Playing by Ear for Beginning Guitarists
By Darrin Koltow
In this article you'll learn to play
simple melodies by ear. There's a lot of mystique surrounding this ability, but
almost anyone can learn how to do it, just as most everyone can learn how to
speak. You want to know at least one pattern for playing the major scale before
you start in. Check out the free Playing Guitar ebook on
www.MaximumMusician.com, or an article from WholeNote.com to get this under your
belt. The only other thing you need is a desire to
First of all, you may want to know how playing by ear
helps you. What's the purpose of playing by ear? First and foremost, it just
feels good when you can hear a piece of music and play it back. You feel like
you are truly connecting with Music itself, and that time slips away. Also,
playing by ear helps you correct mistakes and memory problems when you go to
play a tune. For example, after playing through a new song a couple of times,
your hands might not feel they totally understand the song. But your "ear"
may understand it perfectly. When that happens, your playing smooths out the
hitches and hesitations your hand has.
Those are just some of the reasons to play by ear.
Now, let's figure out what to play. Chances are, you know dozens and
dozens of songs already. You know pop tunes from the radio and TV. You know
nursery rhymes, and maybe some hymns from church or the synagogue. And you
likely also know some tunes for certain holidays. Christmas songs are especially
good for learning how to play by ear, because so many people know them so well.
I want you to have the freedom to choose any song you want, but I also want to
ensure you choose a song with an easy melody. For that reason, I recommend you
choose one of the following Christmas songs:
Also, Amazing Grace
This list will give you a good start with some simple
melodies. Choose one of the songs, and let's learn to play it by
There's a long version and short version to explain
how to pick out the melody. I recommend starting with the short version first.
It's lacking in the details of how to find the melody, but your determination
will supply you with those details. The longer version is the same basic
procedure, but contains more detail. If you have a hard time following either
version, consult the resources listed at the end of this section.
Locate the note on the fretboard: string 2, fret 6. Note is F. This is the root.
Find a major scale pattern that has a root note in the same place as the note you just found: string 2, fret 6 (F).
There are some variations and details on this process
that may make things easier for you. Instead of working backward through the
notes, you can work forward through the notes, one after the other. Also, you
want to constantly be using your voice to test the notes you find. It's much
easier to play by ear when you sing as well as listen. Last, constant repetition
of the notes you learn is important. Play what you know over and
Playing by ear not only makes you a better musician,
it's also just plain, good fun. Make a list of melodies you want to learn to
play by ear, and work through this list. Write down how long it takes you to
learn each melody. You'll see how this time decreases with each tune. Before
long, you may want to branch out into figuring out chords for the melody. Each
step you take in playing by ear makes you a more complete musician, and builds
your sense of fulfillment.
Figuring out songs by ear, by Ron Lukiv. http://web.cuug.ab.ca/~lukivr/Ear.html
Did you enjoy this article? It came from the free ebook Playing Guitar: a Beginner's Guide, which you can download here.