Tips: Tools for Practicing Melodies

Welcome back to the playing by ear lesson series. We continue learning melodies in C major – and take it a little further.

Besides the approach we took last time to learn melodies in C major, here’s another way: an online program. This program plays melodies in C major, which you play back on a simulated keyboard. After you successfully repeat one melody, the next is harder.

Another option is to get a midi file for a simple tune with a clear melody, regardless of what key it’s in, and use the all powerful, free Power Tab ( to convert the melody to C major. Check out the Power Tab help file for more on this. Use to find the midi files.

A guitar scale

Once you feel pretty comfortable with playing melodies in C major on a piano, it’s time to play those melodies on the guitar. To do this, you’ll want to know at least one major scale pattern. The pattern we’re going to make use of in a short bit is this one:



These are all eighth notes except the last, which is a whole note.

Practice this until you can play it smoothly with a metronome. You don’t need a blazingly fast tempo. Any tempo that you could walk comfortably to will be just fine. Do make sure you can play the pattern without reading the

Once you can play this pattern, let’s figure out the Noel tune with it. First, here’s another version of the tune. It’s transposed down one octave, to fit the notes we’ve decided to work with. It’s still in C major.

Now, here is where you play the first three notes for the melody.

Begin playing the tune, note by note, on the guitar now. Using the procedure we went over in the last lesson. Here’s a summary of that procedure again:

Listen to the midi file. Sing along several times. Close the midi file, and sing the tune a cappella – just you, no backup. Use the above picture to play the first three notes. Choose the fourth note by answering this question: is the fourth note higher or lower than the third? Use your singing, and your knowledge of the major scale pattern above to find that fourth note. Then, do the same for the remaining notes in the melody.

Remember that the more text you read, the more confusing this simple, easy, joyful process may seem. So, quit reading and start playing.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright © 2008 Darrin Koltow

This first appeared in the Guitar Noise News – November 2, 2007 newsletter. Reprinted with permission.