Tips

This section is still under construction but if you're a beginner, you might find the following helpful:

Q-Tips

I once told a doctor that I use Q-Tips to clean my ears and he said, “You should never stick anything smaller than your elbow in your ears”. In this section I'll try to convince you to put something much larger than an elbow in your ear, but something that is as soft as a Q-Tip. ;-) It requires you to listen to music in a new way, so you can dissect what you are hearing and apply it to learning to play guitar “by ear”.

If you're completely unfamiliar with music terms and/or music theory, I suggest you read the following lessons before you continue reading this. However, if you already know a few chords and just want to start learning how to “pick up” songs (learn them by ear), then you can read the lessons listed below some other time:

A SIMPLE START

Let's start by taking a simple song you have probably heard at least once called “Three Blind Mice”. Don't let the silly name discourage you, and don't be fooled by its' simplicity. For now we are going to play the entire song using only ONE chord. First, think of the melody. If we use G as the first chord, the first note of the melody is B, the second is A, and the third is G. So, the notes for the words “three blind mice” are played or sung as B A G. The second line repeats the first line, so we play or sing the notes B A G again. We can strum the G chord 4 times and sing the first three notes, but we pause the singing on the 4th strum. We repeat that pattern for the second line. The third line uses different notes and there are 4 instead of 3. The second and third notes of this line are sung in half the time it takes to sing the first and last note. "See how-they run" is sung or played as the notes D C-C B. Again you can strum the G chord 4 times, once for the first word, once for the second and third words, and once for the fourth word, then strum one more time without singing. The fourth line repeats the third line. The notes of the third and fourth line harmonize with the notes of the first and second line, so you could actually sing the four lines all at the same time and they would sound okay with the G chord.

The melody appears to change quite a bit after that, “They all got caught by the farm-er's wife” is the next line and each word is sung quickly. The notes are (higher) D G G F# E F# G D D. Each of these notes is actually in harmony with the notes of the first two lines. You could sing the first line and the fifth line to the One big difference in this line is that the first word and note "They"(D) is sung slightly before the first strum of the G chord. The remainder of the line would be these words and notes: All(G) Got(G) Caught(F#) By(E) The(F#) Farm-(G) Er's(D) Wife(D), and we could still strum the G chord four times. The next two lines basically repeat the pattern of that line, except they have more notes and syllables. Regardless of that, we could still strum the G chord 4 times for each line. Again, even though there are more notes and syllables, they harmonize with each of the first four lines and they sound okay with the G chord. The simple way to accompany the song is to just use a G chord.

Now let's add some colour and rhythm to the song. Instead of strumming a G chord 4 times for each line, let's also use a D chord and double the amount of strums. The chords for the first line of the song would go like this: THREE(GG) BLIND(DD) MICE(GG) GG. Notice that there are eight strums and that the D chord is played when the word Blind is sung and the last two G chords are strummed without singing. What we did was added the 5th of the G chord, which is a D chord. Being that the 5th of a any scale harmonizes with the root, the D chord sounds good and adds some colour to the melody.

HOW DOES THAT HELP YOU LEARN TO PLAY BY EAR?

To play by ear you have to get used to the tones and sounds of various chord relationships. You can use the example of “Three Blind Mice” and in your head hear the chord changes from G to D and back. Then, when you are trying to learn a song you start by using that now familiar chord relationship to see if they fit the melody. Of course, not all songs are played and sung in G or D, so you'll have to transpose the chords to a key that is suitable for your vocal range. The main point is: there are many songs that use the same chord structure. They start with a root chord, change to its' 4th or 5th, then go back to the root. If it is the 4th that is the next chord after the root, then there will probably be a 5th of the root or vica versa. See the lesson list above for more details.

TO BE CONTINUED....

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