Best tool for learing stuff by ear?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by cg, Jan 8, 2008.


  1. cg

    cg Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    5,663
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Location:
    St Paul, MN
    I'd like to develop my ability to learn stuff by ear. What's the best tool/software package to use? I'd like to ability to slow sections down but retain pitch, repeat certain sections of songs (phrases, solos, etc).
     
  2. shadowbox

    shadowbox Supporting Member

    Messages:
    548
    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2007
    Location:
    The wild blue yonder....
  3. JohnM

    JohnM Member

    Messages:
    686
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2008
    Location:
    Virginia
    Honestly, one of the best tools is a good old fashioned tape recorder.

    Just about everything I learned by ear was done the following way:

    Press play on tape player
    Listen to lick
    Immediately stop tape player
    While still fresh in mind, figure out lick.
    Quickly rewind tape player, re-listen to lick.
    repeat as needed.

    I am quite serious...that always worked better for me than CD players.
    The KEY is stopping the tape right after the lick.

    I know, now there is software that loops and repeats sections, etc... but..

    When CD's became the defacto medium, and students brought me CD's instead of tapes, I hated having to screw with CD player controls trying to pause and slightly (1 or 2 seconds) rewind the CD. They never work very well and half the time it would start back at the beginning of the song, :messedup

    Ok, sorry such a long rant, but that simple technique took me through the AlDimeola/Yngwie/PaulGilbert/Vinnie Moore 80's and into the "what_the_heck_is_gambale_playing" era.

    Give it a shot!
     
  4. gainiac

    gainiac Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,147
    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2004
    Location:
    Da Bronx
    That's exactly why a teacher I had many years ago had a CD player where you could loop a section. the beauty being that if you did the punch in/out correct you had a loop that made rhythmic sense and you could just listen to the phrase over and over again, makes transcribing a great deal easier!
     
  5. spencerbk

    spencerbk Member

    Messages:
    532
    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2004
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Many fans of Transcribe on this board

    http://www.seventhstring.com/

    I haven't used anything else to compare, but I'm very satisfied with what I have.
     
  6. ducmike

    ducmike Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,662
    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2004
    Location:
    Van Alstyne, TX
    I like Amazing slowdowner. Very simple to use. I had the tascam cdgt1 portable unit also, but the amazing slowdowner is easier for setting up loops. Which is what I mainly do to learn a lick or riff.

    Spencerbk, transcribe looks interesting. is it fairly accurate with the finding a pitch? That is the main reason I ever slow anything down is when I struggle hearing a certain pitch.
     
  7. sixty-four

    sixty-four Member

    Messages:
    144
    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2005
    Were you able to snag those guys licks at normal speed with the tape player? I'm asking because I did the same thing a long time ago but I had one of those Marantz recorders with the 1/2 speed switch and fine-tune pitch control. It was GREAT for learning stuff from tape but I honestly couldn't hear what was going on with the more complicated licks at full speed.

    Judging by the clips on your site, it doesn't sound like you had much problems with that. Good stuff, man!
     
  8. JohnM

    JohnM Member

    Messages:
    686
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2008
    Location:
    Virginia
    Ooooh yes I did have trouble!! lol
    Thanks for the kind words...but really I spent many a night hitting play-rewind-play-rewind-play-rewind...

    If you really want to get retro, do you remember pressing something against the turntable edge to slow it down? ;)
     
  9. sixty-four

    sixty-four Member

    Messages:
    144
    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2005
    Haha...no I grew up with cassettes and not vinyl. But I have read interviews where guys did that (EVH learning Clapton's crossroads maybe?...not sure). I can't imagine fighting both the inaccurate pitch of the randomly slowed down turntable and all the needle lifting and dropping.

    It's funny - with all the transcription tools available today, I did so much more with that tired old Marantz than I ever did since. I still have it somewhere in the garage but it barely works anymore.

    It sounds like you have a great memory for music. I have a friend like that - he can hear something a couple times at full speed and it's almost like he slows it down in his brain while he figures it out note-by-note. I've got a pretty small buffer up there for that stuff and it doesn't seem to stick around as long. So I gotta take it in slower and in smaller bits to figure out stuff.
     
  10. jzucker

    jzucker Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    20,141
    Joined:
    May 20, 2003
    Location:
    Home of the ex-world champion Cavs

    Can't agree there. Roni's slowdowner is good but Seventh String Software's transcribe is even better. http://www.seventhstring.com/

    John, your music is fantastic.
     
  11. spencerbk

    spencerbk Member

    Messages:
    532
    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2004
    Location:
    New York, NY
    The "frequency analyzer" function is neat - but if you're trying to pick out the guitar line from a recording with a full band playing, the display is going to represent all of the other instruments (including percussion) as well, so it isn't always easy to read. That said, you can loop any one note or phrase that you can grab with a mouse, so you can find your pitches that way.
     
  12. Aj_rocker

    Aj_rocker Member

    Messages:
    1,271
    Joined:
    May 13, 2006
    Location:
    Bath, Uk
    slow it down works for some, but listening and working hard at it works for other.

    Transcribe is the best promgrame i have used as you can mark beats and bar as well as slow things down to 15% while having the same pitch.

    I also like to be able to pull things from the record by ear too. but if i cant hear the notes can i transcribe them!?!?


    AJ
     
  13. Kappy

    Kappy Member

    Messages:
    14,044
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2005
    Location:
    West Village, NYC
    Another, almost daily, Transcribe! user here too.

    The amazing slow downer looked pretty good when I tried it too. They seemed almost comparable. If one has more features you need, get that one. I don't think you'll regret it.
     
  14. jzucker

    jzucker Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    20,141
    Joined:
    May 20, 2003
    Location:
    Home of the ex-world champion Cavs
    One feature that transcribe has that is invaluable is the ability to open video files. It opens up on the audio track of the video. It's fairly trivial to extract an mp3 from the video file and use it in amazing-slow-downer but I find it a cumbersome step when I just want to lift a lick or two.
     
  15. dave s

    dave s Member

    Messages:
    5,805
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2003
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    cg,

    If you can understand material enough to be able to sing (or hum) it, you can transfer that knowledge to the fretboard. This is the way I understand 'learning by ear.'

    To me, this means memorizing musical licks, passages, etc. Recently, I've resorted to looking for tab to help on more difficult stuff that would just take too long to learn in bits and pieces and eventually put together. Something like the guitar solo in Peg by Steeley Dan was an example of having to resort to tab to learn a solo accurately.

    dave
     
  16. jzucker

    jzucker Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    20,141
    Joined:
    May 20, 2003
    Location:
    Home of the ex-world champion Cavs
    Sorry, I'm going to have to say bad advice to use tab. With tools like Transcribe or Slow-Downer, there's no need to do that if you're interested in getting the most out of learning a solo. If you're just doing it for fun and aren't interested in making the most efficient progress tab is ok.

    Do the work yourself because you will pick up many nuances that just cannot be conveyed through tab or standard notation.

     
  17. JohnM

    JohnM Member

    Messages:
    686
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2008
    Location:
    Virginia
    I know, I know...technology rules...:BOUNCE

    I had Transcribe a couple of years ago and I will say one word that convinced me that it was a great program...

    "Holdsworth"
     
  18. Kappy

    Kappy Member

    Messages:
    14,044
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2005
    Location:
    West Village, NYC
    I've made that mistake too (tab and standard notation transcriptions) and I find the accuracy wanting. These are human beings, just like you or I, who transcribe these things using the tools described in this thread. Many times these guys are paid by the transcription, so the faster they are, the more they get paid. Plus, I have no idea what kind of attention to detail some of these guys have. In general, tabs from even the most reputable sources are prone to mistakes and typos. I remember playing the intro to Birds of Fire wrong for years b/c it's incorrectly notated (probably a typo) in the Mahavishnu Song Book. When I was playing it along with the record one day I realized that I had it wrong. At that moment, I vowed never to trust someone else's transcription again.

    I have, however, used them from time to time to compare my own estimation of how things are fingered with how someone else might have guessed. I find that I agree with their interpretations about 50% of the time.

    Anyway, my point is that transcribing, and getting away from relying on tabs, allows you to think for yourself. And there's the added benefit that your ears get bigger as does your knowledge of music/notation.
     

Share This Page