Learning a song by ear.

Miff

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I’d say start by listening to the whole song several times and get familiar with the structure e.g. how many bars in each verse, chorus, any odd bits etc.

I used to map this out on paper but these days I use Excel - 1 cell for each bar. Get the lyrics off the web and paste them in Column A, then the chords in the cells to the right.

As you listen through the song see if you can identify a chord (or two) and start filling in your chart. To begin with don’t worry about the gaps, but stop and review as often as you need to. A few times around the song and your chart will begin to fill up. Once you’ve found a chord ask yourself “where else is this used in the song?” - listen out for it and fill them in.

As well as the bass line, the melody line will often contain chord tones. It’s a skill you’ll need to develop in listening to one bar of music and identifying the chord tones, maybe from several different instruments or voices. If there’s a chord-change within that bar it’s a bit harder :) but you’ll start to get used to it. Good luck!
 

billy logan

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+1 to PhredE's chords

lemme add that:
as the bass (and the chords) go up stepping up- Gb, Ab, Bb minor -there's a 3 note downward little line on top-

individual notes now: over the Gb, a Db note.
.............................. over the Ab, a C natural note.
..............................over the Bb minor, a Bb note

In other words, the downward line's notes are chord-degree notes of the underlying chord, ( =belong in that chord)

[optional verbiage:]
Db is the SO (do re mi fa SO) note of the underlying Gb. In more unnecessarily words, lol, Db note is the 5th of Gb chord
C natural is the MI (do re MI) of its underlying chord, the Ab. Likewise C natural is the 3rd of the Ab chord.
Bb is the DO (DO re mi) of Bb. Likewise, et cetera. I guess you'd call it??? The "one" idk the tonic? idk. the name-note of the dang chord.

Hope you ignored that paragraph.

But once you got "Broken Promised Land" down, you're 90% of the way to Hendrix "All Along the Watchtower" which the lead guitar does sound like at the end of their solo.

A very very slow version of Gb, Ab, Bminor ends the verse of the TV show "House"'s theme song. Mebbe it's Gb Ab B MAJOR. idk.

Whatever the key, the bass and chords go up by full-steps.

btw B.P.L. - Good song w/VERY lively playing ime

edit to add about copping a melody (which nobody asked haha): Bugle calls. Bugle calls is pretty much arpeggio of a major chord. then. the N...B...C chimes behind their logo NBC peacock? SO high-MI DO. then the first 2 words of The Stylistics' "You Make Me Feel Brand New" sing: SO - high-MI... "my - love"

Melody got you stumped? sing the note you can't place, but see if you can resolve it to an ending note. That's your tonic keynote. Probably. See if it fits La Ti Do. #&!% now y'all can see from how far back I started :(
 
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chulaivet1966

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I’d lift and drop the needle over and over to save the 75 cents for sheet music.

Ha....yep.....countless hours doing that chore. :)

During my big learning/listening curve (70's & 80's) I bought the song books to get the songs I liked and wanted to learn.
I still have all of them and they are noticeably frayed.

Personally....I'm a rhythm player/song writer and couldn't care less about learning lead lines on any song.
I care about learning the chords/arrangement.

Of course, I've long known that they are not always as accurate as we'd like but it gets on on the path to dig in and learn with whatever sources are available.....other than the song books and maybe finding sheet music at a music store there was not a hell of a lot sources available at that time.

If I don't have the song book it's sheetmusicplus.com for me....I give them 4 buckaroos and I'm off and running.
I always do cover songs as intended even if I can't sing in the original key.
(I have a about a 3 semi-tone vocal range :) )

Back to it....
 

Telecasterless

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It's kind of like learning a foreign language. The more you work at it, the easier it becomes and you start to get pretty good. If you stop for awhile, you lose some of what you were getting good at. At least that's how it is for me. There was a period where I was ear learning most of my songs entirely and I realized how "easy" it came to me. I haven't been playing much lately and I haven't been learning new music, so now when I try a song or two it's a little harder.

One other method, and I'm sure others do this as well, is to just try and learn it from memory or humming it. I learned an Elliot Easton solo just from singing it to myself. Was it accurate, not at all, but then you can listen to it and clean it up. Sometimes you find you are a half step off or something, but I think it's fun to learn that way. And maybe because I am lazy.
 

Gimble

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You've got a HUGE tool at your disposal that we never had in the "old days"......Youtube. When I began playing guitar (over 55 years ago) we didn't always have printed music or the record to learn from, so you had to get good at learning by ear. When I got to college, as a Music Major, I found I had an advantage over many fellow students, who had only experienced formal training. A principle course for four semesters was Ear Training, which included musical dictation. The instructor would play something, and we had to notate it....much easier if you were "practiced" in learning by ear.
But back to Youtube.....when I want to learn something new today, I sit down in front of my computer, with a guitar, and play a video while "piddling" and figuring it out. It gets easier every time you do it....just be patient. ;)

And you can slow playback speed without varying pitch!
 

JL_LI

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[QUOTE="chulaivet1966, post: 11097273, member: 77742"

I always do cover songs as intended even if I can't sing in the original key.
(I have a about a 3 semi-tone vocal range :) )

Back to it....[/QUOTE]
Our approach is different. I don’t cover a song the way it was originally recorded. That’s impossible with one guitar and a just good enough voice. I download lyrics and chords and hope the chords are at least close. Then the fun begins. I find a key that works for my voice and finger style guitar. I don’t transpose. I number the chords, i for root, ii for the second step, iii or -iii etc. Then I can use the sheet for any key. I learn a verse and chorus and construct a finger style intro. I learn the bridge if there is one and start on a solo. I learn the rest of the verses and construct an outro. The chords are just a starting point. Sometimes I’ll add notes from vocal harmonies to chords. Sometimes I use substitutions.

I stop listening to the original shortly after I start unless there’s something I want to be sure is present from it in my version. There have been times when I play the original after finishing my rendition and I don’t like it as much anymore. That tells me I’ve made the song my own.

I leave the song for a week or two and come back to it. There are invariably changes to be made. The process is laborious and inefficient but I don’t care. It works for me.
 
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tattypicker

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Listening is hard. Make it easier with an app to slow down what you’re listening to, or play a loop over and over. If it will let you isolate part of the mix, that helps too.
 

Happy Enchilada

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Been doing it since I was a kid. Nowadays when you want to hear something again, you just hit "Pause," no more moving the arm on the record player. Ah, technology!

I've gotten so I can hear most chord changes in my head and over time that helps me "fake it."
 

breadfreak

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Two tips:

Install an app to slow the music down. This allows you to listen out for each individual note and build the chord from there, rather than trying to recognise the whole chord as one thing or worrying about the key or progression. Plus, when you listen for each note, you're finding the right voicing too, which can be very instructive.

Write the chords down in numbers as well as letters. That way you'll understand the relationships between the chords and the roles they play, and after a few songs you'll start to see patterns repeating themselves and get a better feel for where the song is going — no matter what key it's in.

Good luck! It's good fun. It's the only way I ever approach learning a song... you get intimate with it.
 

chris m.

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Listen to the bass. Learn how to instantly hear major, major 7, minor, dominant 7, diminished. Playing them on piano and listening a lot helps. Over time learn how to instantly hear classic guitar chords like Hendrix E7#9.

For weird chords, weird inversions, weird tunings….YouTube can often save your bacon.
 

Quexoz

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Do, do, DO, doing....nope.
Do, do, DO, dwang....nope.
Do, do, DO, donk....nope.
Do, do, DO, dah....yep.
Do, do, DO, dah, dub....nope.
Do, do, DO, dah, dung....nope.
One week later...
I got the first riff down!

...at the end, you know this friggin' song.
 

StoneH

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It's a small chance, but a song you want to learn could be an alternate tuning, tuned a step or two down, or capo'd up.
 

Digital Larry

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I can't recall what it is but I once used a website that would analyze YouTube videos and tell you what the chords were. I think you may have to take it from there, as it may not be 100% but the stuff I tried (some surf tunes) seemed to come through acceptably.

As far as REALLY learning by ear, hard to say. I figured out some chord progressions to some fiddle tunes that way but it helps that there are only a few options in that genre. e.g. I IV V and maybe a relative minor which is easy to hear. Shall we say 85% of the time that's what is going on.

Blues, not all of them are exactly the same but close enough. Then in country you can introduce the II chord for excitement. I guess what I'm getting at is that lots of songs follow fairly predictable patterns.
 

FuncleManson

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I'm pretty good at picking up melodies. No real trick. Just years of playing. Figuring out chords is much more difficult for me. I guess that's just the way I hear things.
 

David C

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Back in the 60s and 70s, we had records and we lifted the needle up and put it back close to where we thought we should be in the song. Then we matched the chords at that place. Repeat, Repeat, repeat, repeat until the record wore out. Somewhere along the way, the song would fall out.

Today, we have YouTube, which to me is the greatest way to advance in many ways. Youtube makes the large number of alternative tunings that are used in many of these songs crystal clear.

I suggest YouTube instead of doing it the way we used to do it.
 

Telecastoff1

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I never actually analyzed it until now. I began playing guitar when I was very young (eight years old). My guitar teacher told my Mom she was wasting her money ($2.50 per half-hour lesson in 1960) and into my third lesson, told me not to come back. He said I wasn't disciplined enough to learn guitar. He wanted me to learn to read notes and play from sheet music. Instead, I learned from ear and presented myself to him that way. I guess I was just lucky and gifted to be able to hear a song and play it. I had my first gigging Country band three years later, when I turned 11 years old. I've been able to learn songs that way, quickly, ever since. Just hear it a time or two and play it. I have no idea where it comes from....it's just "there". Getting kicked out of guitar lessons at such an early age motivated the hell out of me to learn and do what my old guitar teacher said was impossible for me to accomplish. Playing the bars at such an early age exposed me to much older and better players than me, and a few of them were more than happy to show this curious young kid what they knew. I still practice and enjoy playing every day and strive to learn a new old song every week.
 
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