Roadblocks with learning by ear...

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by glocke1, Jun 4, 2020.

  1. glocke1

    glocke1 Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2002
    Working on Robert Plants tune " In the mood " the past day.

    Learning tunes by ear, I can usually get to within 80% of whatever is recorded on the album, however there is inevitably some part of the tune I just can't get, so when that happens I turn to transcriptions.

    With this particular tune, I got to the bridge and had some problems figuring out what was going on even with the recording slowed down to about 50% so I used some resources i found online..these were helpful in steering me in the right direction, but also raised even more questions as there were things notated that I just simply wasn't hearing on the recording.

    It's frustrating, and I know there are folks out there that would have picked these things up in 5 minutes as opposed to the hours I was spending on it.

    Granted, the 80% accuracy rate I can get to is probably good enough for most of the scenarios I'd play in, but I'd like to better.
    Rocker949, BOOG, Mr Cheese and 3 others like this.
  2. If you can get the song 80% accurate, then you're obviously not "tone deaf." And if you're not tone deaf, then with practice, you should be able to learn the song 81%. And if you can learn it 81%, then with practice, you should be able to learn it 82%. Do you see where I'm going with this? Ear training is all about confidence and repetition.

    Cool song, by the way. I haven't heard that one in a long time. :)
  3. Lagado

    Lagado Inactive

    Jan 6, 2020
    If you listen to the tracks on smaller speakers, you get less bass, but more definition. Which is what you want when picking apart.
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  4. glocke1

    glocke1 Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2002

    No, not tone deaf, really just not sure what the problem is that prevents me from getting past that 80% mark, and I agree that spending more time on it will help, but i get to a point where i end up spending an inordinate amount of time going over one part, get frustrated and than move on.

    Yeah, I noticed that. When jamming along for fun I'll crank the stereo (Tower speakers and a sub), but when i want to go in depth I'll turn to headphones and my PJ headphone amp. It helps, but i think whats happening is that while I can hear the bass movement better/more clearer, my brain still can't really process everything thats going on all that well.

    Its frustrating, as I know there are guys out there that can hear this stuff and be on it in a second pretty accurately...
    OpposableThumbs likes this.
  5. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Guest

    Nov 22, 2017
    I have a pretty good ear. I can usually pick apart a song in the same manner, with a good degree of accuracy. Transcriptions present problems sometimes because sometimes they are wrong. Actually, often they are wrong.

    I've pulled down two or three different transcriptions of the same song and found them to be all written differently. I've pulled chord charts out of Jazz standard books where the predominant chords are clearly ninths (the bass is hitting the nine!) and the written chords are sevenths. And I have watched many, many play-along videos that were clearly not being played correctly and I've got a few of those, myself. Hardly anything out there is 100% accurate.

    And I've also found sometimes that notation does help me take that final step toward better accuracy, and that's usually a matter of laziness and lack of determination on my part when I learn the lines under verse 1 and don't really pay that much attention to the differences in the following verses. Best advice I can give you as someone who hears better than they read is to combine the approaches in a way that satisfies what your ear tells you is right, and recognize that even the experts probably won't agree on all of it.
  6. I hear you! Ear training was a very slow and frustrating process for me. It did not come naturally to me. A few tips:
    1. A good teacher can make a huge difference :)
    2. I recommend choosing songs that are easy enough for your current ability level, that you can learn them in a 1 hour practice session. You don't have to swing for a home run every time. If you get some "base hits" of easier songs, then you will feel good about yourself.
    3. Are you transcribing (writing the music down in standard notation) as you go along? I find it really helps me stay on target, to start with a blank piece of paper, and fill it up with pencil marks as I go along. One thing I find super-helpful is to draw all the barlines early in the process. For example if the verse is 32 bars, the chorus is 16 bars, and the bridge is 8 bars, I would draw all those barlines. Then that gives me a great visual indicator of my progress! I can see at a glance how many empty measures are on the page, and get a great feeling of satisfaction as I fill them in.
    OpposableThumbs likes this.
  7. glocke1

    glocke1 Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2002
    1) I've got a double bass teacher who has me doing things like singing the melodies to jazz tunes.

    2) I've been playing for decades, and have learned some fairly difficult tunes by ear, but my ear still isn't as good or developed as it I wish it was.

    3) Not transcribing. I can read notation somewhat (meaning i cannot read at tempo first pass), but writing things out is a skill I do not have. No formal education in music aside from some basic theory classes in college and lessons.
  8. bassdude51

    bassdude51 "You never even called me by my name." Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    80% is excellent!

    If you were to see Robert Plant live, his bassist would not be playing exactly the same note for note for every performance.

    Playing by ear is excellent training. Nothing wrong with it and everything right about it. But being obsessed to playing perfectly note for note is not necessary. All live performances are different. We don't have to be 100% like the studio recording.
  9. Lagado

    Lagado Inactive

    Jan 6, 2020
    I sometimes go to YouTube for live versions. For the hand positions mostly. If it is the original line being played, sometimes it's a little more up in the mix, more defined.
    gebass6 and LBS-bass like this.
  10. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Guest

    Nov 22, 2017
    Yep, play along videos are usually the last thing I look for just to see if I'm missing something that will make things easier. What I try to do is find video of the original artist playing live; in the case of some songs I've been surprised to find someone like John Paul Jones playing lots of open strings in certain phrases, which can change how you play quite a lot if you take that on board, especially since most players avoid open strings.
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  11. Dr. Keebs

    Dr. Keebs Bassmaster General

    Jan 9, 2016
    I agree. Although formally trained in other musical instruments and voice, the bass has always been 100% ear. No notation, chord sheets, tab, etc. Just 25 years of using and building my ear. I can learn a song by listening to the radio.
  12. dalkowski

    dalkowski It's "rout," not "route." Supporting Member

    May 20, 2009
    Massachusetts USofA
    Instead of "turning to transcriptions" for that last 20%, why not transcribe it yourself?
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  13. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown

    Feb 16, 2011
  14. Maybe music literacy is the missing ingredient, to get you from 80% to 90% and beyond?
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  15. pineweasel


    Nov 21, 2003
    If you are using software to slow the recording down, try pitch shifting it up an octave as well.
  16. aprod


    Mar 11, 2008
    That is a jazz standard. Use the Real Book for the chart. If you understand your harmony should be no problem.
  17. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    + another 1 for headphones. I think it helps.
    But also +1 that even when you have proper sheets it might not be exactly as the recording in some spaces. So mix yourself a whiskey cocktail or just blow off the cocktail part and go straight. Practice makes less imperfect. Whiskey doesn't really help with ear training, I'm just thinking about the Garrison in my cabinet and do I really want to water it down?
    LostJohnny and Huw Phillips like this.
  18. 2playbass


    Aug 12, 2013
    I learn exclusively by ear, and as LBS-bass stated, many of the transcriptions and "tutorials" available online are wrong. I very rarely use them unless I'm feeling lazy. You've already tried slowing things down and tried a different EQ for more definition, which are always my first steps. I find the following also helps:

    1. Knowing a little music theory helps, as it may direct you to a note that makes sense, even if you can't hear it distinctly.

    2. Related to point 1, if you can find a chord chart for the song, knowing what the guitar or keyboard is playing might help identify the notes the bass is playing within the chords.

    3. If you can't hear the bass distinctly, pick out a note the guitar or keyboard is playing (or even vocals), and play that note instead so that it should at least be on key.

    4. Recognize that sometimes the bass might be playing a chord. I think this might be the case in that tune. If that is the case, try to pick out the chord notes, starting with the most audible one. Back to the theory, if you figure out at least a couple of the notes, you can figure out the rest of the chord. It sounds like the bass might playing different inversions of what the guitar is playing in parts of that song.
    timplog likes this.
  19. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Inactive

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Have you tried the program Transcribe? It allows you to slow down parts. That and a little EQing, you should be good to go.

    And if you actually play 80% of the song like the original, that puts you in the top 5% of all bass players I've ever heard. I remember learning a song on the way to an audition once. I know the song, but had never actually played it and it was only a couple of chords and it was on their list, but not the required audition list. I noticed a couple little parts that were really easy so I payed it and threw them in and the guys raved over how I NAILED the song. I didn't have the heart to tell them that no, I didn't nail it.
  20. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru..........

    Apr 11, 2006
    Out there!
    Besides Transcribe!'s great speed adjustment capabilities, it has a very good pitch tool also, so you don't have to retune your bass to the song, particularly on all those older songs where the tuning can (usually, is) not to A=440. I use those and the A-B phrase repeat to work on specific sections of songs.
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