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Advice for learning songs by ear

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by James_B, Jul 19, 2007.

  1. Should I just shut up and listen?

  2. If you find an answer to this I want to know too. I don't know if I don't have the patience, or if my ear isn't good enough or what, but learning songs by ear is a real pain in the earlobe for me.
  3. Well... yes. The song has to get into your head somehow!
  4. DeanT

    DeanT Send lawyers, guns and money...

    An easy way to do it is to get some kind of slow down software like the Amazing Slowdowner or a Tascam Bass Trainer and slow the song down without changing pitch.
  5. Tslicebass

    Tslicebass Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2007
    Pause....rewind...pause....rewind....Pause....rewind...pause....rewind....Pause....rewind...pause....rewind...Pause....rewind...pause....rewind.....Pause....rewind...pause....rewind...Pause....rewind...pause....rewind...well you get the idea :smug:
  6. Scatterblak


    May 12, 2007
    Nashville, Tennessee
    Endorsing Artist for Low End bass guitars, DNA Amplification
    +1 on the Tascam - the BT is an incredible tool if you're in a hurry and have to learn a whole show. Not only does it slow stuff down while preserving the key, it has a 1-touch loop button that's fantastic, and you can 'tune' your CD's while they play, up or down to meet your bass. It also features a dynamic comb filter which does a fairly good job of removing the bass guitar from most tracks, so you can play along without the recorded bassist making you think you did it right. :) It's fairly cheap - well under $200.00 - and it's a great tool to have. If you can already learn fairly well by ear, you won't need it often, but if a gig comes up and the guy on the other end of the phone says "Hey man, can you learn 18 songs by tomorrow? It pays $350.00", you'll be glad you picked one up.
  7. jazzbasser535


    Feb 25, 2006
    Play different intervals and hear how they sound. That helps a LOT.
  8. First, get a good feel for the groove. Do this by playing the roots of the chords in the progression. Once you get the timing down, start filling in more notes (unless of course the bassline is something like "root 8ths" for everything). Have patience and you get it down sooner than you thought was possible.
  9. Deacon_Blues


    Feb 11, 2007
    Transcribe, transcribe and transcribe. Using the Tslicebass method above. (Just put in a few "play" also, and you'll be fine! ;)) After a few years, it gets so easy you don't really have to do it anymore except for complex ones.

    Transcribing is great ear training. The only way to develop a good ear is ear training. Learning theory is also very helpful and advisable, but theory alone won't make it much easier for you to recognize chord progressions etc. You need to listen. So your guess on what do do wasn't very far away from the truth, James ;)
  10. +1 and also make a great portable headphone amp
  11. poisonoakie


    Nov 26, 2006
    Las Vegas, NV
    If you really want to improve your ear, don't use a device that slows the songs down. Learn them at tempo and try playing them in a higher octave. It is sometimes hard to hear what notes are the lower they are. Also using a brighter tone can help a lot too. But learn it at tempo using the above puase. . . rewind. . . pause method. It is a major pain in the rear but your ears will improve emensely with everything you learn. Start out with something easy and keep moving the difficulty level up. Eventually you will have an amazing slow downer right inside your head. It's a great feeling.
  12. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I want to plug into this thread because I often wonder how one could teach another to learn by ear. When I started playing (guitar) there wasn't such thing as TAB, and if I wanted to play the songs of my favorite bands (KISS and uh, KISS) I pretty much had 2 options - either get someone to teach them to me, or learn em by ear.

    Don't know if any of this will help, but here's my random thoughts on the subject.

    First, I think it's a good idea to really get comfortable picking tunes up and being able to pick out melodies on the bass by itself. Playing nursery rhymes, playing the melody lines of songs. If you can't do that, then it's going to be a real uphill battle. Knowing how the notes relate to one another on the fretboard is half the battle.

    Second is being able to pick the bass lines out of a song. Windows media player (or any such mp3 player) I believe is fine, so long as you have somewhat decent speakers. You can learn to EQ it to bring out the bass. That can be tricky as it doesn't necessarily mean cranking the bass frequencies. A lot of times that can muddy things up and make it even more difficult - it finding a good balance between the high and low end. One that really brings the bass to the frontof the mix. This EQing stuff by the way isn't essential, just incredibly helpful.

    Next step is, as already mentioned - rewind, pause, rewind, pause, rewind, pause - till you get it. Ya have to hear the notes in your head (maybe hum them to yourself) and then find them on the bass. The bass HAS TO BE IN TUNE. If you have a rough time distinguishing whether or not you've got the right notes, you may want to start with some super simple stuff. Ramones. Blitzkrieg Bop perhaps. First note is an A.

    Only other things I can think of right now is take songs you already know and play along with the recordings to get comfortable with doing that, getting the tab to songs, giving it a go on your own and then checking the tab to see how well you're doing, and to have patience. Learning by ear is a skill that absolutely gets better in time. What might take you a week to do now will get easier if you stick with it. The amount of songs I can learn in a week keeps on multiplying.

    That's all the random thought I've got at the moment. :)

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