Tip: Playing by Ear (continued…)

We continue our exploration of playing guitar by ear. This time out we’re going to look at reasons for playing by ear.

You want to play by ear for this reason above all others: it just feels good. That’s it! That’s why you began playing in the first place, isn’t it? You play because you dig the sounds coming out of your guitar. And that’s the same feeling you’ll get, multiplied by 100 or so, when you first start picking out melodies on the guitar.

When you start figuring out chords and complete songs on the guitar, you get an even bigger rush. When you get to that point you will realize that not only was figuring out chords and tunes not that hard, it was pretty darn fun.

Besides the fun and satisfaction factor, why else would you want to play by ear?

Here’s a good, motivating reason: you’ll save money and time. The next time you hear a tune on the radio or a CD that you’d like to play yourself, instead of spending time digging around for the tab, or spending money to buy the sheet music, you’ll work the tune out for yourself. Besides saving money and time, you’ll also get your fun quota filled for the week. (See the “fun” reason just mentioned.)

Here’s another reason to learn to play by ear: jamming. If you’re getting together with a buddy to make music, you’ll have a much more satisfying time of it if you can hear what he or she is playing and respond to it, whether with chordal accompaniment or a melodic line.

Or, let’s say your jamming buddy is claiming that he’s learned the Stairway to Heaven solo note for note “” from tablature. He starts playing, and because you can play by ear, you immediately hear which notes are out of whack. And you diplomatically point out those notes, and again, using your highly attuned ear, point out the right notes to play.

In short, you earn the respect of the musicians you currently play with, when you can play by ear.

Once you begin playing by ear, you’ll be creating a connection between yourself and the great musicians of the past like Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery and others who played only by ear. Wouldn’t it be satisfying to know that, by using your ears, you’re following the same path that some of the most worshiped guitarists before you have followed?

Playing by ear helps you learn new tunes quicker. You’re more able to scope out a tune you’ve never heard before, and learn how to play it and remember it much more easily than if you don’t yet know how to play by ear.

You probably have your own reasons for playing by ear. The list just given is just a sample. Writing down your reasons in a journal is a great way to intensify the feelings those reasons evoke. And doing that will get you to play by ear even more quickly. Now that we know why to play by ear, we’ll begin easing into the how to do it, and what to do with it.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright © 2008 Darrin Koltow

This first appeared in the Guitar Noise News – July 16, 2007 newsletter. Reprinted with permission.