Learning how to play your musical instrument by ear is a skill that is vital to your development as a musician. While reading music is also a valuable skill, in many forms of music—folk, old-time, bluegrass, rock, Celtic, blues, country, jazz—you are not typically going to have a music stand sitting in front of you at a jam session or stage performance. Also, in these genres of music, it is very likely that a given song that you want to learn will not be available to you in written form and so the only way you will be able to learn the song is if you know how to do it by ear.
If you work to develop your ear, and your “musical memory,” a lot of music that is not available to you now will be accessible. With a well developed ear, the following skills will be easily attainable:
1) You can learn new songs that are not written in standard music notation or tablature.
2) You can learn the songs, licks, riffs, and phrases that you hear on recordings by your favorite musicians.
3) You can create your own arrangements to songs that you already know.
4) You can learn how to improvise.
5) You can take solos on songs that you have never heard before.
6) You can take any musical phrase or melody that you hear in your head and find it on your instrument.
When you are able to develop the confidence to sit down with your instrument and learn any song, any lick or phrase, or any technique on your own, it is very liberating and it will bring a new level of excitement, enjoyment, and fulfillment to your musical life. Training your ear takes less time than you might imagine if you have a good method, some basic guidelines, and a consistent practice routine.
This book presents a simple step-by-step method and many helpful guidelines. You will learn how to find the song’s key, learn how to find the song’s chord progression, and then learn how to find the song’s melody—all by ear. Along the way you will also learn some music theory, get some exposure to general song structure, learn how to match your voice pitch to your instrument pitch, and learn how to start using your ear to create your own solos and improvisations.
Table of Contents:
Learning By Ear — The Method
Step 1—Select a Song
Step 2—Familiarize Yourself With the Song
Step 3—Identify the Key of the Song
Step 4—Learn the Chord Progression
Step 5—Learn the Melody
Step 6—Simplify the Melody
Step 7—Embellish the Melody
Step 8—Improvise Around the Melody
Step One — Select a Song
Step Two — Familiarize
Song Structure and Phrasing
Step Three — Find the Key
A Word About Electronic Devices
Learning Songs from Recordings
Step Four — Find the Chords
Whole Step and Half Step Intervals
-The Major Scale Formula
Chord Tones for Major and Minor Chords
Finding the Chords by Ear
-Joe’s General Chord Progression Rules
-The Chord Ladder
Finding the Chords to “When The Saints Go Marching In”
Melody and Harmony
Step Five — Find the Melody
Guidelines to Help Find the Melody
“Muscle Memory” and Repetition
Song Suggestions and Tips to Get You Started
Step Six — Simplify The Melody
Step Seven — Embellish the Melody
Working on Variations
Step Eight: Improvise
Learning Instrumental Tunes By Ear
-The Structure of Fiddle Tunes
-Find a Recording
Find the Key
-Learn to “Sing” the Melody
-Find the Melody
-Arrangements, Variations, and Improvisations
The Road Ahead
Appendix A — Basic Music Theory Terminology
Appendix B — Diatonic Chord Construction
Appendix C — Intervals