Learning a song by ear.

RobRiggs

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I reached a point, after playing for a while, that (in standard tuning) I could tell individual notes and many chords played anywhere on the neck. Just exposure and lots of playing I guess. I can’t do that now because my hearing is going. Thank goodness for YouTube :)
 

Quexoz

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What about those tabs! I swear I've never seen one that was correct. Some are so far off I can't even tell what I'm supposed to be playing.
 

blue metalflake

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I came from a time without YouTube, tab mustn’t have been invented, & I had no formal musical education apart from doh, ray, mee.
It was learn by ear or nothing - no idea how I ever got anywhere.
Practice, lots of time, patience, ask anyone you can for help.
 

pbenn

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One thing that helps is listening for a chord with an open string root, and then deciding if there is a tuning variance from A440 in the record... or if they are using a capo.
 

Old Deaf Roadie

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Almost every song worth covering has a YouTube instructional video. There are a number of TAB & chord sites to help, as well. Many of us gave up the listen method of learning songs with the advent of the interwebs becoming so populated with instructional vids
 

Telecaster88

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If the song's on YouTube, you can click the little gear button and slow down the playback speed, while keeping the song in its original key. Then I just jam along with it until I pick out the chords. As a person with no formal training, it's a great education.
 

sax4blues

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I was listening to a top studio/tour pro talk about meeting an original artist who told him he was playing a certain song phrase incorrectly, then showed the original way.

In a later interview the studio pro was recounting the above interaction with another top player and this guy says who cares, everybody plays it the way you know.
 

gkterry

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One word: Transcribe
The software from seventhstring.com that makes it much easier. For a paltry $39 you can have the best aid to learning songs available. Used & endorsed by Pete Thorn. I have found it invaluable. No affiliation other than a very happy customer.
 

SixStringSlinger

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When trying to learn something by ear I usually start my noodling over it in major and minor pentatonics until I find a match, which tells me the key. Anything can still happen from there but finding the key tends to narrow things down a lot.

Knowing the key, I try to figure out anything else that stands out. Riffs, solos, fills, vocal melodies, bass lines. Pretty much anything that's not a whole chord is a lot easier to figure out by ear and is also a clue to whatever the full chord is.

It does get easier with time and practice since it not only trains your ear, but also certain kinds of music tend to lean on certain key and progressions. Buying a tab book/looking up tabs can also be helpful here in helping establish common patterns. Even if whatever you're learning doesn't quite follow a pattern, finding what common pattern it seems mostly based on but also deviates from can be a step toward figuring it out. It's like a mystery with clues.

A neat trick can be to find a fake book for whatever you want to learn, which is just the lyrics with chord changes on top and maybe a transcribed melody line. Use that information to work out the riffs, fills etc. for yourself. It's the reverse of using fills etc. to work out chords and can be helpful when you eventually turn it around.
 

chris m.

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When using YouTube videos or various published TABS and chord charts, you still need to have a least a good enough ear to hear when they are steering you right or wrong.
 

beninma

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I'm working on this all the time and suck too but I am making progress.. I take lessons too though and am always getting tips to help.

What I have been doing this week on a song:

1) Get the recording
2) Figure out the key (probably from the bass)
3) Chart out the notes & chords in that key (cause I can't just instantly know/recall them)
4) Start listening, and try chords from the key as you strum along, write each one down as you get it right. If it's hard it helps to just try and play the root note in the chord
5) Once you have some sections you know you've got the chords correct now break the song apart into it's pieces in a DAW or editor
6) For the lead parts just loop the one section you're working on
7) Depends on who wrote the song but look for notes in the scales that match the key and/or chords, or also look for notes around the chord in the progression in the passage
8) Start trying things and going back and forth till you figure it out
 

Midgetje94

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What about those tabs! I swear I've never seen one that was correct. Some are so far off I can't even tell what I'm supposed to be playing.

I use ultimate guitar for most of it. And usually have good luck
 

Toto'sDad

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First you gotta start off with the right kind of ears.

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schmee

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yer spoiled. :rolleyes::lol:It was even worse back in the day when you had to lift the needle off the record every few seconds to learn the music or to write down the lyrics!
 

Quexoz

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I've been "figuring this one out" for 40 years. Still can't get it quite right.

 

Nogoodnamesleft

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Start by paying attention to what the Bass is doing. In many songs the Bass is sticking pretty close to the root note of whatever chord is needed.

For the most part I'm self taught pretty much by listening and repeating.
This was going to be my advice too. Sometimes a riff is pretty easy to figure out, but observing the bassline is often the place to start.

I've been learning songs by ear since I was a teenager that way. In many cases (at least back then) charts were not accurate in the least. Phrasing and little noodley bits were best figured out by ear.

In a couple of cases I've had to look up what the tuning used was. For example, "You Will Be Found" from the Hamilton soundtrack had enough suspended notes in certain parts there was no way that was done in standard tuning.
 

oregomike

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I’m horrible at it. But several songs I like don’t have tabs or chords. I’m slowly learning and getting better. But do any of y’all have any tips, tricks, or ways you do it?

Repetition, as already mentioned. But you tube does allow you to slow the playback speed (last time I checked about a year ago). That might help.
 

ndcaster

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One word: Transcribe
The software from seventhstring.com that makes it much easier. For a paltry $39 you can have the best aid to learning songs available. Used & endorsed by Pete Thorn. I have found it invaluable. No affiliation other than a very happy customer.
Seconded. I've been a loyal user for over a decade.

A steady diet of transcripton will sort you out.

Start with old country tunes.

Get familiar with a capo, which is a great teaching tool.
 




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