Teaching another guitarist abt developing a "good ear"?


How would those of you (especially electric guitarists who consider yourself as having a good ear for music/guitar playing) attempt to impart this skill/know-how to other guitarists?

Please assume that music theory ability (knowledge of scales, arpeggios, chords, notes, etc.) is low for both the teacher and the students.

What would be some good ways of bringing this across to the students and helping them develop a more keen ear?

What are you trying to accomplish? For them to be able to hear the chord changes and their relationship (1 to the 4, 5 back to the 1, 1 to the 3 minor, etc) so they can figure out songs themselves? Or something else?



I think the first thing you need to do is establish WHY it's important to have a keen ear.

Some people, when learning, simply don't put in much effort learning something they don't see as important (gone are the days when students sat at the feet of the master unquestioningly doing everything they say!).

Once that's done, the HOW is slow and steady work. You turn your back and play a note and have the student match it on their instrument.

You do single notes for a while.

Then you do pairs of notes.

It would help to have them sing/hum the notes as well - it's a way of internalizing the sounds and "holding them in your head" when other stuff is happening.

Then move to familiar melodies - if they already know it, have them try to work it out by ear - one phrase, or one note at a time.

BTW, Music Theory is INVALUABLE because it cuts down a HUGE amount of trial and error time. Instead of hunting around for notes, once someone understands, for example, the patterns of chords in a key, they're more likely to try those things first (especially if they recognize the sound) than a bunch of random stuff.

The more you know, you know.



Supporting Member
Yep, important stuff. I put on a bunch of different cds, and using the high E string, have students find the key of the tune on that string. We do this a bunch until they start hearing it and can find keys quickly.

Major and minor scale theory and use help establish your ear, as does chord progression analysis of tunes, as pointed out above.

Interval training is a big deal, and I bought a cd series from Rich Severson a few years back called, Theory for the Road. It runs you through interval and triad training while driving or whenever. Good stuff. Once you have it in your ear, finding it and practicing it on the fretboard is where the payoff comes in. Doesn't take long these days to figure out tunes/licks, etc. Well, not as long as it used to.



Have them listen to real fine slow music. Saxophone playing (for me it's Coleman Hawkins' very slow standards, hard to find), extremely tasteful and economical guitar playing (Knopfler, perhaps) and real rootsy stuff (I like Seasick Steve and Tarbox Ramblers for raw, weird, rhythmic stuff -- that's the basis of the song). Moody, intense stuff (EC/Beano/Have You Heard or EC Groaning the Blues), whatever else cuts to the bone. What do I know?

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