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Learning Songs By ear... HOWW!?!!?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by bassist4ever, Jul 20, 2002.

  1. How in the world do i begin to go about learning songs by ear..... the only one ive ever figured out was Survivor - Eye of the Tiger.. and we all know how easy that song is. I just spent the whole day learning RATM songs with the aid of tab and went to try to learn a song by ear... couldnt even pick out a frickin whole note in a song.

    HELP PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  2. Gabu


    Jan 2, 2001
    Lake Elsinore, CA
    Find and download a program on the internet called " slowblast " . It will enable you to play the songs slower so that you can more easily pick out the notes.

    Good luck. :)
  3. Lady Jayde

    Lady Jayde

    Jul 17, 2002
    I went looking around.. and is there anyway i could get slowblast as a trial... i'm a cheap person right now.. I would like to try out products before i buy them... any suggestions?
  4. cb56


    Jul 2, 2000
    Central Illinois
    Ok, I see from your profile that you are 17 years old. This is something that takes time. Start out with the easy songs and keep at it. You will have to teach your ears and brain how to do this. You're young you've got plenty of time. also take a music theory and ear training class at your high school or community college. good luck and stick with it.
  5. kirbywrx

    kirbywrx formerly James Hetfield

    Jul 27, 2000
    Melbourne, Australia.
    Get a punk song, like Bad religion, or San Dimas Football Highschool football rules by the ataris, and sit there.

    Listen, and play every note on every string up to 12th fret and keep going back and forth until you figure out what note it is that is being played. Punk songs are probably the easiest song to learn. Good luck and keep us posted ;)
  6. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    That is a great idea. Take your time on learning the song. And go note by note. Also, learning theory is beneficial. You will learn your scales and chords and that will help you figure out what key the song is in. From there it'll be easier to figure out the bassline.

    Also, interval recognition: perfect 4ths and 5ths, major and minor 3rds, etc. The list goes on with what can help you. Try doing a search here at TB under 'ear training'. This subject pops up alot. :)

    Good luck!
  7. thanks everybody for replying. I've made the decision to make a practice routine and try to stick with it. it is extremely ... umm whast the word.... Demanding... since it takes from 9 AM till 11PM to finish (with a work break from 6pm-8pm) Practicing major scales,chords, arpeggios and then making them into two octaves. then on monday we head into the modes do the previously stated chords etc and i will work my way through a different mode each day and then start all over again on monday.

    each day ends with interval training 2nds 3rds etc.. and sight reading.

    how does this sound for a practice routine?
  8. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Gary Willis, whom I tremendously respect, has an ear training book for basists and guitarists. His system starts with intervals, not scales, modes and chords.

    I haven't found that book among all the boxes, as I just moved, so I can't refer to it exactly, but I think he explains that the intervals are the building blocks of chords and scales. Therefore he starts with exercizes that train you to develop the skill of identifying relative pitches.

    Willis does not want you to move on to scales and chords until you can consistently identify the intervals. Maybe the program you outlined above is too ambitious...at least for now. Maybe just nailing those intervals would give you faster results in being able to "play by ear." Once you have confidence that you can do that failry reliably, you can move on the chords and scales.
  9. cb56


    Jul 2, 2000
    Central Illinois
    Hey I just remembered that


    has an ear training machine on line. It plays notes at different intervals for you to identify and lets you jnow whether or not your answers are correct. pretty cool work out for the ears, and it's free.
  10. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    I would consider myself fairly adept at figuring tunes out by ear. I'm not much of a perfectionist, so they aren't always spot on, but surely I get the gist of it.

    I have done gobs of ear training in my life.

    I started with intervals, then moved to chords and scales, then did dictation, and even some "perfect" pitch training.

    It has certainly helped, becuase now, as soon as I find the root note, I just need to listen to the way that the music moves, that gives me a general sense of what I'm going to be doing, movement wise.

    then I listen again and pick out the intervals.

    That's one way I do it.

    when there are multiple parts going by, say a tapping line, I first focus on the bass part, and play exactly those notes, not tapping them, then I listen for the upper register stuff, and work from there.

    on a 4 string bass, there aren't THAT many options for what two handed tapping chords and stuff are likely to be, so it narrows it down quite a bit, and makes it a lot easier than one might think.

    all in all though, it just takes practice, getting familiar with your instrument, and knowing more or less what tones sound out from what frets, and then being able to associate those tones with the music you hear.(another way I do it :p

    It's not beyond anyone to learn, some people might have a better start at it than others, but with some dedication, you can accomplish anything.

    good luck!

    Oh and...
    has ear training programs

    has "perfect pitch" training stuff

    more "perfect pitch" training
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Lots of good advice here - but I think the main point is that the more you try to do it the easier it will become - but it does take time.

    As you have also discovered - using Tab does not help you in this exercise at all - only actually doing it and trying to pick out parts of bass lines/tunes etc will help you get better at learning by ear - using Tab, just holds you back in this, because you are not working on the thing you need to.
  12. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Ok, well I'd suggest you start with something simpler.

    I'm not too familiar with RATM, particularly, but you're trying to hear bass lines through heavily distorted guitars, right?

    That may not be the best thing to start with.

    Actually, I think a great resource for learning to pick out bass lines by ear might be Beatles songs. There are a lot of them - some are very simple, some are more complex, but they cover a variety of styles, and you should be able to pick out the bass lines more easily (no heavily distorted guitars... well, very few anyway). You can also learn a lot about bass line writing from McCartney.

    Personally, I think that an extremely valuable thing, that all musicians would benefit greatly from, is learning to pick out not only the bass lines, but the chords. I think that's a great way to learn about harmony, which is important for bass players too. The ability to hear chord changes is invaluable. Really, it is.

    I started transcribing pop records when I was 12 or so, I guess (seems like a really long time ago now). I already knew something about chords, and I guess I started by listening to the CDs and trying to match the chords and the bass on the piano. Invariably, I'd get it wrong (to begin with), and I'd ask my dad (he's got a great ear), and he'd listen, and show me what it is.

    And I just carried on doing that... to this day. It's all about practise, really. I suggest starting with something simple (as I said, Beatles songs would be good... and everyone likes The Beatles, right? :D), where you can hear the bass, and start matching the notes. Find the notes on the neck that match what he's playing. Carry on doing it. Learn the whole song. Learn the whole album. Learn more albums.

    I would also suggest learning to hear the chords. A piano or keyboard will come in very useful for that. If you don't know the basics of chords, look at Jazzbo's lesson, and maybe invest in a theory book. Play triads, play them in all different keys and different inversions, and learn what they sound like. Do the same with intervals.

    A good way to test yourself might be the tests at www.musictheory.net - there are chord and interval ear trainers there. In fact, when I stumbled upon those recently, I thought I'd test myself at work with 'em :)

    First time, out of 314 chords, I got 6 wrong :bawl:

    I should have got none wrong, but I tried to do it quickly and made some silly mistakes. A couple of times I pressed the wrong button, and a couple of times I mixed up diminished triads and dim7 chords (very easy to do, when they're played in a high inversion on that nasty MIDI piano sound).

    The other day I think I managed 100 right in 3 minutes or so :D

    Oh yeah, WR - I just had a look at the perfect pitch on good-ear.com. Perhaps you're supposed to leave more time in between each one - but I just guessed the first one right, and got all the others from there, just by relative pitch - sorte defeats the point :meh:
  13. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    It sounds over the top! Don't push yourself too hard you'll fall over and break something! OK, so that's silly, but dont over do it, it's not a race! take your time and make sure you enjoy the learning :)

    There is come good advice here - in particular, "dont try to learn stuff from beneath super heavy guitars", they muddy everything up and just make it harder as a beginner.

    Moley is spot on with the beatles, their early stuff is all fairly simple tunes with a clear format: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, etc. another good bet i think is The Meters, they are 70's funk band and while some of the linesa littel complex, some are VERY simple and all are loud and clear in the mix, therefore easy to hear.

    i started learning bass lines and often meolodies from records as soon as i started playing bass when i was 16. it took me ages, but now i can pick up pop/rock stuff in seconds usually, i find the root, then figure the chords from there. I'm 29 and still have an infinite amount to learn!
    but in the end all it takes is practice and experience.

    Holy sh1t that is impressive!! I gotta see how I do.. I've only been learning chord theory for a year and a half, so you've got a hell of a head start.. if I do bad, I wont mention it again :rolleyes: :D
  14. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    OK, I got two right out of about 7 then got pissed off, toys out the pram style!! :bawl:
    Each chord sounds pretty quickly which makes it hard if you're a beginner like me!
    Great tool tho, I book marked it so I can go and have a go at it each day I think.

    I'm gonna load up this program I have at home with loads of piano chords in it and maybe make myself a CD so can get the sounds in my head.
  15. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK

    Well, as a pianist, I do have a headstart on chords, really. I can imagine that learning chord theory coming from a strictly bass player perspective would be much harder. But yeah, give it a go Howard. On the musictheory.net ear trainer, you can choose what chords to include or exclude. You could start off with the triads, then maybe add dominant 7ths, minor 7ths etc.

    I think it's really a matter of recognizing the characteristic sounds of the different chords. Each chord type has its own sound, and it's just a matter of getting those into your head. Which really just comes down to practice.
  16. Get a muddy waters record and learn the blues. Most of rock and roll, pop, jazz is a bastard child of the blues. There are a handful of basic blues progressions that once you learn you will start to hear the relationship between chords and this will enable you to hear the changes/intervals.
    There is no escape from putting in the hours though. You simply have to go thru the time of learning the progressions/intervals.
    So start of simple. Another good source for this is a Creedence Clearwater record. John Fogerty songs are basic, simple and give a good understanding of some basic structures and they're fun to play.
    Good luck
  17. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Thank you! You make me feel a lot better about my ignorance! :)

    Interestingly tho I can hear intervals and chords from recorded bass parts usually very easily. Easier than I can piano at least.

    I guess that where bass chords tend to be 3 notes at most the majority of the time I find it harder top hear where there are more than 3 notes in a chord. I.e. if i play a 7th on bass i'll play root, 3rd & 7th - on piano you might well play 7 notes or something???
    Also, I think I'm used to the muddyness, the chords on that site were so clear! (now that is a BS excuse! :D )

    I'm gonna load up my unity piano software when i get home - it's actually pretty good sounding for a free piece of software, no really...!
  18. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
  19. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Sounds torturous. Don't get me wrong, I love playing the bass and I miss those days of my teens when we would have band practice for 6 hours instead of 1 1/2 and I had all summer to jam on my 4 string whenever I wanted.
    I admire and envy your ambition. But there is a Zen story about a young man who wanted to be the greatest swordsman in the land. He sought out the greatest teacher, and asked if he can be his pupil. The Swordsman said, "I can make you the greatest Swordsman in 15 years". The pupil replied by saying, "But, I wanted to be the greatest in 5 years". The swordsman replied, "Then, it will take 30 years". The pupil then said, "How about 10 years?" The swordsman replied, "Then, it will take you 20 years". The pupil then conceded and then became the greatest swordsman 15 years later.
    The moral of the story is that greatness takes a long time. In the rush to be the greatest, it is easy to miss opportunities and overlook limitations that can aid/hinder your development. For example, I started playing bass in the 80's where chops and speed were the thing. So, I did the speed thing. I could get it to a degree, but I overlooked proper technique and feel which still limits me to this day. If had started out slowly, I might not have had to spend the last few years refining my technique. And the years before that to get improve my "feel". Also, since I started out using tabs from "Guitar for the Practicing Musician", I neglected the opportunity to master reading standard notation, which has cost me gigs.
    In my opinion, if you have 9AM-11PM to spend on practice use it for other things than practicing scales and modes. Don't get me wrong, practice your fundamentals diligently. No substitute for that. But, there is alot more to music than scales and chords.
    - Join a band, learning from others is one of the best teachers. My ear and feel has improved greatly from playing in a band more so than a book or CD. No band? See if there is a place where people under 21 can get into that has a Open Jam.
    - Talk to other bass players, and get tips from them. Forget the bass player thing, talk to any experienced musician regardless of instrument and get insight from them.
    - Listen to music. I mean really listen to it. Turn off the lights and blast the stereo and listen to all the instruments and the intracies, and find a way to appreciate them. Listen to all kinds of stuff.
    - Go find inspiration. This can take the form of finding a love, taking a hike into the mountains, or reading a book. Inspiration creates motivation which results in action (sometimes). Inspiration is one of the things that drives your playing, as well as something that defines your playing.

    There's been alot of valuable advice given on this thread, and I'm just adding two more cents worth of material. So enough of my Confucius of the ghetto crap, Jam on Your Bass! Don't forget to eat and go to the bathroom!;)

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