, apply them, then learn more & refine your playing as you improve.


Hope that helps!

Yes! Thank you Chris!  And thank you for the ear training tutorials too! 


edited
# 3
deepiper9
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Joined: 03/10/20
Posts: 61
deepiper9
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Joined: 03/10/20
Posts: 61
01/13/2023 4:23 am

Ok but what about when you have songs by bands or artists that are in different tunings other  than EADGBE? Can they still be played in standard tuning?


# 4
ChristopherSchlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 8,312
ChristopherSchlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 8,312
01/13/2023 2:57 pm
#4 Originally Posted by: deepiper9

Ok but what about when you have songs by bands or artists that are in different tunings other  than EADGBE? Can they still be played in standard tuning?

You're welcome.


Yes, non-standard tunings can make it a little more difficult to figure out.  But it is still the same process of using ear skills & experience to figure it out.  And the more experience you have with alternate tunings, the more familiar you become with them.


Some alternate tuned songs can be played in standard.  It just depends on the specific notes & chord voicings used.  For example, if a song uses a drop D tuning (low E string tuned down), then there's no other way to get that note without tuning down.  Unless you just play a D chord & accept it as a substitute.


Typically alternate tunings are used in order to make certain voicings or lines easier or more musical to play.  Often it is combined with open strings that are retuned.  So, you might be able to play a reasonable facsimile, but not get exactly the same voicings & sound.


Kashmir by Led Zep is a great example of this situation.  I learned it in standard tuning by ear back in the day.  I was able to figure out what I thought was mostly right.  And since there are so many added instruments in the mix it's difficult to hear the isolated guitar.  Then years later I saw it in a guitar magazine with an article on how it used the DADGAD tuning!  I had no idea.  I tried it & it definitely sounded more accurate.  But whenever I played it since (cover bands, jamming with friends) I just use the standard tuning voicings I learned originally because it's easier for me & sounds close enough for my purposes.  But if I played in a LZ cover band, I would have a guitar set up in DADGAD tuning for that tune because it gets exactly the right sound.


Hope that helps!


Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory
# 5
deepiper9
Full Access
Joined: 03/10/20
Posts: 61
deepiper9
Full Access
Joined: 03/10/20
Posts: 61
01/14/2023 3:52 am
#5 Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

You're welcome.


Yes, non-standard tunings can make it a little more difficult to figure out.  But it is still the same process of using ear skills & experience to figure it out.  And the more experience you have with alternate tunings, the more familiar you become with them.


Some alternate tuned songs can be played in standard.  It just depends on the specific notes & chord voicings used.  For example, if a song uses a drop D tuning (low E string tuned down), then there's no other way to get that note without tuning down.  Unless you just play a D chord & accept it as a substitute.


Typically alternate tunings are used in order to make certain voicings or lines easier or more musical to play.  Often it is combined with open strings that are retuned.  So, you might be able to play a reasonable facsimile, but not get exactly the same voicings & sound.


Kashmir by Led Zep is a great example of this situation.  I learned it in standard tuning by ear back in the day.  I was able to figure out what I thought was mostly right.  And since there are so many added instruments in the mix it's difficult to hear the isolated guitar.  Then years later I saw it in a guitar magazine with an article on how it used the DADGAD tuning!  I had no idea.  I tried it & it definitely sounded more accurate.  But whenever I played it since (cover bands, jamming with friends) I just use the standard tuning voicings I learned originally because it's easier for me & sounds close enough for my purposes.  But if I played in a LZ cover band, I would have a guitar set up in DADGAD tuning for that tune because it gets exactly the right sound.


Hope that helps!

Yes thank you again Christopher. I started working on the Intervals tutorials yesterday. 


# 6
ChristopherSchlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 8,312
ChristopherSchlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 8,312
01/14/2023 2:51 pm
#6 Originally Posted by: deepiper9

Yes thank you again Christopher. I started working on the Intervals tutorials yesterday. 

You're welcome!  Best of success with your ear training.


Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory
# 7

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