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what is a good way to learn to play by ear

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by helterschecter, May 12, 2011.

  1. helterschecter


    May 2, 2011
    Iv been playing bass for about a year now. Iv learned some theory and I have learned a few songs. I can usually tell pretty well if I hit a wrong note on a song that iv have learned..but I really have no clue on how to find the note to a new song that I hear and would like to learn without someone showing me note for note what it is
  2. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize!

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    Easy, just play along to songs. Pick and song you don't know and start learning it.

    Tools like audacity that can slow down or loop over parts of songs can really help.
  3. muljoe


    Mar 8, 2011
    I have started learning by ear, and it is definitely an acquired skill IMO. I would start with simple songs that you are familiar with. As you get the simple ones, move on to harder songs. You won't be able to pick out really complicated songs at first but as you get the hang of it, you'll find that it becomes easier and easier.
  4. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    Playing along with simple songs is a good idea.
    Don't stop learning theory, reading and the rest of Music.
    Theory, in particular, can help you to learn and recognize the common progressions that occur time and time again. The more you recognize them, the easier they are to hear.
  5. If you know some theory you have a head start even with a rudimentary lyric sheet showing the chords. The chords will tell you what notes are available...
  6. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    My advice (maybe controversial): don't play along with recordings. Choose simple songs that you know and play them from memory. Happy Birthday, the national anthem, Christmas carols, nursery rhymes, Lady GaGa, whatever you have stuck in your head. If you're having trouble finding the notes on the bass, put the bass down and sing the songs first. If you have trouble singing in tune (aka matching pitch) then practice singing along with scales and other simple exercises while you're playing the bass.

    Learning to hear a song and learning to play a song are actually two different skills; some players can do this simultaneously, but when you're starting out, it's easier to commit the song to memory first, then learn to play the song from memory, in my opinion. :)
  7. HeadyVan Halen

    HeadyVan Halen

    Jun 11, 2010
    Instead of listening just to the bass, listen for the chords. They are usually louder and not so buried. Once you figure the structure, and key, then you can go back to the bassline.
  8. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006

    having a good farmiliarity with the sound of common chord progressions and cadences will give you a leg up.
  9. I didn't use either this method or the playing along to recordings method.

    How did I learn to play by ear? I played the root notes to songs that I had chord charts for. Eventually I had played those few notes so many times that I knew them from memory. Then one day I listened to a recording and went "Hey, they're playing a B flat followed by a C!"

    Ever since then my ability to play by ear has improved tremendously.

    You have to familiarize your ear with the notes on your bass. Once you know them well enough that you can pick out even just two or three, THEN start playing along to recordings. Listen for those notes and try to figure out how much higher or lower the other notes are. If you can hear a C note and know it's a C, then it won't be too tough to tell when a note is a B or a C#. And so on.

    Singing helps, I'm sure, but it isn't necessary.
    monodark likes this.
  10. I see some good responses here.To be able to play by ear well,you have to get to know intervals,which is the distance between any two given notes.If you're into music theory,you should learn how to spell chords.Spelling chords is not hard at all once you learn how to do it.But you have to know your scales.From there,you'll be able to assign numbers to chord progressions.The song Johnnie B Goode is called a 1-4-5 progression.If you played it in C,THE 4 means F,which is a fourth above C,and the 5 means G,which is a 5th above C. Assigning numbers to chord progressions makes it easier to transpose changes to different keys.
    Once you're able to start spelling chords,you'll start to be able to hear the differences between minor and major chords,flatted 5ths,dominant chords etc. It's not something you'll learn overnight,but it's not as hard as it sounds.
    monodark likes this.

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