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Developing note recognition by ear?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by basslust, Feb 1, 2013.

  1. basslust

    basslust Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2011
    I want to be able to more quickly tell what chords other people are playing and play accordingly. I imagine that forcing myself to listen to the frequencies of the notes would get me recognizing them, but am not sure the best way to do this. Any tips?

    I am a relatively inexperienced bassist, only having seriously played for 8 months or so. I will learn with experience, sure, but I need to learn fast. The biggest hurdle to my playing that I see at the moment is a lack of ability to recognize and play the notes without some trial and error.

    Sorry if this gets asked a lot... It is just difficult for me to browse on my phone.

    edit- I found the thread below, lots of good info, thanks.
  2. Simply trying to memorize the frequencies of notes in order to pick them out of the blue isn't the best way to go about this. What really helps is general ear-training techniques - learning to sing intervals, scales, chords, playing a note and then trying to sing different intervals above or below that note, transcribing as much music as you can...that's the way to get your ear in shape.

    Lots of threads over this subject in the General Instruction and Jazz Technique threads.
  3. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Why the hurry ? :confused: You cant rush experience. Be patient with yourself. You have only being playing a VERY short time.

    "The Stone's" advice above is the way to go.
  4. pbass2


    Jan 25, 2007
    Los Angeles
    +1 with focusing on learning intervals--being able to sing them, etc. will help you hear them faster and faster the more you do it.
    Being able to "see" them is very helpful as well--do you spend any time with a piano/keyboard? Can really help visualizing intervals and chords.
  5. bunkaroo


    Apr 25, 2003
    Endorsing Artist: Spector Basses
    Intervals in relation to what the apparent "root" note of the key or chord is how I tend to do it.

    The way I initially learned how to recognize individual pitches by themselves was I picked one song for each note and remembered how it sounds. Of course you have to make sure the song is in standard tuning. For example, whenever I hear a G#/Ab, I recognize it because I know what the beginning of "Jet City Woman" by Queensryche sounds like and that's a G#. Most of the songs I use are actually my own songs which I know better. Just helps with visualizing the notes.
  6. jefkritz


    Oct 20, 2007
    iowa city, IA
    i've been playing bass for about 11 years (music in general for 15), and there's still trial and error. the process just gets quicker as you get more experienced.

    i.e. now i can generally find the root note within three notes or so, and can figure out the rest of the key within two or three more notes from there. this process used to take considerably longer, but there's nothing like being in bands with people who don't know what an E chord is to make you good at playing by ear :)
  7. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Agreed on starting with intervals first - relative pitch (recognizing the interval) is far easier to develop. It's also a lot more useful, since you'll be able to recognize the interval no matter what the starting note is. If you're trying to learn chords by ear, it will also help you to identify chord quality (i.e., major, minor or whatever else).

    Easiest way to work on this is to play two tones separately and identify the interval between them. There are online resources for this, and I'm sure there's an app for that.
  8. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    +1. Seriously, learn your intervals complete with singing and you will have a great ear in no time.
  9. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    I played guitar for 3 1/2 years before taking up bass (and still play). I learned a great deal by listening to the sounds of the chord voicings and associating them with the chords I was playing. This doesn't work too well with full-out barre chord voicings, but "standard" acoustic guitar voicings have very characteristic sounds that can go a long way toward creating bass lines that work with chord progressions.

    I would suggest learning a number of songs that feature standard guitar chord voicings and listen to the sound as you follow along with the chord sheets. Start simply! Plenty of Dylan tunes are very straightforward:

    Blowin' in the Wind
    Positively Fourth Street
    Like a Rolling Stone

    Plenty of Beatles tune are the same:

    Eight Days a Week
    And I Love Her
    Here There and Everywhere

    Also check out tunes like:

    Blind Faith - Cant Find My Way Home
    Ten Years After - I'd Love to Change the World
    Marshall Tucker Band - Can't You See
    etc...there are literally hundreds of well-known tunes that have straight guitar voicings, and many of them can be found in hits of the 60s, 70s compilations so you have the changes. Look 'em up on youtube and have at it.
  10. eloann


    May 14, 2012
    It may be too soon for that but in the future try and learn a bit of guitar and/or keyboard. With some practice you should be able read most chords off your bandmates' fingers.
    Obviously it won't replace ear training but it can get you out of trouble in a pinch.
  11. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    When I was four-years-old I didn't know what to study either, as I began to "play with" my grandma's piano. But, just "messing with" music did the trick over several years until I could pick out things I heard on the radio by ear. Of course, it works better at an early age, but anyone can train their ear. Keep trying, by whatever means, and eventually you will begin to associate sounds with intervals, chords, and progressions. Bear in mind that your rate of progress will be somewhat proportional to the amount of time you put into it. Also don't forget to listen to the radio as you're out driving and try to recognize something about the music. Every little thing helps.

    AND, begin to study basic theory.
  12. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    The way I learned at school, it was more about interval recognition than anything else ...

    Of course we had to sing, like if the teacher played something, to be able to sing it back 90% of our Solfege class was about recognizing interval. and sing them.

    If you know how to sing a major 3rd ascending or descending or any other invervals, the only thing you need is the first note being played ... so in the end it boils down to if you can sing it you obviously can play it.
  13. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    I do not believe it's necessary to be able to identify a specific pitch or frequency.

    What I do believe is that it is good to be able to hear intervals and then chords (within a progression).

    Others have stated a similar thing.

    Learn intervals - Perfect Unison, Perfect Octave, Perfect Fifth, Perfect Fourth, Major Third, etc. And learn ALL the intervals.

    Next incorporate 3-notes into a chord, learn if it's Major, Minor, Diminished, Augmented, etc. Then onto inversions.

    Next harmonize the Major Scale, study and learn the more common progressions - V7 to I, V7 to i, ii to V7 to I, etc.

    Move onto the common Minor scales and learn the subtle differences.

    Become hip and do all of this to the various modes (derived from the Major and all the Minor scales).

    Learn the sound of the many Pentatonic scales.

    Learning the sound of intervals and progressions is more valuable than hearing 220Hz. and proclaiming it an "A".

    One needs to hear the intervals - separately or in combinations