Improving ear tips?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by TroyHamilton, Jan 29, 2008.

  1. TroyHamilton

    TroyHamilton Supporting Member

    Nov 24, 2006
    Columbus, OH
    Anyone struggle with or have tips to improve your ear? I've gone through so many faces of technique/theory understanding - from metal/shred wannnabe to eric johnson wannabe to wannabe blues guy to edge wannabe on my trek to become a real player. the one thing that has always held true is i could teach myself the theory or technique, but also struggled with doing anything by ear - badly.

    i want to simplify right now, develop my own style - but most importantly, get to the point where my playing is tied to a piece of paper or memory.

    i really appreciate any input/insight.
  2. Gene

    Gene Member

    Jun 22, 2007
    New York City
    I have had many students with different levels of musical hearing. This is a vast subject which overlaps into human genetics as well.

    I don't know what level your ear is so it is hard to recommend where to start.

    Can you hear a pitch in your vocal range and sing it back quickly? Can you transcribe simple melodies? How about chords? Can you hear a pop tune 1 time and play it back? Can you play a tonic center and sing any tone by function by first prehearing it in your mind?
  3. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    we eat a lot of cheese and drink a lot of beer
    I'm not sure what that highlighted part means.

    But as far as ear training it's just like theory- a lot of it is how your organize things. You have relative pitch which means you learn to tell what notes are by the difference between them. That's essentially an interval. What I mean is, when I hear a song I might not now the key or what the first chord is, but I can hear that the second chord is a 4th up from the first one. Does that makes sense?

    When learning intervals it's good to do two at a time. Most easy is going to be 3rds- major vs minor. It should be easy to hear the difference between a major 3rd and a b3rd. Next would be 7th- a major 7th vs a dominant 7th. Next I'd recommend 5th and 4ths.

    There's different ways to do this, and you can do it with chords or single notes. One thing I'd recommend is to turn on your radio to an oldies station, and go through the tunes. But before you start playing, just listen and try and hear the distance between the chords. Most often the first chord will be the root- try and hear what the next chord is from the root. Then the chord after that. When you think you have an idea of what it is, then grab your instrument and see if you're right. Do the same thing without your radio- just thing of songs you've heard a million times. Figuring out the vocal melodies in the same way is another good exercise.
  4. sweepsrost

    sweepsrost Member

    Jan 15, 2008
    I can relate to you. The best thing you can do is start with simple tunes and figure out the chords by ear. Some good stuff is the Rolling Stones. They have great strong songwriting basics you can learn from and develop your ear. From that go on to lead licks and so on. Its the one thing that has helped me tune my ear and just hear where the music is going. Music is a audible art form and yet we as players rely on seeing tab all the time. I found it only cheats myself and I stay stuck in the same plateau. Use the tab to check your answers later or if you are really stuck. Also use Quicktime Pro to slow down passages that confuse you.
    That has helped me alot to figure out things and better train my ear. Granted I cant call out an F# but those 100 dollar programs didnt help me with that either.
  5. Kappy

    Kappy Member

    Jan 26, 2005
    West Village, NYC
    Transcribing lots helps. Do other exercises like playing and singing intervals (and naming the intervals/notes while you do it). Also, start doing exercises like playing a diad of two completely randomly selected notes and trying to sing the interval from low to high and from high to low (easiest on a piano, but you can do it on a guitar too). When that gets easy, do the same thing with 3, 4, 5, etc.

    Good luck!

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