In this article youll learn to play
simple melodies by ear. Theres a lot of mystique surrounding this ability, but
almost anyone can learn how to do it, just as most everyone can learn how to
speak. You want to know at least one pattern for playing the major scale before
you start in. Check out the free Playing Guitar ebook on
www.MaximumMusician.com, or an article from WholeNote.com to get this under your
belt. The only other thing you need is a desire to
First of all, you may want to know how playing by ear
helps you. Whats the purpose of playing by ear? First and foremost, it just
feels good when you can hear a piece of music and play it back. You feel like
you are truly connecting with Music itself, and that time slips away. Also,
playing by ear helps you correct mistakes and memory problems when you go to
play a tune. For example, after playing through a new song a couple of times,
your hands might not feel they totally understand the song. But your ear
may understand it perfectly. When that happens, your playing smooths out the
hitches and hesitations your hand has.
Those are just some of the reasons to play by ear.
Now, lets figure out what to play. Chances are, you know dozens and
dozens of songs already. You know pop tunes from the radio and TV. You know
nursery rhymes, and maybe some hymns from church or the synagogue. And you
likely also know some tunes for certain holidays. Christmas songs are especially
good for learning how to play by ear, because so many people know them so well.
I want you to have the freedom to choose any song you want, but I also want to
ensure you choose a song with an easy melody. For that reason, I recommend you
choose one of the following Christmas songs:
O Christmas Tree
Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer
God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen (Comfort and
The First Noel
Joy to the World
Also, Amazing Grace
This list will give you a good start with some simple
melodies. Choose one of the songs, and lets learn to play it by
Theres a long version and short version to explain
how to pick out the melody. I recommend starting with the short version first.
Its lacking in the details of how to find the melody, but your determination
will supply you with those details. The longer version is the same basic
procedure, but contains more detail. If you have a hard time following either
version, consult the resources listed at the end of this section.
melody, and search one of the major scale forms until you hit a correct note. Do
this for all the notes in the song.
chosen a song and your guitar is in tune, the next thing to do is sing.
Sing the song several times to get familiar
with it. Sing it slowly.
Slow down your singing even further. But,
make sure you can still detect the melody.
Choose a note that sounds like the most
final or restful or stationary note. This may be a note that sustains for a
moment, without other notes to follow it. Heres an example of the most
restful note, from Joy to the World. I sing the first phrase slowly: Joy to
the World, the Lord is Come. I hear that last word, Come, as the most
restful note. I choose that as the key.
It's important to correctly identify the key. If you don't, you may not have much success with this procedure. The key note is not necessarily the first or last note of a song, though it is sometimes. Here's another example of a key note: in the Christmas tune "Silent Night," the note that you sing "peace" on -- "...sleep in heavenly peace" -- is the key note. Sing this tune and notice how that note is the most restful or final.
Find this key note on the guitar. Keep
choosing notes until you find it.
Match up a major scale form with this note.
This means you use the key note to find one of the major scale forms.
Next, sing the note that comes before the
Is it higher or lower than the key? I play
notes from the scale pattern until I find it.
Once Ive found it, I now have two notes. I
find the third from the last note in the same way. I ask, Does it sound
higher or lower than the second to last note? I play notes from the scale
pattern until I find it.
Continue this process until youve found
all the notes in the melody
There are some variations and details on this process
that may make things easier for you. Instead of working backward through the
notes, you can work forward through the notes, one after the other. Also, you
want to constantly be using your voice to test the notes you find. Its much
easier to play by ear when you sing as well as listen. Last, constant repetition
of the notes you learn is important. Play what you know over and
Playing by ear not only makes you a better musician,
it's also just plain, good fun. Make a list of melodies you want to learn to
play by ear, and work through this list. Write down how long it takes you to
learn each melody. You'll see how this time decreases with each tune. Before
long, you may want to branch out into figuring out chords for the melody. Each
step you take in playing by ear makes you a more complete musician, and builds
your sense of fulfillment.
Figuring out songs by ear, by Ron Lukiv.
This article came from the free ebook Playing Guitar: a Beginner's Guide, which you can download from MaximumMusician.com