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Tools for learning songs by ear

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Alfonso Alba, Aug 1, 2019.

  1. Hi all.

    I am trying to learn some songs by ear. I can read sheet music (not in realtime, though) but I can't find sheet music for most of the stuff I like to play (alternative rock) and tablatures have proven to be hit-or-miss.

    Problem is, I don't have such a good ear. If the bassline in a song is not too complex and can be heard clearly, then I can probably follow it. But there are songs where the bass is very hard to hear under the distorted guitar wall-of-sound.

    Are there any (preferably free) software tools one can use to bring the bass to front, or maybe some EQ tips? I can load the track in Studio One and process it there. Maybe something to slow the track down? Any tips would be appreciated.
  2. B-Lo

    B-Lo One day I'll figure out how to play this thing... Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2017
    Northern Alabama
    Although I haven't used it yet, I've heard the 'Transribe!' software is really good for learning songs by ear.
  3. Govner22


    Jan 19, 2013
    I use Anytune which is free and enables you to play a song an octave higher so the bass line jumps out of the mix. It can slow down songs too. Other products like Transcribe are supposed to be great too though might cost a little bit.
    Alfonso Alba likes this.
  4. Thank you guys. Both options look pretty cool and similarly priced (in the case of Anytune for Mac, which is what I use). I'll try them both.
  5. Fred Pucci

    Fred Pucci

    May 2, 2019
    There are a lot of free apps and programs that can help to improve your ears, like Meludia and Functional Ear Trainer. “Transcribe!” is a great tool (not sure if free, tho), that will help by allowing you to slow tunes down so you can identify the notes/chords easier.
    BUT.... at the end of the day “free” will only get you so far. For a serious, thorough and comprehensive course I can highly recommend a course I just completed: Ariane Cap’s “Ear Confidence - Six Paths to Fearless Ears”. It brings together the best proven methods to train your ears to be able to transcribe songs and sit in on jams confidently. Find out more here: ArisBassBlog
  6. DrewinHouston

    DrewinHouston Not currently practicing Supporting Member

    Apr 20, 2009
    Houston Heights, Texas
    Disclosure: I am not a great bass player
    The main tool is practice learning by ear, and understanding the underlying chords and theory. I have found this helpful, MP-BT1 | FEATURES | TASCAM - United States, they don't make this one anymore, but you might find a used one. The new one combines guitar and bass and has some good features but leaves out some of the bass-specific EQ tools. The Amazing Slow Downer and bass tabs online can help as well.
  7. biguglyman


    Jul 27, 2017
    Rochester, NY
    Audacity is free and has a ton of useful tools including speed, pitch, eq, etc. You can also record, edit, and mix with it. I've been using it for years.

  8. bleedingfingers


    Mar 21, 2006
    Jamup by Positivegrid for you phone or ipad been using it for years .
    you need to buy a gizmo to plug your bass and speakers or headphones in but the basic app is free from the app store .
    You can change pitch keys has a phrase training function to loop sections of songs you can put playlists in it .
    can slow the tempos down or speed them up so you can here them better
    does everything you need .
  9. 4dog


    Aug 18, 2012
    time and repitition..lots of repitition...and time and repitition...and play alot ..even when ya dont wanna..then do it again...and again
  10. BassPilot

    BassPilot Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2016
    Novato, CA
    The Amazing SlowDowner is an excellent tool for learning songs. I use it exclusively when learning songs. I have it on my iPad and Android phone and I think it also runs on a Mac.
    It's the best $12 (per platform) you'll spend on music technology.
    PillO, Scottgun, smeet and 1 other person like this.
  11. Thanks for all suggestions. Of course, I understand that practice and ear training is essential. That's pretty much the reason I want to avoid relying on tablatures. I have a good grasp on basic theory and understand how chords and scales are built, plus some basic notions on harmony. That's often good enough for jamming along. But sometimes I just want to learn the exact bassline from a given recording, and can't always hear what the bass is doing. That's where I need some help.

    Right now, I'm trying to learn the bass from Stone Temple Pilots' Plush. The bass is actually not buried so deep, but I've found that both Transcribe! and Anytune help a lot; I'm just using a lowpass filter/shelving EQ and tuning one octave higher. I also think Anytune sounds much better, more defined and with less artefacts, but I will be demoing both programs with other tracks.

    That Tascam gizmo looks interesting but I practice most of the time in my studio, where I have a mac, and software is much cheaper :)
  12. GBBSbassist

    GBBSbassist I actually play more guitar... Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2010
    There's heaps of ear training software you can use to improve your ear, but I'd also suggest a decent pair of speakers or headphones to listen to the song you're trying to learn.
    JRA likes this.
  13. AboutSweetSue


    Sep 29, 2018
    Lebanon, TN
    Try Chordify.
  14. In my experience, 30 years of playing and instrument, 20 years as a sound engineer, the only tool you need is your ear. Ears can be trained, must be trained. There are some books with ear training exercise. I don’t know about softwares or apps. As someone before me posted, try to use good headphones and good speakers first. Second be aware that ear training takes time. Third if you can’t find the bass line underneath distorted guitars is probably because it’s doing the same thing an octave below.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2019
    fig and 4dog like this.
  15. JimChjones


    Aug 6, 2017
    SE England
    A trick I've used is to import into a DAW twice, and on one copy just eq it to all hell, as in all or nothing, so the result is mainly bass and drums. Then mix the raw copy back up until the balance suits you. Also pan the mainly bass L and proper mix R.
  16. Thanks for the info. Can this app isolate tracks of songs? That would be truly helpful!
    If not, can you suggest one that does? Thanks!
  17. pigpen1

    pigpen1 Supporting Member

    Aug 2, 2017
    Learn in good headphones. Take your do out to a little mixer and run your phone and or computer into a 2nd channel if your amp doesn't have headphones and aux in.

    Learn to sing the pass lines. Helps to internalize it.

    It's a case of losing it if you don't use it though. Years ago before online tabs, YouTube, and software I was much better at it. Noe I'm lazy.
  18. srayb


    Oct 27, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    Good headphones.
  19. TheDirtyLowDown


    Mar 8, 2014
    Same here! Adjustments for pitch, speed, and the looping capability make it a must-have for me...
  20. nickpc


    Jul 23, 2012
    And don't forget that you can speed up/slow down playback on YouTube with no pitch change. Slowing a track down can help, both for hearing what is being played as well as playing along.
    Bass Jones and jefkritz like this.

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