Learning a song by ear.


Friend of Leo's
Feb 13, 2007
Charlotte, NC
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 is all pretty much how I work. But you have to commite the song to memory before you attempt to play it. Do it in short pieces, particularly the solos, and you get through it eventually. Work at your own speed, don't rush through the process.


Poster Extraordinaire
Gold Supporter
Sep 6, 2010
Somewhere between here and there
Play along, as many times as you need to. You'll pick up bits and pieces, which will repeat throughout if it's a normally arranged song.

After figuring this part, and that part, and that other part out, you'll likely be able to stitch them together and BOOM! - you'll know the song.

- D


Mar 29, 2013
East Sussex, UK
Brian Kelly has a good video on how to learn songs by ear that will get you pretty close. I'm mostly learning the bass parts by ear for early 60s Garage tunes, which is easier than figuring out the guitar parts, but have to do that sometimes when the bass is so buried in the mix I have to come up with my own bass line that fits. I then need to know what key the song is in and what chords are being played.


chris m.

Doctor of Teleocity
Mar 25, 2003
Santa Barbara, California
Here's a YouTube video where you can see everything that is going on. It's not a matter of being able to hear it or see it: it's a matter
of extreme woodshedding to actually be able to play it!

As another example I played in a band that played Mike Stern's Tipatina's, and
I spent a ton of time getting all those licks under my fingers. Charting it out was in a way the easy part! Although in the case of Tipatina's I figured it
out from audio only-- but I recorded it to a DAW and slowed it down a ton as needed to hear each individual note so I could chart it all out on TAB and
work on it for I would say at least 8 hours of dedicated practice. Let's say 4-6 hours to figure it out and chart it, 8 to 12 hours or so to be able to play it.
(Just the head-- I didn't bother learning his solo note for note, although I did cop a few of the cool licks.)


old soul

Nov 11, 2015
terra firma
I was shown to noodle on the low E til you find a match, and if you can nail down the key, then the other chords in that progression fall into place (usually). If you get the key figured out, often there's only so many other chords that fit. It does take time, and some artists tune a little off, so that can throw a wrench into the works. Just keep at it, and build on what you can.

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