If you hear it you can play it

When someone writes down the most important things that a guitarist should know but really has no concept of, most people would draw their minds to theory, reading music, transposing , learning the fret board, confidence, etc.

Yes all of those things are detrimental to becoming a great guitarist but how can you play what you do not hear?

Aural skills (hearing, also known as ear training) are what the foundation of a guitarist should be based upon.

How many times have you listened to the radio and wished you could play that song,

"You know you could if you had the music?"

That is the most overused phrase I know. The steps to having a good ear are quite simple and I will show them to you in this lesson.

I warn you there are no pictures or tab in this workout. These are tips on how to develop your ear... something that needs to be looked at from a different approach (you'll see what I mean). Now it's time to dive in and get started!

Step #1: Start to transcribe (figure out by ear and write down) songs, chords, scales, solos, etc.

Do this by listening to the radio and picking out certain notes. At first this will seem very hard but soon you'll land on a note that is in tune with the song. Start thinking about the scales that surround that particular note and play around with them.

Before you know it you'll be playing with the pros. Don't expect it to be exactly like the song. You want to have your own version. You might just want to write out the bass line (which is a good place to start because for some slower songs you can hear the continuous four or five notes).

You also might want to write out the solo. This is not as hard as you might be thinking. Keep in mind technique and try to think of what kind of things they are doing. Are they using bends, slides, vibrato, tremolo bars?

That would be a good indicator of what to do with some of the notes that you may find.

Step #2: Start to transcribe without your guitar. Whoa, that's hard right? Yeah it is but it will pinpoint your weaknesses.

You may be really good at finding chords but have a difficult time trying to figure out if that note in a solo is sharp, flat, or natural.

That would be a sign of where to point your attention for a little while until you can get past that. Then, when another thing comes along you tackle it with the aim of improving.

That's what we do, continuously improve (kind of a nice thought isn't it). So if you were shaky when you first started to transcribe I would bet money that you're doing better now, after all you can't get worse than when you started. When your practice music, you never move backwards.

Step #3: Sing. Sing everything you can get your hands on. If you think you can't sing you'll soon be able to keep up a hum.

You should sing scales, arpeggios, intervals, chords, etc. Sing with your guitar, it will help you stay in tune. It's not a race either.

Hum until you get the right pitch of that string, then move to the next note of the scale and the next, etc.

Then do it again and soon your ear will develop and allow you to move faster and faster. I personally found this method to really help me get better at transcribing and my playing improved overall as well.

Step #4: Think of some kind of song in your head, something that sounds cool to you. Try to play it out on your guitar.

You may find something you like better, that's fine! It's all about making your brain receptive to different tones and sounds. Improv musicians use this technique a lot, something you'll learn about in the next lesson.

Step #5: Find some free software on the net. There are literally dozens out there and they will all help you improve your ear. You need patience and discipline to do it but when you're finished you'll really notice a difference.

Many people who are of age to go to University or are already in University have the option of taking classes just for Aural Skills.

You can take it just as an elective and you will most certainly improve dramatically. Many people speak of how they thought they had an ear until they discovered their weaknesses in University/ College/ Community College.

In the end it comes down to personal choice if you want to learn from a teacher or by yourself. Both will have the same results if the time is put in.

Training your ear happens overtime. While you don't have to use all of these tricks to get a good ear, if you use them all you will gain experience quicker. I hope you enjoyed this lesson!


Article written by: Jordan Warford, Editor for GuitarTips.com.au, especially for PJ's Guitar Chords and Lyrics Newsletter

"How To Play The Electric / Acoustic Guitar in 30 Days!" Click here now