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Ear training - how can I improve it?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by LooFunk, Jan 8, 2017.

  1. LooFunk


    Jan 3, 2017

    I'm looking to improve my ear training around chord progressions and song structures. For example the best scenario for me would be I'm jamming with someone and I can just play along without him telling me the chord, key or sequence. That would be terrific!

    Are there any sources out there that provide tracks of common intervals so o could perhaps play along to and study? For example, the 2,51 in all keys or blues progressions played on the piano on tracks I could play along with would be great or does anyone have any other suggestions?

  2. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    One thing I like to do is sit down with the bass and try to work out the melody of a familiar song. I like to do this with children's songs, TV themes, and Christmas carols -- the idea being that the song is so deeply embedded in my brain that I can call it up from memory and "listen" to it on demand. While I'm doing this, I try to pay strict attention to the intervals so I can match them to the sounds. For bonus points, once I figure out a song I work on finding alternative fingerings for it in order to help match the sounds and intervals to different fretboard patterns as well.
  3. BassAndReeds

    BassAndReeds Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2016
    Transcribe everything (and I mean everything) you can't play on bass after hearing it first time. Maybe start with bass lines. Then vocal lines. Solos from all instruments.

    A book cannot train your ear, only your mind. To train you ear, you must listen, listen, listen, transcribe, and listen. And when you're done that, listen and transcribe some more.

    It's not a quick process, but every day you listen and transcribe you get closer to those elefant ears you strive for.

    Good luck.
    Garret Graves likes this.
  4. Spidey2112


    Aug 3, 2016
    Search for backing tracks, with guitar and drums isolated... run through the songs, finding root notes to match, or comp the guitar (and the chords present), and start 'complicating' things by bouncing around your fingerboard, finding what sounds good for the song, overall.

    When I first started out, I developed my ear by listening... over, and over, and over... to albums on my Mom's console, even slowing it down to learn the faster part of the songs. Eventually, I learned what fit and what didn't, and so will you...

    Good luck, brother!
  5. Icemanaroonie


    Sep 6, 2015
    Learn to sing, it's the best ear training there is.
  6. Yes Google can find you backing tracks that list the chords. That's a start. However you need to be able to hear a song and.....

    ..........Be able to call the key the song is using. You have to be able to identify the key. That's first. If you can not do that no need going any further. Work on identifying the key to any song. How? Listen for the tonal center. Run your G string up the neck. When what is happening in the song and what you are doing on the G string sound good together, you've found the tonal center of the song. Look down at what note that happened on. That's you key. When you can do that, you are ready for step two. My point; you have to start somewhere and identifying the key seems like a good idea to me. This will not come over night, you have to work on it. But you gotta start somewhere...

    Once you've identified the key that will tell you the seven notes and the seven chords used in the song. Do you know the notes and chords in all the keys? Kinda helps if you do. If you decided this song is in the key of G would be nice to narrow your notes and chords down to those found in the key of G. Use the circle of 5ths or some other cheat sheet if necessary. After you have narrowed the field down to the key, chords and notes, found in that key start working on identifying what is active at this moment in the song. Yes by name or interval number - either way, but, you need to be able to identify by name or number what note/chord is active.

    Hear a note and know if it is up scale or down scale from the last note. Yep, if you can not do that, well good luck. Listen and play-a-long to video songs till you can.

    When you can do the above you are ready to start your journey.

    Of course, IMO.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2017
    nzscott likes this.
  7. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Learn a melody on bass then sing along with it.
    Learn guitar chords so you can read the neck
    and see what chord the guitar player is using.
  8. jasmangan


    Jul 13, 2008
    This might be too simple, but try playing to a drone note.
  9. LooFunk


    Jan 3, 2017
    Can you identify the key of a song? By ear?
  10. matthewbrown

    matthewbrown Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2003
    Harwich, MA, USA

    Also, singing along with the vacuum cleaner.
    Mushroo likes this.
  11. Learning and playing scales IMO is one of the best ways to train your ear ,and it also greatly improves you hand,ear, eye coordination.
  12. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Turn on the radio (or your favorite streaming service) and play along. If there's a better method for training our ears to recognize key, song structure, chord progression, etc. I haven't found it. :)
    DrummerwStrings and LooFunk like this.
  13. LooFunk


    Jan 3, 2017
    How is that a good post!??
    DrummerwStrings likes this.
  14. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    iReal Book.
    Jump in and start swimming.
    Chris Inburque, LooFunk and Mushroo like this.
  15. Cheez

    Cheez Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2009
    Texas/Louisiana border
    When you hear a musical phrase (in a song, tv commercial or whatever) think about how you would play/finger it. Listen to the timbre and try to guess the key. Then pick up your bass and see if you are correct.
  16. Yes. But not like you may think. Only people with perfect pitch can hear a note and identify it by name. Go back and read my post it talks about how we mortals can identify the key by listening --- with our ears.
    LooFunk likes this.
  17. matthewbrown

    matthewbrown Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2003
    Harwich, MA, USA
    OP: "ear training around chord progressions" -- tonedear.com has that. Singing along with the vacuum cleaner allows working with a drone, as recommended elsewhere on this thread.
    Mushroo likes this.
  18. LooFunk


    Jan 3, 2017
    haha ok, fair enough, I thought you were being crazy. thanks
  19. LooFunk


    Jan 3, 2017
    I looked into that, it looks absolutely amazing!!!!! I'm getting it. Very annoyed how easy people have it now though!!!!
    Thanks mate!
  20. Chris Inburque

    Chris Inburque

    Jan 13, 2017
    Try getting the insanely cheap and effective, "iRealPro" for tablet or phone. You get backing tracks for a lot of songs and exercises and if you play and sing your lines it WILL build your ear.

    Another thing to do (likely shoulda put this first) is to play your scales and arpeggios and sing along with them. Sustain a chord and sing the scale note and then play it on the bass. You can start to harmonize the notes you play, as well. You may NEVER play more than a single note at once on the bandstand, but hearing the harmony internally, rather than having a keys or guitar player literally giving you the info, you'll have your internal "ear" setting you up to pay magnificently supportive lines which are informed by music itself, filtered through the wisdom, experience and personality of you.

    Does it get better than that?


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