Most musicians share a common goal; to be able to play what they want when they want. Now don’t let that statement fool you into thinking that most musicians throw tantrums and stomp around their bedrooms like children.
Quite the contrary, in fact, as most musicians get frustrated and simply give up, sell their gear, and call it a day.
The key to being able to play any song you want, or put on paper any idea that comes into your head is to master ear training for guitarists. I know, I know; some of you out there are thinking that this is an inbred technique, one that you are either born with, or will never possess.
Well, I can safely say that your assumption is far from the truth. In fact, even the most rudimentary guitarist can learn to identify guitar notes by ear. There is only one key way to learn notes by ear, but before we get into explaining it, you may want to know how it is beneficial.
I mean honestly, just because someone tells you that putting your foot in fire is in important, that doesn’t mean it is. In fact, I believe that may hurt quite a bit. If you can identify notes by ear, you will not only learn more quickly, but you will also be able to attain the desired tempo more quickly.
Plus, on top of this, you will be able to remember songs more efficiently. Have you ever forgotten a song? If you could identify guitar notes by ear, you wouldn’t have forgotten that song.
The first step to identifying guitar notes by ear is to simply hum along to a song. This practice helps you better understand the melody of a song, which is actually the first step to learn to play songs on guitar. If you can remember note patterns you are beginning to recognize differences between the notes.
This is an invaluable skill mainly due to the fact that many notes are merely a half step from one another. This may not sound like a big difference, and that is because it isn’t. A half step is such a subtle change to the untrained ear that it usually blends neatly in with larger intervals.
Be sure that the first song you hum along to is something simple, clearly defined song such as Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple. This is mainly because if you try to hum along to a tune such as The Gumbo Variations by Frank Zappa, you will wind up confusing yourself trying to establish the sense of rhythm and define the voice of instrumentation.
Now that you can hum a simple tune, the next step is to sing notes. Learn the notes of the song you have chosen (notice I said notes, not chords) on your guitar, and as you play them, sing the note names aloud. Let your voice find and match the pitch. Once you have found it, repeat the process.
The reason I recommend using the notes of a song instead of just singing along to random notes is because this will teach you to identify guitar notes by ear within the context of a song. Knowing notes is great, but recognizing the guitar notes within a piece of music is the actual skill.
Like all skills, this one requires practice. Set aside thirty minutes a day to review your song, playing it note by note. Soon enough, you will have learned all of the notes by ear!
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