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Hearing songs and playing them

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Evan, Jun 5, 2004.

  1. Evan


    Jan 2, 2004
    whats a good way to learn this? you hear the bass part and you know what to play
  2. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Having a phenomenal ear and a working knowledge of musical theory generally tends to help. That and a couple years of practice, or a load of natural talent.
  3. AllegroNonMolto


    May 15, 2004
    I don't really see it as something that requires a "phenomenal ear". I think it only takes the ability to realize that it really isn't that hard to hear a note and try to match it.

    Learning solfege(sight-singing) in college was actually what ultimately helped my ear progress the most however. Being forced to sing notes from the page just makes your ears catch up.
  4. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    Well, I know how you feel.. I've been "gifted" (cursed) with near-perfect (I call it "Ballpark") pitch, as well as complainers ear. (I complain when something's the slightest out of tune). Ever since my first week of starting bass, I've always been able to tell what's going on just by hearing it. Most beginners don't have or haven't worked on their ability to hear the pitches and relative pitches and such. Now they simply turn to tabs *shudders*. You, I, and other people find it almost natural just to listen and know how to play a bass line or guitar lick easily, but others just can't.
  5. ironmaidenisgod


    May 20, 2004
  6. AllegroNonMolto


    May 15, 2004
    People tend to overcomplicate things for themselves. I have taught guitar a bit and in my experience newer students seem to assume that their ear sucks before they even get off the ground. I have seen a couple people that simply could not match a pitch no matter what but most can do it if it is broken down into the simplest form(i.e. play a note on your instrument and have the student try to find the same note without looking at your fretboard...this is the most fundamental aspect of actual pitch matching ability IMO). So I honestly don't think it requires a natural aptitude(for the most part)...it just requires an understanding of exactly what it is they are trying to accomplish...if that makes any sense whatsoever(it's late).
  7. Evan


    Jan 2, 2004
    well i pretty new to it i hope it coems around soon :)
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I agree - but the main thing is a bit of perseverance - i.e. not running to the net and looking for Tab!! :meh:

    Some people would rather spend 2 hours on the net searching, than a few minutes listening and playing along... :scowl:
  9. Fess up Bruce...we know you use tabs. :eek:

    Well, whenever I would search for tabs, it didn't take 2 hours, rather, 2 minutes, and that includes printing time.
  10. There's a lot to be said for learning stuff by ear - as the time it takes you to do this will ultimately make you learn the techniques and ultimately your bass more thoroughly than, like Bruce says, simply reading the line from some tab - that to your knowledge might be OK - but in reality might negate a load of possible fingerings, that you mioght find easier, and also dicatate where you should playu stuff on the neck.

    Am example of this for me would be Donna Lee, the Charlie Parker tune that Jaco played on his debut solo record. Every electric bassist of a jazz persuasion (sp) has at some point tried learning this, (I am generalising - but I know a lot who have leant it) and everytime I see someone else's version of it I am amazed at the variety of fingerings and positions people play this tune in.

    Basically learn as much as you can by ear - even if it takes you longer - because that way you will at least be using your EARS instead of just your fingers.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yes - each time you run to look for Tab you are holding back your development!

    So the only way to get better is to try to play stuff by ear - if you give up, then you have hindered your development and probably picked up some bad habits as well!! :meh:
  12. pontz


    Oct 31, 2003

    I played guitar for 10 years before switching to the bass and I learned everything from tab. I never developed my ear. About the same time I bought my first bass, I was getting more interested in music (less interested in Lynard Skynard) so I decided to approach the bass as a musician, not a rock star. I added some ear training excersises to my practice routine. The thing that has helped out the most was simply putting on a CD and playing along. I always have one song going that I am learning by ear, and I don't quit, or cheat, until I get it. I still use tab once in a while, but now I also read standard notation and have a good grasp on theory, so learning tunes has become a pretty easy process. Making them sound great, well thats another story. I'll let you know when I figure it out.


  13. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    How to play something after hearing it:

    1. SING the bass line.
    2. SING the bass line.
    3. SING the bass line.
    4. Go play it.

    The important part is KNOWING the line and singing along gets it into your brain, both the pitches AND the rhythm.
  14. pontz


    Oct 31, 2003
    Sing the bass line.

    Thats interesting. I listen to the song for days before trying to play it by ear. But I always thought of it as memorizing the melody. I'm going to try actually singing the bass line.


  15. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    There's a difference between learning by ear, which just takes simple ear development, and hearing things and being able to play them, which was what this lad seemed to imply.
  16. Evan


    Jan 2, 2004
    well i have to get to know what sound are what on the bass first before i can do that. the only person i know that plays by ear only plays tabs and hasnt ever done notes yet. have any ideas on some stuff i should listen to?
  17. I too come from a singing background and just realized that I tend to hum along with the bass line I'm playing. I never noticed that before. Whoa.

    Evan, I don't know if this syncs with you, but my problem when I first started playing was not hearing the bass lines -- it was just that I had no idea where those notes were on the bass. So I would just play on one fret or up and down one string for ages to memorize what sounds came from where. That's probably too anal and excruciating for most people (or did the rest of you do that too?). But it's one way to train your ear.

    Later I started referencing to a neckboard chart (like this one) so that I was sure of what exact notes I was playing (don't wanna be that jerk that's one or one-half note off even with the sheet music in my face). But if you don't read sheet music, a chart like that probably won't be of much interest.
  18. tkarter


    Jan 1, 2003
    I have noticed most people can whistle a tune and be dead on. Is there such a thing as a bad ear or is it just a mental block? Who knows? not I

    Maybe whistle it a few octaves lower and then apply it to the bass :)

    tk ;) ;)
  19. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    I think some people are endowed with a better ear than others. That said, I think ear development is a dynamic quality - it improves with practice.

    I find it empowering to be able to figure out lines from recordings without the use of any outside resources.

    I feel that a bassist should only access the tab to a song after he has studied the recording of the song for many hours (over a period of weeks or even months).

    If you've done that, then studying the tab can be educational.
  20. I've learned to play by ear and I find it easier than tab except for the most difficult lines. I basically started by getting to know the notes on my fretboard by reading charts. That gave me something to visualize in my head. As I was comming along with that I would try to jam along with my favorite *cough* records. I started with an easy one AC/DC Back in Black. Once I was able to pick up some of the notes in a song I would make sure I could put a name to those notes and figure out all possible positions to play them. When I found a comfortable position I would go back and listen to a single riff over and over and fill in the blanks within that comfortable position. Put a name to the remaining notes and presto, I just taught myself a little theory and trained my ear. After a while of doing this I began to recognise familiar patterns and tried to apply them to other songs. This forces you to listen to the notes. After a while I could just hear and name the notes on a lot of tunes on the radio.

    I think the key is listening and name association. BTW relying on tab will kill the effectiveness of this kind of training.