Skip to content

Tip: Learning More Melodies in C Major

Welcome back to the playing by ear lesson series. We’re going to continue playing simple melodies by ear this lesson, and we’re going to do it on the guitar.

In the last lesson we learned how to play the familiar Noel Christmas tune by ear on the piano, and saw that it only needed eight different piano keys. We ignored the black piano keys, because the tune stays totally in C major. The white notes on the piano represent all the notes in C major.

Ideas for practice

Playing that one melody by ear feels terrific, but once you can play it smoothly you’re going to want to learn more melodies by ear. Lots more. And you’ll learn each one more quickly than the last, watching your musical ear develop.

If you want to continue using the simulated piano to learn simple melodies by ear, which I strongly encourage you to do before picking up the guitar, you’ll want to keep on working with tunes in C major, at least at first. The reason you want to stick to C major is that it lets you figure out tunes using just the white keys on the piano.

So the question is, where do you find more melodies in C major? Here are a couple of strategies to answer that:

Finding C major melodies

Ask a buddy or someone else who can play by ear, or at least has been studying music for a little while, to transpose a tune for you. Tell your buddy the name of the melody you want to learn, or give him a sound file with the melody. Then, offer to bake him those blue brownies he likes so much in exchange for his transposing the melody to C major for you, and playing it. When your buddy plays, record him. Then, it’s time for you to listen to this melody, which is now in C major, and then play it by ear. Once you have your piano available, go through the same procedure we covered last lesson to play by ear: listen to the recording, sing, and pick out the melody on the piano’s white keys.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright © 2008 Darrin Koltow

This first appeared in the Guitar Noise News – October 15, 2007 newsletter. Reprinted with permission.

Signals Music Studio