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Discover How To Play The Guitar By Ear

Mar 2, 2008
It is a common misbelief that to be able to play the guitar by ear you need to possess some kind of super talent, but this really is not the case. If you can play the instrument, even a little, you can learn how to play by ear. Of course, if you have never even picked up a guitar before, it will be a bit more difficult as you will be unaware as to which chords produce which sounds. The experts are quite right when they advise you to learn how to play before you try playing by ear.

You may be asking why you should even bother to learn to play by ear when so many tunes are available, and sometimes for free, on tablature. Well, to start with a good reason to play by ear is for the fun involved. When you have mastered playing by ear you will not need to rely on sheet music, and as long as you are not using an electric guitar, you will still be able to play in the event of a power cut. You will have no need to buy the music when you want to play the latest tunes as you will simply copy what you hear.

Now this may surprise you, but the best way to learn how to play the guitar by ear is to practice on the piano or a simulated keyboard if you have no access to a full size piano. Listen to a simple tune in the key of C major, then sing the song a few times. The next step is to pick out each note using the white keys of the keyboard and every time you hear a note check to see if it is higher or lower than you note you just found. When you have carried out this procedure a few times, you will be ready to take on playing the guitar by ear.

It is important that you know at least one major scale pattern on the guitar prior to learning to play by ear. When you are familiar with where you have to place your fingers in order to play the note you require it will become much simpler. Really listen to the music, sing the note a few times and playing by ear will fall into place.

At the beginning of your training to get your ear to identify the musical note, it really does help to practice with tunes in the key of C major as there are no sharps or flats to contend with. Then try transposing them to the key of E major, again educating your ear to select the notes instead of depending on your muscle memory to remember which particular fingers you used for certain notes. When you have become familiar with how to play by ear in these keys, you will then be able to tackle some more challenging tunes.
About the Author
Kevin Sinclair is the publisher and editor of MusicianHome.com, a site that provides information and articles for musicians at all stages of their development.
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