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Ear Learning

This group is for those interested in learning to play what they hear. All levels welcome - hope the advanced can help the beginners. TAB'ers are welcome too, whether looking to change their ways or simply interested in the discussions.

Members: 25
Latest Activity: May 23, 2017

Discussion Forum

So how do you memorise/internalise a pitch? 2 Replies

Subtly different from hearing a phrase and then finding it on the guitar - what about hearing a single note and 'knowing' what it is?That 'knowing' could either be being able to name the note…Continue

Started by Derek. Last reply by Ryan Kimm Sep 12, 2013.

Might as well forget it.... 17 Replies

No, not a verdict on this ear learning programme - but the title of Del's Ear Learning Phrase # 4. It's from a Bob Wills' CD and the song is "We Might As Well Forget It Anyway". When I heard the…Continue

Started by Derek. Last reply by ganon Jul 19, 2011.

Science and Ear Learning II 17 Replies

For a while I've wondered if the "ear learning" we are discussing is just another path to memorizing. But ganon's and Kathy's and Derek's posts kept me open to the possibility that it is an all…Continue

Started by Jim Wing. Last reply by Derek May 18, 2011.

Granger's Fiddle Tunes for Guitar 12 Replies

As promised, here are the 2-phrase tunes that I found. Thought short ones might lead to getting 'a few under the belt' quickly, but by no means feel limited to these. And, short does not necessarily…Continue

Started by ganon. Last reply by Derek Apr 27, 2011.

Comment Wall

Comment by Derek on July 17, 2011 at 11:58pm

I read the book that Galper references in that video. It's very specific to piano playing, and the majority of it is very specific to the physical act of piano playing. That said, there's probably some mileage in sitting down and really thinking through what the physical exercises and conclusions mean to guitarists. The book touches on the use of the mind - both in terms of driving the muscles more efficiently, but also in terms of hearing what you're going to play before playing it. I probably ought to read the book again, but I think I might instead simply watch the video for the umpteenth time! ;-)

Another of Galper's videos worth watching is the one on playing over changes. Some interesting insight there if one is into improvisation. I think 'knowing' the changes is the key here (pretty much what Halper says) and he recalls an observation that I've heard made before - that Miles Davis, in the later years, played just a handful of songs. But by sticking to that mere handful he was able to learn them so thoroughly that he was able to improvise so very beautifully on top of them. It says something (to me, at least) that whilst I try and learn the changes to a song in an hour and then think I can play on top of it... a genius like Miles spent years on a tune. Perhaps it's time to cut back on my already limited repertoire :-)


Anyway, I digress. Back to ear training. It's probably worth exploring the book that Galper mentioned if you're really into this, but the video sums it up nicely.


Finally, mixing both subjects I've touched on above. I think the next big step for me is to turn the thinking brain off during in improv and let the subconscious take over. This is what Galper mentions in his 'changes'  video. Music, in real situations, tends to go by so quickly that it's impossible to 'think' about what you're going to play. I often struggled with this - wondering how fine musicians can make all those calculations so quickly in their minds (My own thinking goes: "Okay, here's an Amin chord, that means I can use this arpeggio, or this scale. In fact, I remember this nice lick that fits over an Amin chord and as I'm already just a half step away from the starting note it'll probably work perfectly... ah damn, the Amin chord has gone and now we're already onto F. Damn, that happened quick! Well, F... that means this arpeggio or this scale....") and Galper covers this off nicely in his videos. I now see that it's all about hearing something deep inside... in fact letting one's brain come up with something based on all the hours of practice, listening, transcribing, and trusting that the nervous system knows what signals to send to the arms, hands, and fingers, to cause that sound to be recreated. I have trouble with that trust. I reckon that's the next big leap for me.


Many years ago I had a book that covered this ground in a lot more detail. Foolishly I sold the book as I wasn't ready for its lessons then. It was called Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner. Perhaps I'll look into it again.


So, to conclude, the brain and the nervous system - with ears and fingers as outputs/inputs needs to take on much more significance.


Apologies for the ramble.


Comment by Kathy Barwick on July 18, 2011 at 9:07am
Kenny, about your statement: "Turns out I wasn’t really wrong I just needed some direction"  I'm not sure what you mean but my first thought is, let the tune (the melody) give you that direction.
Comment by Kenny on July 19, 2011 at 1:02pm

Kathy, at that time I could only chord and my ear wasn't that keen.  I would use a minor chord in the wrong part of a tune. I thought it sounded odd but ok. I really didn't know 7 chords and when I strummed I would hit the bass line in reverse, if I hit them at all. 

All around I needed help and the guys I knew who played were much better than me and older. Not much time for a curious teenager's questions. Over all my playing got better but I stopped trying to play by ear and stayed in my comfort zone until I felt it was useless to keep on. So I put my guitar up for the better part of twenty years. Until last year. 

Since I started with lessons I can't believe the difference in my ear and ablility. I have a long way to go but, if I had only done this in my thirties... just think! 

Comment by Derek on October 21, 2011 at 2:56pm
Just stumbled across this video:


in which Martin Taylor talks about how he does exactly what I see as being the holy grail of what we're talking about here - essentially having an MP3 player in your head and being able to transcribe stuff from within... not only that, he can do it without a guitar in his hand. Basically he figures it all out in his head, goes home, and can play it! Brilliant. Now how do I learn to do that?
Comment by ganon on October 21, 2011 at 3:14pm

Hi Derek,

You could try to get Martin Taylor to teach you:


Online school directed by 'ArtistWorks' who also do the Academy of Blugerass, where I'm enrolled in Bryan Sutton's School of Guitar. Great Libraries of 'canned' video lessons, but the real kicker is that the students get to submit videos/questions and get feedback from the very best. Subscription service, but, IMHO, a bargin; particularly if you actually use the (unlimited) video exchanges.

Comment by ganon on December 15, 2011 at 6:30pm

Way back when - we were looking for software that could generate melodic phrases, for 'call and repeat' ear training. Here's one that will do it:


Click the "Melodies" tab and away you go. I started easy - G major pentatonic scale with triples restricted to one octave. Moving up to full major scale and quads already gets challenging for me. It'll also teach note names (hence fretboard if you are matching) and reading dots, both in the delayed answers.

Comment by Derek on December 15, 2011 at 11:36pm

Good find, G !! I'll have a proper play with that later.

Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Comment by ganon on September 15, 2012 at 7:36pm

Welcome new members, Lora, Dan and Burt!

Here is a comment Jim Wing posted on my page, but I think better posted here so all group members get notified:

"ganon and everyone: I found this tool for ear training; it might be useful to you. I find it really boring, but I've been persevering and making improvement. As with all worthwhile endeavors, there are no shortcuts. http://www.miles.be/ "

Good resources  - Thanks Jim!

Comment by Dan Forney on September 16, 2012 at 4:26am
Thanks! Looking forward to continuing the journey. Been working on learning by ear more recently, but nothing structured. I have found learning tunes by ear to be easier on mandolin than guitar, but I suspect I mentally convinced myself of that fact. Looking to undo that notion!
Comment by ganon on September 16, 2012 at 8:03am

Dan, although I don't play mandolin, I expect that you are right. I've heard/read several places that we are better at discerning higher pitches. And that mandolin is tuned in straight 5ths (right?) rather than the weird mix of 4ths and a 3rd on guitar - probably doesn't hurt either . . . One more reason to take up mandolin


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