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Ear training, and how it first begins


davebrownbass

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Now, bear with me here. I am posting this in an effort to educate those who feel the need to develop their ear...the most vital thing a bassist can have is a good ear. I also invite the experienced players to share their own experiences.

 

Just yesterday, I was sitting here surfing the LDLD and my son walked over to my piano and started trying to pluck out the melody to "Auld Lang Syne." Then, the "Star Spangled Banner" with that nasty chromatic note you don't expect. And he's also retuned a banjo like a guitar,and is plucking out some melodies there as well; he wants to do a play at school that requires banjo playing.

 

Now, my son is a 2 time All State bassist, who can read whatever is put in front of him, plays in 2 orchestras with tough literature (his HS Orchestra just played Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" for a concert. That's a bee---otch!)

 

But a simple melody line was work for him, if he had to play it by ear. It is good work.

 

Made me think of my self-induced ear training as a teen or pre teen (we're talking the '60's here)

 

I took piano in third grade. My teacher taught me to play what I now know to be 1-4-5 triads in the key of C. I played melody with right hand, and simple chords with the left. After a few months, I stopped lessons, but, over the course of the next 5 years, banged away at the piano, eventually teaching myself these chords in several other keys and even experimenting with root-fifth "stride" playing.

 

I got a guitar in 8th grade (thank you and RIP, Aunt Judy.) I got a little Gene Lees instruction book, but soon started learning chords. I would bang away for hours, trying to play along with the radio. I bought some sheet music (only 2 songs, Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" and John Denver's "Country Roads" and learned those chords. Eventually, I knew enough chords and variations and had enough ear to learn, note for note, most of the Bread acoustic guitar parts. I did this work in about 5 years.

 

Then I took Ear Training and Harmony in college. I was the BEST student they had, easily. Got straight A's for 2 years.

 

Ear training is broken up into 3 components, known as

  • Melodic dictation
  • Harmonic dictation
  • Rhythmic dictation

As you can see, I had practiced these components on my own for years. Formal training only allowed me to learn how to write it down as notes.

I wrote a song on guitar, and by using simple slides came up with chords with dramatic extensions, flat 9's and 11's and stuff. I didn't understand all that, it just sounded good to me. Then, I wrote a lead break, and found myself having to leave the key of the song I was in and play chromatic notes to match the chords. I didn't understand why at the time, in fact, I was breaking the rules I knew. I didn't know there were other rules that governed this.

 

This is the path I followed to develop a "killer ear." I advise students to do the same; begin to pick out melodies, even on your bass. Begin to listen and learn the patterns of changing chords. Write those down...learn to transpose those songs to other keys.

 

And rhythm dictation....it's odd. Virtually anyone can clap virtually any rhythm against a metronome. That's easy. On the other hand, to write it down...that's tough.

 

Well, guys, how did you develop your ear?

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Great post, Dave! I love talking about this subject because I am naturally blessed with a good ear.

The earliest thing I can remember about music is playing piano at my grandmother's house when I was around 5 or so. I was always trying to figure out whatever melody I liked at the time. My parents were always listening to The Beatles on records in the living room and I would remember a certain melody and play it later on my grandmother's piano.

 

Then my mom thought it would be a good idea to put that piano in our own home, and fortunately her brother(the guy who owned it)agreed. Eventually he put a bass guitar in my hands and the rest is history.

 

I even played guitar exclusively for a period of time after I became proficient enough on bass. I would play along to my favorite songs, or just sit and experiment with fingerings and try to see what my ear liked.

 

I never got past a beginner's level in piano, as all I ever used it for was to figure out melodies and practice my vocals, and basically just diddle around on. I had a few books but when it came to the reading music part I completely lost interest. Thing is I would always hear it before I could read it. I thought-why learn to read if I have a golden ear? I wish I had persevered as I think I'd be a better musician now if I had.

 

However, over 20 years later(I'm now 28) everything has come full circle. I have a keyboard, guitar, basses, and now drums at my disposal(through the keyboard). I'm never going to leave my apartment again!

 

This time around I am more serious with piano and spend just as much time on keyboards(not weighted keys :( ) as I do on bass. I am not practicing guitar right now, maybe I'll play some chords to see how it sounds if I'm composing something but I can also do that on piano and it sounds better. I also am spending a lot of time on theory and reading music now, as well. Thanks to a Jeremy C Theory Post, I have a nice little thing goin on and every time I play something at home its developmental progress.

 

I think every musician should learn or try to learn piano or at least have one in their home.

"The world will still be turning when you've gone." - Black Sabbath

 

Band site: www.finespunmusic.com

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I played violin for 6 years as a child. At the time I could read anything put in front of me. In 8th grade I quit because of peer pressure (nice friends huh?). Only 3 years later I had the opportunity to play violin again, and I was completely lost.

Nowadays, I can pick up most things by ear, but struggle with written music, even tab.

"Start listening to music!".

-Jeremy C

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I took piano for several years, and it was quite honestly "half wasted." I can now play rudimentary piano, can take things on guitar, write down the notes (though I don't write it in my music, just the notes, D, G, etc).

 

Basically, my year is decent because I asked my teacher to teach my theory and how to figure out songs. Now, I can sometimes guess intervals right and instead of going chormatically up a scale, I find the first note played, and go in common intervals to find the next note.

 

Practice my friend, practice.

In Skynyrd We Trust
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Well, guys, how did you develop your ear?

I credit a good % of my ear abilities to my trombone skills learned from 4th grade on.

( played trombone all thru grammer / hs and college )

 

Also.....growing up in a household always full of music playing , all types , helped to give me a good encyclopedia early on.

 

Singin' has also helped. ( and vis a versa )

 

I don't have perfect pitch by any means....but I believe I very good relative pitch. Years of listening ,and playing various instruments has been my most valuable tool.

 

PJR

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Well, guys, how did you develop your ear?
Violin was my first instrument, at age 7 or 8, with about three years of private lessons. If you have any sort of ear at all, it's either torture yourself or get in tune. Regardless, I am very sensitive to Desifinado (those as old as me will have played the tune and get the reference. ;) ) and makes me want to get away from the source.

 

String Bass followed at age 11, and within a couple years I began playing standards gigs with older musicians- this was in the mostly pre-rock sixties. It's too damn long ago to know for sure, but I believe it began with looking over the pianist's shoulder for chords, listening to structures and anticipating changes, and simply knowing what note would sound when my finger hit a particular position.

 

I still think it was violin that did it for me.

1000 Upright Bass Links, Luthier Directory, Teacher Directory - http://www.gollihurmusic.com/links.cfm

 

[highlight] - Life is too short for bad tone - [/highlight]

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How did I develop my ear?

 

I learned how to read music at age 10, but I also tried to copy things that I heard and was jamming with friends by age 13.

 

There were many, many years spent learning untold records by ear.

 

I used to turn on the radio and play along for hours at a time. If I couldn't figure out a song, I'd wait for it to come around again an hour or so later.

 

The ear training courses I took as part of the degree in music certainly helped.

 

Writing down the music that I learned by ear helped also.

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my mother bought a piano when I was 8 and I used to spend a lot of time noodling around on it.My mom is a classically trained pianist, but she always had to read music to play. I would just make up tunes and figure out stuff by ear, often I would figure out the stuff she was playing and play it back for her.

 

I started playing trumpet in elementary school. I picked up the rudiments of reading music but never good enough to sight read. I would just memorize my parts.

 

After I decided to quit band,I took 2+ years of piano lessons. Once again, reading eluded me. I would get recordings of the music I was learning and memorize it. The problem was that during my lesson I would get to the end of what I had memorized and the teacher would tell me to look at the music, but that didn't help, I hadn't been looking at it to begin with. :D However, it was a useful skill when it came time for recitals.

 

By the time I started playing bass I had developed a pretty good ear. Once I'd memorized the "tone positions" (as opposed to the note names)on the fretboard, I could hear a note and pretty much just drop my finger on the correct fret. This made it possible for me to learn tunes by ear relatively quickly.

 

Unfortunately,after many years away from the instrument that skill isn't nearly as sharp as it was. I'm trying to get back there, and this time I'm working to memorize the note names on the fretboard as well.

 

Ed Friedland can close his eyes and listen to a note then tell you what note it is as well as the string and fret position that you're playiing it on. If I can ever get to that point that would be really cool! (maybe by then I'll be able to catch a fly with chopsticks! :D )

 

Cheers!

Nothing is as it seems but everything is exactly what it is - B. Banzai

 

Life is what happens while you are busy playing in bands.

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I can read rhythms in standard notation almost as well as reading an english sentence. However, I struggle and stumble along with reading pitches. Sound odd? Not really...my first musical experiences were as a drummer in junior high and high school. During that time, I really wanted to be the best drummer that I possibly could be, and a friend of mine had the same aspirations. Rush was very popular at the time (like they haven't always been with many drummers and bassists, right?). So, my friend and I decided to start transcribing the drum parts of Rush songs. We're talking complicated rhythms (some that require all hands and feet doing different things), odd time signatures (that sometimes change from one time signature to another during the song!), quite complicated fills, the works...

 

Man, what a great experience that was. I found that the best way to get really good at reading rhythms was to write rhythms. Transcribing this stuff forced me to get good at it.

 

I'd assume the same is true with reading pitches. That's the part I really need to work on. A tentative plan would be to review the basics, practice reading for a while, then write or transcribe some tunes. The issue of course is getting this on the priority list. Maybe a good half-way step would just be to write out in standard notation some of the riffs I come up with?

 

Dave

Old bass players never die, they just buy lighter rigs.

- Tom Capasso, 11/9/2006

 

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I started piano at 9. All the kids on my street took piano from the same guy. As the afternoon after school would wear on, I'd see Gar (piano teacher) getting closer house by house. I'd try to get out of it by dissapearing. My sister and I would fight who'd have to take the lesson first. My teacher wasn't a basard, but he was fairly rigid with what he found satisfactory with my output. So it was then I got into understanding why repetition then polishing is good. I took for 4 years. In addition to the piano in my house, I had a crappy keyboard. From either location I would put on records. Usually Beatles, Def Leppard, Rush, and some other new wave stuff that rubbed off one my from my sister. Usually, I was trying to replicate many of the instruments. If someone was singing, it was the vocals, then the gutiar solo. So I got pretty good a figuring things out by ear. There's those older Beatles compilations. I used to play the both albums of the red one every night. Had the later stuff on it. By the way, wonder if this happened to anyone else. They hear a song they knew before they every played anything. On cue can pick out the bass part like they knew it while the were already a bass player. I mean I hardly knew how to listen for the bass, just like most music listeners.

 

Jr. High, I got into drums. I disliked my music teacher with a passion. He used to grab my hands out of frustration and have me play the parts with him. Like this would make me learn. I still consider myself to be a bit of a drummer till this day. But don't tell any drummers that, they may get insulted. I picked up bass at 13 because of Iron Maiden, I almost played guitar cause of Randy Rhoades. Back then, I'd come home and play to all the Iron Maiden albums from start to finish. Not to say it played much of it right. But I was constantly refining it. Learning how to figure stuff out from ear. Don't ask me when I had time to do my homework. There were many bands that I wanted to learn from. Not many books around for metal transcriptions at the time. I whored around with lots of bands always trying to upgrade. Probably got in on most bands because I knew all the cool covers back then. I'd get frustrated though cause I knew when someone else wasn't playing something right. Now I know it's because of the ethics I developed musically. I met someone at 13 who started me on fingerboard harmony. A gutiarst named Jesse (RIP). He was one of the first people I met who was completely passionate about playing music. It was very encouraging. We'd go through stuff, quiz each other, fiugre out songs together. I ended up taking private lessons for many years with a few different teachers.

 

Also in high school I picked up trombone. I completely relate to what was mentioned above about playing that instrument. Really teaches you about intonation. Pretty much like a fretless. In high school, I played in everything there was to offer minus marching band. I did concert band, orchestra, jazz, there was a modern class as well. I played trombone, electric and URB in pretty much everything. In fact, back then was the first time I heard "Birdland", we had to play it in jazz band. I couldn't do the pinch harmonics. I just played the notes strait. I felt bad because I felt I was killing the esence of the songs. I also had a fusion band that went through many names. We left off with "Emotional Feedback" after a Rush lyric. We played David Snaborn, Kenny G, some originals. Actually a bunch of stuff I didn't really care for. But the band was based around a prodigy sax player. We had a regular gig at a bar out here. Ended up playing some oldies and classic rock covers. Not so much fusion any more. Once again back into figuring stuff out. I was eventually forced to quit the band, I wasn't making it to school the next day after the bar gig every week. My folks would drop me off and I walk right back home and go to back to bed. I was 16 at the time.

 

 

Learned that Gar the piano teacher saved me quite a bit of time. Learned chords and charts and so on. In college, I had to take some piano classes though to brush up in order to do my theory homework.

 

I agree it's very important and liberating to know how to transcribe and understand the structure of a song. It's always been a 2 sided conquest. First the vocabulary of theory and rhythms. Then identifying it by ear or otherwise.

 

I recomend Ear Training by Gary Willis, a great book. Also Simplified Sight Reading by Josquin Dus Pres. It is about reading, but eventually you see the patters your hearing and vice versa. Once again the repeative benefit.

 

It's been really cool reading everyone's experiences and growth. I very much appreciate we all see learning music as something good and exciting.

Mike Bear

 

Artisan-Vocals/Bass

Instructor

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I am waiting for someone to start the "I bought the ear training exercise that is in the two page ad of last month's BPM and let me tell you it has changed my life!" thread. I live for cynicism.

 

Active Bass' website has an ear trainer where it plays the note and you guess it. When I played trumpet many years ago, I could "transcribe" then (thanks, Jeremy!), but on the F-cleff I'm not so good. I am also not so good and digging out the bass riffs in songs. I can't seem to make my way clear of the clutter. I think having a trained ear is a great thing, but since I don't plan to quit my day job and become a professional bassist, I'm not all that worried about it.

 

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

 

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Well one of my New Year\'s Resolutions is to improve my hearing ...

 

I have been asked to learn (amongst others) Free's Wishing Well (great song, by the way !!!) and for once, I figured I'd rather do it by ear than search for a tab.

 

So I listened to that song, and found that the first note of the intro riff quite resembled the first note of one or another Deep Purple song that I play. Fooled around a bit, and I got the main riff right :cool:

 

After that I played the whole song through, and for bass it's mainly just a droning E note anyway so it's not thé hardest song to figure out. There were parts in the song that made me go "aha, that Black Sabbath song" so I think I got it down for the most part, save a few fancy things :D

 

So my way of doing it? I compare the sound of the notes to the sound of the notes of other songs that I can play. It may not be the best of ways, and Wishing Well not the hardest of songs, but hey! it's a start :thu:

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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Originally posted by EddiePlaysBass:

. Fooled around a bit, and I got the main riff right :cool:

 

There were parts in the song that made me go "aha, that Black Sabbath song" so I think I got it down for the most part, save a few fancy things :D

 

So my way of doing it? I compare the sound of the notes to the sound of the notes of other songs that I can play. It may not be the best of ways, and Wishing Well not the hardest of songs, but hey! it's a start :thu:

It's more than just a start, Eddie. This is one of the most significant things in music you could ever do. Pretty soon, you'll have 2 songs instead of just "that Black Sabbath thing" to compare others to. After a few tries, you'll come into an explosion of ear...and will be able to hear and play tons of stuff easily. You will wonder why you messed around with tab so long.

 

If ya get stumped, it will probably be because you'll hear something you won't believe...in other words, you'll hear something that appears impossible. It's not...but there is a reason...maybe a position you hadn't thought of, or (curse to all CSNY types) altered tunings. You may have to ask a question like "how does 'so-and-so' do this?" to get you started. Again, you'll explode with new learning.

 

Congrats! You are the reason I started this thread.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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This may sound crazy, but I think someday it'll be proven: you can learn it in the womb.

 

Heard too many stories about pregnant moms singing to their children and then discovering they're singing along to the radio or TV even before they learn how to speak. You may not consider this training in the formal sense, but with a little encouragement from a singing parent and the twentieth century (radio, TV, CDs, etc) one can learn a lot before pre-school.

 

My story fit this pattern: lots of music growing up (even though my parents couldn't play an instrument), singing in pre-school, a few years with a church choir, and all this was years before I picked up a bass. True, I still needed and took formal lessons later in life, but the essentials came from my mother singing to me before birth. I know that by the time I hit the choir I could sing almost anything on-key that someone sang to me; maybe not the first time, but I could get there with just a pitch pipe.

 

For that matter, I think children who grow up learning how to sing are just happier and more well-adjusted that children who don't. My singer's 3-year old isn't doing too bad with some of his dad's material. Rest assured if and when I have offspring that they will be singers before they pick up an instrument.

:wave:

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Originally posted by davebrownbass:

Congrats! You are the reason I started this thread.

Thanks Dave *blush* Funny, but it works both ways => without this thread I probably wouldn't have taken that step just yet. So thanks again :thu: I will be doing the ear-thing more often from now on !!!

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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I feel lucky to have grown up with music constantly surrounding me, as many if the other people in here can identify with. My mom has been teaching jazz singing since before I was even born, and without that I doubt I would be listening to all the stuff I do today. I remember being a kid and singing at her vocal recitals, because I was cute back then... it's what happens when you're a kid and your mom is a singing teacher. You sing.

 

When I was 8, a youth orchestra came to my school to do a concert, to try and recruit more people to join the program. I was sitting there on the gym floor telling all my friends that I played violin, when of course I didn't... so I signed up for violin lessons, which I still do today.

 

It's helped me immensely, knowing an unfretted instrument is something I value. I like playing the violin, but not like I do bass. I had no real longing to play until a year ago, when my friends brought ther guitars over on New Year's Eve. I was sitting there making up riffs to the songs on the CD we were listening to, and even then i knew it was bass, not guitar I wanted to play.

 

There is no way I could have progressed so quickly on bass unless I had spent that time with violin, learning how to hear what I'm playing and fit it all together. I feel lucky to have had the experiences that allow me to do this.

 

I've just started jamming in the last few months, with a group of professional musician who are much older than me. I know and they know they're all way better than me, so there's no aura of competition like there is in the school jazz band. The first few times I went jamming they called out the changes for me, but now I'm doing it myself which is a nice feeling.

SWR Amps: Amplify your furniture! Errr.... future.
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Originally posted by davebrownbass:

Now, my son is a 2 time All State bassist, who can read whatever is put in front of him, plays in 2 orchestras with tough literature (his HS Orchestra just played Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" for a concert. That's a bee---otch!)

Now that's one TALENTED and hard working young fellow! You should be justly proud, Dave!

 

Now, on to ear training. I was surprised at how similar Dave's story is to my own.

 

Made me think of my self-induced ear training as a teen or pre teen (we're talking the '60's here)

For me it was the 70's, but the rest of the details are almost the same.

 

I took piano in third grade. My teacher taught me to play what I now know to be 1-4-5 triads in the key of C. I played melody with right hand, and simple chords with the left. After a few months, I stopped lessons, but, over the course of the next 5 years, banged away at the piano, eventually teaching myself these chords in several other keys and even experimenting with root-fifth "stride" playing.

My mom's friend was a piano teacher. Occasionally, she's stop by and give me a traditional piano lesson, i.e. rigorous, designed to make you feel like a loser, and not particularly effective at making you want to play the piano or understand music.

 

After that, I spent a few years pounding my way through the John Thompson piano books as well as classical sheet music that Mom had lying around. I'd pick out the pieces that sounded good and skip the rest. To this day, I'm a poor pianist, but I learned a lot about voice leading from that music, skills that I use to this day in my compositions. I don't even have to think about voice leading. It's just kind of "in there." But I digress.

 

I got a guitar in 8th grade (thank you and RIP, Aunt Judy.) I got a little Gene Lees instruction book, but soon started learning chords. I would bang away for hours, trying to play along with the radio. I bought some sheet music (only 2 songs, Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" and John Denver's "Country Roads" and learned those chords. Eventually, I knew enough chords and variations and had enough ear to learn, note for note, most of the Bread acoustic guitar parts. I did this work in about 5 years.

Again, major similarities! I didn't start playing the bass (first just bass lines on my Dad's guitar) until I was eighteen, but more to the point, when I was eleven, Mom bought me a book called Harmonization at the Piano. I presented chord theory starting from very easy progressions. At the end of each chapter was a list of popular song titles, songs that used the harmonic devices mentioned in that chapter. The idea was to try to "sound out" the songs (melody and chords) using the concepts that you had just learned. This was really tough for a kid raised in the "only play the notes that are written" tradition, but over the course of two years, I worked my way through the whole book. After that, I started to be able to figure out the chords of songs that I heard on the radio and on records. It was like magic, or so it seemed at the time.

 

Then I took Ear Training and Harmony in college. I was the BEST student they had, easily. Got straight A's for 2 years.

I took a general music theory course (solfeggio, melody and variation, etc.) only in my first semester at college. After that, I switched to Computer Science and had to get cracking on that calculus. ;D But I breezed through the course scoring every possible point.

 

This is about the time that I began to play the bass. I started a garage band with some horn playing buddies who had no clue how to play things that weren't written for them. I spent hours transcribing horn parts from records by Chicago, Steely Dan, Tower of Power, EWF, etc. so my horn friends could play along. That experience helped my ear training a lot.

 

After that I got into gigging bands. One of them had a 150 song repertoire. They indulged me with one ninety-minute practice session before our first gig. I had to pick the rest up on stage, learning the songs as we played them. I won't claim that I didn't hit some bad notes, but all in all, I found that I could "fake it" fairly well.

The Black Knight always triumphs!

 

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I had taken piano lessons from age 9 on, but I had stagnated at about 13...I could read and play Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, but I really couldn't stand the pop stuff I was being taught (Music Box Dancer? If?)...my teacher was in her 60s.

 

But then I discovered Rush, and I wanted to play all the little synth parts in Hemispheres and Natural Science...but the transcriptions sucked, and my ear was non existent.

 

So in high school, I started to accumulate synths, and I was in my local store with 2 years worth of savings to buy the brand new DX-7...only to find some a-hole who was about to go on tour with Michael Jackson had just bought all 14 that the store had in stock, including the one I had reserved. He was still in the store and overheard my plight. He came over and apologized, explaining that he really needed them. He was very cool, and we started talking about music, and I asked him how to develop an ear. He told me to learn to recognize intervals (aka relative pitch), and he also recommended learning to sight read by interval relationships. It was a life-changing moment. Patrick Leonard , I owe you one...but you owe me a DX-7. :D

 

I was never a good bass-clef reader, but it's been wonderful only having to read (mostly) intervals between single notes as I slowly gain proficiency at this strange, heavy wooden thing that you Lowdowners call your instrument of choice. I hope to be one of you soon...

"For instance" is not proof.

 

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I started learning to play by ear because it didn't occur to me to learn any other way.

 

Seriously. It seemed the easiest way to go about it. I mean...learning a song by tab meant that I would have to either search the internet for hours or go to a store and buy a book. Getting a teacher to teach me the song seemed like too much trouble also.

 

I know it seems funny, but I really developed my ear because I was too lazy to put down the bass and walk over to the computer to type "search". :D It burned less calories to just press the play and pause buttons over and over. :P

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My whole family is musical. Both parents sang in the church choir, so I'm sure I did hear my mother singing while in the womb! I have a very old cassette tape of 4 year old me singing a choral piece by Poulenc I'd heard my mom singing around the house. Mom recorded me while I was just sitting by myself playing and singing. So I guess I had a pretty early start.

 

My parents started me on piano when I was 6. For some reason I hated reading the music. I liked playing pieces once I had them down, but it was such an effort reading them. It was so much easier if I heard the tune first, then I could play it because I already knew how it went - it seemed that simple. I heard another girl at church play Beethoven's "Fur Elise" in a recital, and I liked the piece so much that after we got home I sat at the piano all afternoon picking it out from having heard it that once. Of course my piano teacher thought this was abysmal progress...I guess I wasn't meant to be a concert pianist.

 

My mom's old folk guitar was always around somewhere, and I took an interest in it around age 9. My grandpa taught me my first few chords. But it wasn't until a few years later I really got into it, and started figuring out Rush and Zeppelin guitar parts from my records. I'd use my desktop tape recorder and got really good at hitting play/rewind/play really fast to make a passage repeat over and over so I could get it in my head before trying to play it. I played along with the radio quite a bit too.

 

When I went off to Berklee, and took the placement exams, I tested right into Ear Training III. I loved that class. When I was there I actually got to be a decent reader. But nowadays, when I look at a piece of music I have to really concentrate to read it, especially if there are ledger lines...my skills have atrophied. But give me a chord chart or play me the song, and I'm good to go.

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Well, I started and never stopped. When i first started playing my teacher would start me out learning songs by writing down fret positions and string number, alike to tab. Once I had that vocabulary down, i realized i can do this on my own. SO I go up to my teacher and ask if we could start working on theory. So while I'm learning about my key signatures, working on my reading and writing, andgoing over scales and later chord theory as well with my teacher. I'm spending most of my free time just playing by ear. A lot of times I'll listen to the radio or a cd and just play along. And I've always found great help from playing along to other sources as well. I think we all know they play blues brothers on amc a lot. SO when ever it goes on I'll play along to the music. I also like to play along to the tv when I'm watching. I'll usually just come up with bass lines over a film's classical score for example. I also have played with some jam bands where we just go on stage and follow each other with out ever picking a key or pregression. And i have a habi of doing proggresions in harmony to what others play. My teacher used to get mad because for a while i was having trouble reading and whenever he would play a written line I would always just play it back at him straight.....and then he would yellto me about not looking at the page and playing the line. I also can play a lot of songs i hav'nt learned yet by remembering what they sound like in my head........

Just had to mention brian wilson can hear six part harmonies in his head.....now that there's somethin tight therre...yea :D

Hiram Bullock thinks I like the band volume too soft (but he plays guitar). Joe Sample thinks I like it way too loud (but he plays piano). -Marcus Miller
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Thanks Dave, and all of you. We were talking about that last night, after playing a church in Dallas. I need to work on picking out stuff, instead of looking at someone's hand for the chord(s)etc...(my printer broke/no practice/didn't know the song). But, we had a few minutes after set-up so I could write down the progression.

"Went real well...considering". -Neil Peart

I'll be workin' on it Dave!

Vince

 

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." ~ Pablo Picasso

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I started classical piano training at the age of five. I don't know how it works in the States - but in the U.K all 'offical' music exams (practical and theory) are sat through the Royal School of Music, with Grade 8 being the highest exam you can sit (which I got to when I was 16). But even from Grade 1 loads of the ear tests are pretty difficult and there are several variations, with simple pitch based stuff (sing back a melody that has been played for you) to standing behind the piano whilst another melody is played and then you sit down and play it. I can remeber being pretty useless early on - but my teacher kept at it as did I) and I guess I managed to 'train' myself to have a good ear - I think it is possible

He who decends to the level of a beast takes away the pain of being a man.

 

www.popmachine.co.uk

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I had exactly the opposite problem...

 

Having perfect pitch, learning to play by ear was as natural for me as learning to talk - literally. However, I have always been an awful sight reader - even to this day. I can read fine, but my sight reading is basically terrible. Some folks with perfect pitch are able to also become good readers - I'm not one of them. :)

 

Kirk

Reality is like the sun - you can block it out for a time but it ain't goin' away...
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Thanks for the ideas guys. This topic is my personal biggest weakness. :o The funny thing is when I play fretless, or sing people usually have good comments on my tune, but I have what I call piss poor ear to note memory. I can hear a tune and not have clue what key they are in until I start playing along and find a scale that works. Once I find the appropriate major or minor I can use my knowledge to figure out what all the apropriate chords are, but I need to get to point where I can just listen and do that. It almost like there is a gorge between my theory knowledge and my intuitive sense of sound, and I have find a bridge. Any ideas how to build that bridge, I started playing acoustic guitar this past year and it has helped. Chords are a bit easier to distinguish than notes.

Together all sing their different songs in union - the Uni-verse.

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I more or less entirely learnt to play by ear (guitar first, then bass). I have had virtually no formal music lessons. Over the past few years I've put in a certain amount of time learning to read notation, which I can now do to a certain extent. I don't have anything to compare with but I'm sure I'm at best a moderate-to-poor sight reader - not surprising in the circumstances.

 

Despite the above I don't regard myself as having a good ear. Within reason and given a little time I can transcribe most things: within a few years of taking up guitar I was able to transcribe almost all of Abraxas, for example, or Larry Carlton's solo on "Kid Charlemagne". I've never (so far) been asked to learn a bass part that I've not been able to learn by ear. In my last band I often worked out the chord parts because I was more accurate than the guitar player or keys player, although I think that had a lot to do with having a better grasp of theory (also self-taught) rather than having a better ear.

 

In some ways I think I am a counterargument to Dave's original post, in that I've done many of the right things, especially a lot of transcribing from records, without developing anything better than a mediocre ear. For example, I can be slightly out of tune and another musician will notice before I do (doesn't happen often, because I'm careful to check my tuning, but it has happened). I've never been confident as a backing singer because I have difficulty hearing some harmonies accurately enough: eventually I decided that I was uncomfortable enough that I wasn't prepared to do it. At a jam session I'm ok with very simple stuff (blues structures, one or two chord vamps etc) but I often can't follow a another player in real time if he just decides to go where the mood takes him - we have to agree the chords beforehand (or I need to know the tune, I can get by on Autumn Leaves or Summertime).

 

Over the past couple of years I've intermittently worked on ear training using computer programs. This has definitely helped - I can recognise the interval between two notes played simultaneously, for example, and I'm better at hearing everything that is going on in a record. But I feel the overall effect has been to make a mediocre ear slightly better -it hasn't made my ear "good".

 

I think the idea of a good ear is closely linked to musical memory. Again, mine is unexceptional or even poor. I can play a song dozens of times with a band, but if I don't play that song for a few months and it isn't absolutely straightforward I will probably need to run through the bass part with the record before I can play it again without making mistakes. I'm in awe of people who can remember hundreds or even thousands of songs, because at any one time I probably only know two or three dozen well enough to go up on stage and play them.

 

Obviously I'd love to have a better ear than I do, and am somewhat envious of people with naturally good ears. But I've had plenty of time to get used to the idea that my ear is nothing special. I never had serious ambitions to be a professional musician. I've still been able to play at a standard that has given me plenty of pleasure (social as well as musical) and enabled me to hold my own (or even be the leader)in bands made up of people who are much more naturally gifted than I. I'm not complaining.

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