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(@guitar_samurai)
Active Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 14
Topic starter  

So, I've been wanting to learn to play for a long time, but I'm running into a nice little snag. I swear I'm tone deaf. I've heard that learning to tune your guitar helps train your ear, but how can you tune accurately if you can't distinguish the different notes? I think I'm in tune, and then I listen to a friend's guitar that I know is in standard tuning, and mine doesn't sound the same. So my question is this: Is there some way I can train my ear, am I screwed, or will my ears just improve with time and there's nothing I can do?


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(@markthechuck)
Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 169
 

Why don't you try a electronic tuner then listen to what it sounds like when it's in tune, then that'll give you some sort idea what it sould sound like when your tuning your guitar in by ear.. :D

A knock back is the beginning of a comeback!!!


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(@pearlthekat)
Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 1472
 

Try singing along with what you are playing. If you can't then play the notes of any scale, or just play any note and try to match the pitch with your voice. You should be able to hear your voice ringing with the note when you hit it. After a while you'll get better with it.


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 Nuno
(@nuno)
Famed Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 3998
 

Yes, you can train you ear. And for tuning, it is not a problem. The electronic tuners can help you but try to learn how to tune by ear. I know several senior guitar players who are not able to tune without electronic tuners correctly.


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(@unimogbert)
Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 174
 

So, I've been wanting to learn to play for a long time, but I'm running into a nice little snag. I swear I'm tone deaf. I've heard that learning to tune your guitar helps train your ear, but how can you tune accurately if you can't distinguish the different notes? I think I'm in tune, and then I listen to a friend's guitar that I know is in standard tuning, and mine doesn't sound the same. So my question is this: Is there some way I can train my ear, am I screwed, or will my ears just improve with time and there's nothing I can do?

You'll have to investigate to know what's going on with you. Thank goodness for electronic tuners!

According to Johnson O'Connor, an aptitude testing company, there are 3 different aptitudes they can test for.
Pitch Discrimination, Pitch Memory, and Rhythm Memory. Perhaps you were really meant to be a drummer???
(I absolutely should not be let anywhere near the drums! But I can easily tune my guitar....)

If you want to be quite sure about this you could go get tested. :-) But the test is actually a whole bunch of other aptitudes with the idea that an aptitude profile can help you make decisions about what to do with your life.
My wife and I have taken the tests and we're funding my nieces to take the tests as soon as they are old enough.
Not cheap, not strictly related to guitar, but a very useful life-informing exercise.
See: http://www.jocrf.org/

Unimogbert
(indeterminate, er, intermediate fingerstyle acoustic)


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(@scrybe)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 2246
 

I agree with the above posts. singing definitely does help - I'm a useless singer, but trying to match the pitch I'm playing on guitar with my voice has really helped both my voice and my general music skills. also, being really attentive helps too - half the time when we think we're listening we're not really actively paying attention. its the same with sight for artists/sketching. since our senses are in use pretty much all our waking time, we think we're using them when often we're not. a lot of people say the main 'skill' a good artist or photographer has is being able to see properly - the motor skills of drawing or taking a photo are merely secondary - the same can be said in music, the main skill is listening/hearing and the motor skills of playing the guitar are secondary (a strong reason why shredders get criticised).

also, how are you tuning your guitar? because you might (e.g.) be able to tune the guitar so it is in tune with itself, but if you're not using some reference pitch (from a piano, a tuner, etc) then you might not be in 'concert pitch' which could explain why the guitar you think is in tune does not sound in tune against your mate's guitar. I spent a long time just making sure my guitars were in tune with themselves and not really worrying about 'concert pitch' unless I was jamming with other muso's. My Ibanez electrostick has an inbuilt tuner though, and I've been taking advantage of that to keep it in concert pitch, and I've noticed it has already (within around 3 weeks) had an effect on my aural skills. Edit - I generally use the tuner to make sure one string is in concert pitch, then tune the rest by ear, and then check against the tuner to check I'm done.

also, it is a myth that aural ability is completely innate. for some people this appears to be true - but even then it is difficult to judge precisely - e.g. a lot of people with so-called perfect pitch have also been encouraged to play music from an early age, or exposed to music from an early age. and the type of music one is exposed to will affect how one 'hears' pitch and harmony and the like (e.g. back when Mozart was around, 7th chords sounded really dissonant because they weren't that prominent, whereas nowadays we've been bombarded by 7th chords in jazz, blues, rock, etc., so they sound more 'normal' to us). however, for most people, pitch discrimination, pitch memory, and rhythm dscrimination are things which are taught/learned over time.

an analogy would be language. while chomsky has argued quite strongly that we innately possess a generative grammar from which our language skills are formed/constructed, no one would consider a baby 'deficient' because it couldn't read from birth. likewise, while neglected children with poor language skills are considered 'deficient' from a societal point of view, we generally understand/accept that this is not an inherent deficiency but, rather, the result of their environment or lack thereof. the same is largely (if not wholly) true of musical and general aural skills (with the possible exception of people who are totally deaf, just as those who are totally mute are an expcetion to the language-related points we've considered) yet we persist with myths about innate ability being the be-all-and-end-all of musical aptitude. probably because it is not as necessary to social existence as language skills are, but it ignores the fact that even the most 'gifted' of musicians have spent hours dedicating themselves to music. sure, Hendrix had great aural skills, as did Mozart, but they were also glued to their instruments day in day out before anyone could independently 'verify' their gift. if anything, I think their greatest 'gift' as far as innate ability goes was their gift of being able to focus on music exclusively to the neglect of everything else. tenacity will generally override aptitude in any area of study.

edited for typos and to make the tuner-use comment a little clearer in light of Dommy09's post below.

Ra Er Ga.

Ninjazz have SuperChops.

http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe


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(@dommy09)
Trusted Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 74
 

really great answer by scrybe, and i would just like to assert the importance of learning to tune your guitar without a tuner. sure, use a tuner to start with, but soon you should be able to recognise how a guitar (and individual strings) will sound when 'in tune'.

"We all have always shared a common belief that music is meant to be played as loud as possible, really raw and raunchy, and I'll punch out anyone who doesn't like it the way I do." -Bon Scott


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(@guitar_samurai)
Active Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 14
Topic starter  

Thanks everyone, especially Scrybe, for your great answers. I guess I just ran into the typical newbie problem of expecting perfection before learning anything, heh.


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(@dagwood)
Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 1029
 

Thanks everyone, especially Scrybe, for your great answers. I guess I just ran into the typical newbie problem of expecting perfection before learning anything, heh.

Invest $20 in a KORG CA-30 Chromatic Tuner.. It'll save your sanity...especially when first starting out.

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. - Wernher Von Braun (1912-1977)


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(@misanthrope)
Noble Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 2268
 

also, it is a myth that aural ability is completely innate. for some people this appears to be true - but even then it is difficult to judge precisely - e.g. a lot of people with so-called perfect pitch have also been encouraged to play music from an early age, or exposed to music from an early age.
Just to nitpick the tiniest bit - it is innate, but everyone has it up to the age of 4 or 5. By then, if it's not being reinforced by some task like singing, it starts to fade. We can train it back later but it's much slower going, hence it appearing to be innate in some people and hard work in others. If you start early it's not just a headstart in the same learning curve, it's an easier curve too.

ChordsAndScales.co.uk - Guitar Chord/Scale Finder/Viewer


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 Nuno
(@nuno)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 3998
 

Scrybe, very interesting the analogy with the language and the reference to Chomsky.

Thanks.


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(@kingpatzer)
Noble Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 2198
 

Learn the pattern for a major scale, doesn't matter which one. C-Major will work just fine, but whatever one you want. Just one octave.

Play it.
Again.
Repeat.
Repeat.
Repeat.
......do this several dozen times.
Don't play fast. Play slowly, deliberately, consciously. LISTEN to each and every note.
Get rid of all external noise distractions. Make your environment as quite as can be except for you and your guitar.

After you've done that many times, for perhaps a week or two, that one octave scale will be in your brain. Now, unless you have a neurological or physiological deficiency, the trick is to get your ear and brain working together with your fingers and instrument.

Now, play the scale a few times, then play the first note and sing it. Just sing "aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh" on that same note. Listen to yourself. Sing facing a wall so you get a good return sound, or buy a mic and amp yourself so you can hear yourself well. just work with the first note until you think you're pretty close. Really work with it. It might take you a few tries, but don't get discouraged, just listen and sing and you'll get it.

Now go to the second note in the scale. Play it. Sing it.

Work you way through that single scale.

Record yourself if you can. Listen to the playback. Don't be judgmental, but do be critical. We aren't trying to turn you into Pavarotti, we just want you to sing the note being played well-enough to connect your brain to your music.

After you've played and sung through the scale for a week or two, now reverse the process. Sing the note and play it. See how close you get. Work that way for another couple of weeks. Again, recording and listening critically will really help.

Once you can sing that one scale pretty well (not perfect, but at least indicating that you can hear the notes), now think of a good childrens jingle, "Meet the Flinstones," "Old McDonald," any simple childrens song will do -- they are almost all in one octave ranges and use only diatonic (within the scale) tones. Sing it. Now, play it. Just figure it out, sing each note and play around until you figure out which note in the scale it is.

This will take some time as you might not be singing the song in the key of C to start with, but you'll get it eventually.

Now do this as part of every practice while you're learning the guitar -- think up a simple melody such as a children's song, sing it, then play it.

Within a year you will have what you consider to be a pretty good ear. Work hard at it, and you will develop an ear to be jealous of -- unless you have physiological or neurological damage to your auditory system, this method will work.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST


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(@stellabloo)
Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 189
 

Thought I'd throw in 2 cents ... as someone convinced for 30 yrs that I was incapable of playing by ear ...

To stretch that language analogy, it's like learning a new language - with a completely different alphabet - by memorizing the alphabet and the rules of grammar and then expecting to create whole sentences right away! Babies spend MONTHS just babbling; it takes a couple of years to produce complicated phrases like "go bye-bye" or "gimme wa-wa" ?

I like to play a little game with my tuner (also very helpful when my tuner batteries are dead or the children have run away with this fascinating toy!) - I guess if the tone is high or low and then look at the tuner to see if the guess is correct. A few hundred times of doing this and my ear is definitely starting to get better.

As well I seem to have developed some kind of aural memory in the past year; now I can "remember" a note in my head - can't tell you what it is just by hearing it, but I can "hear" the note long enough to find it on the guitar 8)

What if the Hokey Pokey IS what it's really all about?

~ why yes, I am available on youtube ~
http://www.youtube.com/stellabloo


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(@guitar_samurai)
Active Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 14
Topic starter  

After thinking about this for a while, and friends telling me something very similar to Stellabloo's remarks, I don't think I'm tone deaf exactly, just haven't learned the guitar's sound yet. I think I'll try Stella's "game" though, sounds like it could help a lot.


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(@kent_eh)
Noble Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1885
 

To stretch that language analogy, it's like learning a new language - with a completely different alphabet - by memorizing the alphabet and the rules of grammar and then expecting to create whole sentences right away! Babies spend MONTHS just babbling;

That's similar to something Victor Wooten said at a clinic I attended a year or so back

He asked if music was a language (of course a roomful of musicians agreed).
So, when you learned to speak your first language, did you learn the alphabet, rules of grammar and spelling first?
Of course not.

You listened.
Then you tried out some sounds.
You treated the sounds you were making like a toy.
You listened to the sounds you were making, and the sounds others were making, and made another sound.

You "jammed" with more experienced speakers of the language...
(ok, now I'm getting ahead of myself, but it is the answer to a question most new players ask after we've been playing for a year or 3... "My progress feels slow, How do I get better faster")

it takes a couple of years to produce complicated phrases like "go bye-bye" or "gimme wa-wa" ?
And decades later we're still saying "Gimme Wah-Wah".

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep


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