Bad ears then what?

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cnev
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Bad ears then what?

Post by cnev » April 23rd, 2013, 12:17 pm

Ok the title is a bit misleading because I couldn't really think of an appropriate title. Another boring day at work ( even moreso now that we have been told we are being outsourced and get to train our replacements..yippee)

Anyway back to music. I had posted previously on what people thought about reding music vs playing by ear but I have a different twist on it and I'm not necessarily sure I have an actual question but maybe.

OK I'll confess I don't play by ear nor can I read music (although I could along time ago at a rudimentary level when I played trumpet).

So here I am several years into playing. I have taken lessons for about 5 years now with an instructor I really like. But for the most part I have asked him to tab out songs for me. Over the course of these years I have learned and played a few hundred songs. Now that I have more experience once I have his tab (which also includes note durations etc) I can learn a song in an hour or so. It's usually just a matter of remembering when the changes come although there are some riffs that take a bit of time.

But I am totally addicted to his tabs, one because they are always spot on and two the way he condenses them a whole song can be written on a page or two (usually not counting any solos)

I have bought tab books and books that have both tab and standard notation and some of the songs take up ten pages and with all the al codas etc it's a real pain to use them at least for me anyway.

The problem is it costs a lot more money to have him tab out songs, on the flip side I could have a song that is played for the first time and have a tab for it the next day. I can't even get tab or sheet music that fast.

Not sure what the point of my post is other than I guess I feel a bit weird that I am playing in a band and this is how I learn how to play songs it seems a bit unmusical.

In my world I really wouldn't have much use for sight reading skills but a good ear would be nice, and along those lines my problem is even if I was able to pick up some chords and notes by ear I don't think I'd get everything right and I hate playing songs "almost" like the original.

His ear is so good that he catchs things I don't hear without having to listen very carefully and I've heard other people that supposedly play by ear but they never really get it quite right.

Anyone feel the same way or have been like that but moved on to playing by ear?
Last edited by cnev on April 24th, 2013, 9:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bad ears then what?

Post by Hobson » April 23rd, 2013, 12:39 pm

Think about it. You can tell when something that has been tabbed out isn't quite right. SO YOU DON'T HAVE A BAD EAR. Figuring out the right chords is a skill that improves with practice. At first it's going to take a lot of time to do one song. Instead of practicing the skill, you've been relying on your teacher. He wasn't born being able to do this.

When I was learning guitar, there was no tab. I either spent money on books or spent time on listening. I eventually learned to read standard notation. Reading tab is a skill that I never practiced. I can barely read it, only use it occasionally for fingerings.

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Re: Bad ears then what?

Post by fleaaaaaa » April 24th, 2013, 12:59 am

I personally get a lot of satisfaction working out things on my own, which is why I have done it a lot. I had basic ear skills initially and I used to play bass by ear.... which I was only so-so at and it was my first instrument. I'd get some bits right but other bits wrong. It's really nice to either a.) have worked something out on your own and see a book do it (almost) exactly the way you did or b.) look at a tab book, see they did it completely wrong and then look at a performance of it and see that they do what you do! Those are two of the coolest things in my opinion to happen to you.
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Re: Bad ears then what?

Post by cnev » April 24th, 2013, 3:47 am

Hobson - I am able to hear when things are wrong in the context of the song but that's about it. I guess the answer to my question is to start training my ear. As for my instructor he claims and I beleive him that he was born with perfect pitch so he probably was born.

Fleaa - I agree working out songs would give me huge satisfaction but the problem today is in the band I might learn 5 new songs in a week and I'd never be able to work them out fast enough and good enough to be able to play them that weekend.
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Re: Bad ears then what?

Post by Crow » April 24th, 2013, 7:43 am

For several years I thought I couldn't play by ear. Then I actually TRIED to play by ear. Started playing along with whatever the radio offered. It was fun, and it showed me that playing by ear was not impossible. Pretty soon I found I could hear much more than I thought I could, and play what I hear much better than I thought.

That's just me. Your mileage may vary.
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Re: Bad ears then what?

Post by cnev » April 24th, 2013, 9:30 am

Crow that's cool. I've never really tried always using the excuse that I'd never get it all correct anyway so why bother. Again I am only playing in a rock cover band so this is technically not very difficult and there hundreds maybe thousands of bands out there how are all of these people learnng the songs, do the all play by ear?

In my limited experience I haven't really met anyone that can work out a song exactly note for note other than my instructor and obviously there are plenty of people that can do it but I've never met any.

Like I mentioned before the ones that do or think they do maybe get the basics of the song but usually never get the details.
Last edited by cnev on April 25th, 2013, 5:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bad ears then what?

Post by dhodge » April 24th, 2013, 12:05 pm

Everyone's experience is different, but usually people first get the basic so they can then focus on picking out and getting the details better and better. Going through and learning by ear almost automatically sets you up for more and more practice and more and more sharpening your skills. While this is going on, you'll also pick up more and more as you develop your other playing skills. You'll hear, for instance, when a chord is shaped like a D because of the little fills that can be easily played when making a D chord ("Here Comes the Sun" would be a good example). Just hearing the difference between a power chord, a full barre major chord and a full barre minor chord is a huge step but it's not beyond you. It truly is a matter of practice, just as everything you've learned about guitar so far has been.

If you give it a try, Chris, go with a song that's both very simple and very familiar. You might even ask your teacher to walk you through the steps to figure out the basic framework of a song. A lot of teachers work with their students on this sort of thing.

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Re: Bad ears then what?

Post by Crow » April 24th, 2013, 2:01 pm

cnev wrote:I've never really tried always using the excuse that I'd never get it all correct anyway so why bother.
Man, you have to try! Get the key of the song right first, then the chords, then the positions for the chords. Now you're ready for the details. Don't give up. Put your tuner on a good classic-rock station, plug in, and go for it.
Again I am only playing in a rock cover band so this is technically very difficult and there hundreds maybe thousands of bands out there how are all of these people learnng the songs, do the all play by ear?
Depends on what you mean by "by ear." My lead sheets for my band are just lyrics with chords over them, because I'm not a just-like-the-record kind of guy (as you know). Paul Shaffer's band on the Letterman show got a cassette of the required songs a day in advance & learned from that; I've learned a lot of material that way. Is that "by ear"?
In my limited experience I haven't really met anyone that can work out a song exactly note for note other than my instructor and obviously there are plenty of people that can do it but I've never met any.
To play anything exactly note for note, you need not only the original artist's finger positions, but also his string gauges, guitar, amp, effects, and (arguably) his experiences as a human being. I urge you to drop that requirement. NOBODY plays ANYTHING exactly note for note. Let it go.
"You can't write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say sometimes, so you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream." - Frank Zappa

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Re: Bad ears then what?

Post by NoteBoat » April 24th, 2013, 6:52 pm

Crow wrote:NOBODY plays ANYTHING exactly note for note. Let it go.
Some people just can't... maybe ten years ago I had a student who brought me a CD and wanted to learn the lead guitar part on a tune. I transcribed it note for note, taught it to him, we played it together against the CD and he agreed it was completely accurate. A few weeks later he abruptly stopped taking lessons and when I asked why, I was told that I didn't know what I was doing. Why? Because he'd seen a video of the band, and the guitarist played the lead in a different position. Never mind the fact that the pitches were EXACTLY the same... or the fact that the fingerings I worked out were easier to play... or even the fact that the timbre I got playing along to the CD was dead on with the recording (which means the scale length and/or string gauges used on the recording were different from mine).

Anyway, I digress a bit.

Music is a language. If you don't speak a language, everything sounds the same. It's the subtle differences in sound that make "carp" different from "cart" or "carb". So the thing to do is to start developing a vocabulary. Listen closely as you play a scale. Play parts of the scale... C, D, E, then C-E. Try to remember what that sounds like. Repeat with C, D, E, F and then C-F. Get a few intervals in your head, and then try to guess the space between two notes. Sing the differences - that will help a lot! You'll get better at it in time.

In the 70s I thought my ears were terrible, and I dreaded college ear training classes. But I kept working at it (and still do, daily), and now I'm often accused of having perfect pitch - I don't. But I've learned the language a bit better than the folks who think I do... so I don't confuse carp with carb very often anymore.

As long as you can hear that two pitches are not the same, you can improve the discrimination of your hearing. And in my entire life I've only met one person who was truly "tone deaf".
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Re: Bad ears then what?

Post by cnev » April 25th, 2013, 5:52 am

Well Note you did bring up a similar situation to what I have experienced. When I say my instructor tabs it note for note it would be exactly like you did. He's not watching a video to copy the fingering's he's tabbing the pitches and they are spot on.

I'm not quite that anal about it. It doesn't have to be tabbed out in the same fingerings as the original and sometimes as you mentioned those aren't even the most efficient fingerings in the first place.
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Re: Bad ears then what?

Post by Gotdablues » May 13th, 2013, 8:16 am

Bad ears? Yeah I got that :?
But as far as using a slow down program to learn a song by ear, well there is no better way to learn a song thoroughly IMO. Of course the price is time, and a tax on your patience. Yeah I've learned dozens of songs by TAB or some guy on youtube, which is all good but once you go the route of learning a song by ear, you'll hear the difference.
And it's been said but the more you do it....

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Re: Bad ears then what?

Post by cnev » May 14th, 2013, 9:40 am

Just rereading this again.

Gotdablues I'm not sure what I think about the slow downer thing although I have tried it years ago. That's similar to having to have the music I don't really consider that playing by ear although I guess technically it is.

When I say playing by ear I'm talking about what Crow mentioned turn on the radio and work it out in real time although using the slow downer may be a good place to start.

Maybe when I am out of work in a couple months and if I don't find a job right away I will attempt to start the process but by the time I'd be any good at it I won't be playing in any bands so it would be a moot point.
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Re: Bad ears then what?

Post by Crow » May 14th, 2013, 11:09 am

cnev wrote:Maybe when I am out of work in a couple months and if I don't find a job right away I will attempt to start the process but by the time I'd be any good at it I won't be playing in any bands so it would be a moot point.
That's the spirit! :wink:

You might be surprised how quickly it comes together if you keep after it. I was surprised.
"You can't write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say sometimes, so you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream." - Frank Zappa

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Re: Bad ears then what?

Post by jwmartin » May 14th, 2013, 8:17 pm

I've never had a very good ear. Whenever I'm learning a song, I always look online for the chords. I started taking vocal lessons from a friend about a month or so ago. The first week, we didn't do any singing. He just had me play the C major scale (in all different modes) all over the neck of my guitar. For a week, that's all I could do. No listening to music, just listening strictly to that scale and hearing those intervals. The 2nd week, he started having me sing those notes. I can tell you hearing that one scale and those intervals over and over and over again has improved my ear already. I was listening to a song on the radio the other day and thought, "hey, that's the same chord progression as [another song I already knew]." When I got home, I tried playing with it and it was the wrong key, BUT, it took me moving down 1 whole step to find the right key and, sure enough, the progression was the same. I'm definitely not at the point where I can hear a note and tell you what it is, but just being able to hear the distance between notes is good enough to get you started down the path of playing by ear.

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Re: Bad ears then what?

Post by fleaaaaaa » May 15th, 2013, 12:31 am

cnev wrote: Maybe when I am out of work in a couple months and if I don't find a job right away I will attempt to start the process but by the time I'd be any good at it I won't be playing in any bands so it would be a moot point.
Well, bands come and go - your personal growth is with you forever. It depends whether you play for a band or for yourself.

However advice here on working out chords - the slow downer thing is okay, I have a software like that but I don't use it for that purpose (just to change keys for my lessons with students to avoid capos and tunings - a half step up or down) but here it is:
Instead of slowing it down, do this: You could listen to the whole thing and play along, but you might not initially be sharp enough to instantly play along. Listen to the first chord of the song - sing that note (okay maybe you can't sing? I don't know - but get the note in your head) try and find it on the guitar. Single notes first, if you lose the note play the track again and find it on your guitar. Now determine whether its major, minor, then worry about extensions later - if there are any. This is a slow process but its how I started - I played bass initially - it helps to write it down when you work it out - eventually you can do it "on the fly" like others do but it has taken me years of practice. It is always the thing I practiced from day one - I just always wanted that skill.
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