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Frustrated with ear training

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Soverntear, May 14, 2012.

  1. Soverntear


    Mar 17, 2008
    Tonight I decided to try and learn by ear...... let's say it was not long till I got frustrated and pout down the bass for the evening. I think I may have set my sights to high with a tool track.

    Would a good place to start be something like under pressure by queen be a solid place to start? what are some other tracks that would eb easy to pick out? also please correct me if im totally wrong here but the main line for under pressure is two notes, i think root 5th.
  2. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    I've been there...

    Most important thing I've learned is that to transcribe it properly, you should know it well enough to sing it. If you can't sing it, then you don't know it, and how can you possibly recreate something if you don't fully know what you're recreating? Once you can sing it, then pick up your bass and try to match it to what your singing. This will teach you how to translate things from your ears to your bass, and this will really open up your bass playing.

    Start with songs you know how to sing, or hum, well... "Happy Birthday", "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". Then move on to simple riff's you know, as you go along, you'll be able to transcribe more difficult things, but it will take time.
  3. vstvst2


    May 15, 2012
    Hi Soverntear,

    Ear training: start with lots of examples of very basic musical relationships and then build on that. I use a program called reel ear [reelear.com]. Its a random melody generator that you can set all the variables to and then the program generates endless musical dictations based on your choices. I started out just working on C and G. Then I added E to get the basic chord tones for a C chord. From there I just started adding scale tones like B or Bb, etc... You can play around with the rhythm settings, the speed, etc...

    That worked for me.

  4. Minus


    May 22, 2011
  5. ACalbass


    Dec 16, 2011
    You should first try to understand and recognize intervals,going by your statement of not being sure "under pressure" is 5th/root riff.
    You can be sure by playing it and see if it matches what you think.

    I guess the best for you is to listen to the whole scale and apply intervals and get a definitive reference.
    Maybe if you do one interval a week (you start with a root/6th,listen to songs until you find it,next week move on to 7th and so on),nothing better than repetition to stick things in your ear memory. (this is what radio do with songs,right?,the more you listen the same thing,the more your ear will recognize it)
  6. kevteop


    Feb 12, 2008
    York, UK
    Very few worthwhile skills can be acquired in an evening.

    Try any tunes with few chords and/or prominent bass parts. '70s funk tunes should be easy since they're mostly pentatonic and often just a single chord. Then move on to songs with more complicated structures from there.
  7. +1 on learning parts by learning to sing them first. My high school band director used to say, "If you can't say it, you can't play it" - which is pretty accurate. You don't have to be a great singer - just enough to be able to imitate parts you hear - but once you have a riff, line or entire phrase in your head so that you can 'say it', tying that in to your instrument it just a matter of sitting down and helping your fingers find the notes you are 'singing'.

    There are also 'slow-downer' programs that will slow a song without effecting pitch. This helps for songs that have intricate parts (like Tool songs).

    Also taking music lessons, not just some guy showing you how to play bass parts, from a music teacher who is not just a self-taught guitar player who can "also play bass".

    Sit down at a piano and start playing simple intervals. You'll quickly get to know what the fundamental intervals sound and the piano makes understanding why the intervals are what they are very easy. From there you can apply what you learn to any other instrument.
  8. I have always learned by ear very easily. I had more trouble learning proper theory and reading though.
    For me, as long as I can hear the bass line in a mix, I can figure it out, for the most part. There are some songs where sheet music is a tremendous help. Extremely Busy Bass lines are obviously more difficult.

    I do remember as a young kid bring to lear by ear, I would mimic the melody or whatever I was focused on on the piano. That helped get the melody and timing in my head. Then I could move it to another instrument a bit more easily.
    Now I more commonly so the same but with the bass as the first instrument

    And absolutely time altering can be a big big big big big help.
  9. zenman


    Jan 30, 2008
    St. Paul, MN
    +1 To me, learning a song by ear is about 90% just listening to the tune until I can sing the bass line. Only then do I pick up the bass and work out the fingering. It also helps to break the song down into managable size chunks, such as the intro, chorus, verse or whatever and just focus on one piece at a time.

    It is hard at first, but gets a lot easier the more you do it.
  10. bjabass


    Jan 10, 2011
    Mountain South
    Yep, when you can 'sing' the bass part, just find the notes on the fretboard to each section and play 'em until muscle memory takes over.
  11. ACalbass


    Dec 16, 2011
    I also find interesting that learning by ear is easier if you do it in your teens or pre,being harder for adults,while some people have innate ability for this and make things easier.
    Some people may never get an accurate ear,after all.
    Personally,I also think it has to do with your playing level,the better your skills,the best your ear gets,sometimes simply because you recognize what's being played because you can play it.
    It happens to me,I can hear the bass line and play it on the spot,only when is complex might require adjustments to my personal fingering style,and if is challenging,the better,since that's the way I learn new stuff,sometimes takes a while/weeks to play it properly.
    Just be patience,it comes with time and work.
  12. jabsys


    Mar 30, 2011
    Learning by ear is something I want to improve on but these threads always end up with singing, what if you can't sing?
  13. Yeah. a Tool track is setting the bar kinda high...
  14. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Matthew_84's advice is excellent! Learn to play Happy Birthday, the National Anthem of your country, Christmas carols, etc. using your memory of the melody, and you'll be off to a good start with your ear training. :)

    You mean physically can't sing, like you are mute? I've never been in that situation :) but I imagine the solution would be to practice hearing the song in your head. Beethove was able to use a similar technique to compose after he went completely deaf. Good luck!
  15. jabsys


    Mar 30, 2011
    I can make noises but they'll never be notes, even humming it's not a constant note, it goes up & down, I simply don't seem to have the control over my voice to do it.
  16. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Matching pitch with your voice is the exact same skill as ear training on the bass; as you practice one, the other will naturally improve. :)

    (Unless you are convinced that singing is a skill that some people are naturally born with, that it is impossible to learn and improve, with lessons and practice... if that is your mind-set, then yeah, you probably will never get better. ;))
  17. Maaurius


    May 21, 2011
    Helped me to learn Tool tunes by looking up Tool bass cover videos on YouTube if you get a good cover it let's you hear the bass very distinctly and can work it out from there.
  18. Soverntear


    Mar 17, 2008
    Hi everyone,

    Thanks for all the replies and sorry for my delay in reply, had a long but good week. Progress has been going slwo with ear training but I expected that. I' working on "under pressure" and "happy birthday". for under pressure I am using the recordings and some isolated bass parts on youtube. for happy bday huming. I am finding the notes quicker with humming them.
    As for under pressure after playing around I'm still going to say root 5th of Dmaj or D to A for the main riff.


    So the next part of the riff I can tell it goes down in notation but I'm trying to find the root. I will attmept to sing it out. Also maybe im just hearing things here but it seems the next phrase goes down again but ends on the same note as the previous down section?

    I'm trying out the singing tip with "happy birthday" and its starting slow but I can see what you are getting at. this is a solid tip , but as someone else asked what if ym singing is terrible?

    I checked out the videos on reelear and it is on the top of my list of things to buy. that software looks amazing! Thank you very much for the suggestion.

    The intravel method your talking about sounds interesting. I'm gathering that learning more about intravels will alow me to better identify them in a song and by learning that sound difference I can apply it to learning the material.


    Having never listend to much funk, where would a good starting point be?
  19. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    My theory on if you're a bad singer is this. You hear the note initially and formulate in your head what you think it sounds like. You try and sing it out and though you may be 3 semitones off, it still sounds right to you, when you play the right notes, I would think it still sounds right and right with your singing voice, but they'd still likely be 3 semitones off of each other.

    That may have single-handedly been the worst advice on TB ever, LOL. If anyone disagrees I would love to hear some criticism about it, as I am an awful singer myself, and was thinking of this very thing the other day and came up with this theory.

    But I do know I'm off, so what I've been doing lately is playing a single note on a keyboard within my vocal range and trying to hum it as I play it, when I think I'm on, I'll release the keyboard note while continuing to hum as steady of a pitch as I can and seeing how close I am with a chromatic tuner. I will then adjust my tone to match the pitch and play it on the keyboard to hear how much better it sounds, and I am slowly getting better. I used to be about 6 semitones off (a whole half an octave which is atrocious either way), now I am only about one off.

    I also find I'm more accurate when I hum than when I sing.
  20. What Tool song are you listening to?

    I can tell you that almost all of them are in a D minor key. Some of them are Dorian, Some have a b2 (such as The Pot), I believe Vicarious is straight minor.

    It is, for sure, a little ambitious. However, if you know the key and the strongest tones of that scale, you'll have a much easier time. Lately I've been practicing my singing. If there's a song I want to learn how to play, I try to find the starting note, and then do a quick run of the scale and then try to play the line using intervals of the scale. It gets faster as time goes by.

    It helps if you know your genre, too. For metal like I listen to, the key tends to be the lowest open note. If I can't fit it in a minor scale, there's a good bet it's a b2 or a b5, even if it's chromatic. This happens a lot with Tool, Metallica, Avenged Sevenfold... diminishing certain notes just sounds metal.

    I guess the moral of my story would be learn your theory too. One will facilitate the other.

    EDIT: I think 46 & 2 is in D Phrygian