4 Effective Tactics For Beginners To Improve Your Ears For Guitar Playing
Benefits of having a good “ear” for playing the guitar:
Lots of guitar players forget to work on their ears when they learn to play the guitar. What happens is that when they get good technically, they still lack the ability to “ear”, to help them take their guitar playing to the next level.
Without a strong ear, many guitar players feel like they aren’t talented and feel unconfident playing with other people.
Wouldn’t it be cool if you can remember a song and start playing it on the guitar? Or listen to one of your favourite songs and start playing the chords along with it? Or perhaps even improvise along to a friend who starts jamming out some rhythm parts.
Having a good “ear” will help you do all these things. It is a long-term training strategy that had lots of benefits. If you keep at it, your earing will definitely improve!
Relative and Perfect Pitch
Lots of people don’t realise that ear training is something that can be trained! You don’t have to be naturally gifted to be able to be good at “relative” pitch.
A quick note for anyone who doesn’t know. Relative pitch is where you can tell what a note is when compared to another one. Perfect pitch is when you can tell what a note is by just hearing it by itself.
Perfect pitch is useful, but having relative pitch. Which is something that is very trainable and you can have to help your guitar playing. Is super useful by itself. And it will still make you a much better guitar player and even make you appear very impressive to other people. Making your guitar playing life a lot easier.
What ways are there to improve your ears?
Take time to play by ear rather than read tab
Whenever you learn a new song. Don’t always go straight to the internet and find the tab. Try to figure out the song by yourself! You can write down what you figure out onto paper yourself and create your own tab! This is called transcribing.
When you first start, it may seem really difficult. Keep your guitar next to you so that you can play out the notes to check they are correct. Stick to figuring out simple melodies that are easy first. Such as nursery rhythms or seasonal holiday songs.
Then you can move on to guitar music, and figure out phrasing elements in the melody as well.
When you go on to figuring out chords, try to listen out for if the chords sound happy or sad first to work out if they are major or minor chords.
It will be a bit harder and take more work to figure out chord progressions. But once you work out how to identify how chord progressions sound. It’s really useful for learning songs really fast. And being able to play along to popular music.
If you are figuring out a piece of guitar music and find it too fast. Instead of using transcription programs. You can use VLC player to slow down the piece to help you work out what’s happening.
The more you practise, the easier and faster it will be to work out how the notes relate to each other. You will start to notice sequences or how the notes fit inside the key. Repeating patterns in the song. To speed up the process.
Singing Out Loud Your Own Melody
Instead of working out songs that already exist. You can try making up your own melodies! Start by singing out your own
melodies. And then work out what it is on the guitar.
You can get inspiration for your melodies by singing along to a backing track.
Once you get comfortable playing it while singing out loud, you can try playing it directly from what’s in your head.
Think of a melody. Then play it straight onto the guitar.
Keep it simple and short, to begin with. And then increase the difficulty.
This exercise will really help your improvisation in the long term by improving your ability to play melodic phrases. Rather than playing mechanically.
Practise Singing Different Intervals
An interval is a difference between two notes. You can practise either writing down a list of intervals and then try to sing them from a root note.
Or you can sing random two notes and then guess what the interval is. And use your guitar to check if you got it correct.
Alternatively, there are apps that will play out two notes that you can use to test yourself.
This is similar to transcribing music but is a more precise way of practising to get faster progress. The more you do it, the quicker it will be.
Listen to music you that like and play along
This will be a great exercise to simulate what it’s like when you jam with your friends. Listen to music that you like and play along as much as possible.
Working out the key of the song
Trying to play along with the melody of the song
Work out what the chord progression is and play along
You want to be able to join in with the song by playing along. So when your friends play a series of chords, you can play along.
The more you practise doing these exercises, the easier it will be to play the guitar by ear. And make you seem more impressive, and also make playing the guitar seem more effortless.
Consistency is key, so practise a little every day.
About author and guitar school London, England:
Darryl Powis is a guitar school owner as well as a coach and mentor to local guitar students. Helping many students to improve their guitar playing, whether it’s through electric or acoustic guitar lessons.