Have you ever watched someone listen to a song and immediately figure it out on guitar?
If you've ever wanted to do the same - you need to stop fully relying on guitar tutorials and chord sites and instead focus on figuring out songs by ear.
The more you do this, you’re going to start listening to songs in a whole new way. I was able to start figuring out an entire progression simply by listening to a song without touching my guitar. And I’m going to tell you how!
Welcome to Don’t Fret. It’s Friday! A new series where I answer your guitar questions each week. Today’s question is from Sara.
Question: Are there any tips you can give me to get better at ear training?
Answer: Yeeeesssss!! Ear training is the KEY to unlocking an entire new level of experience with playing guitar.
The obvious first tip that comes to mind is tuning your guitar every single day that you play! There are so many things that can cause your guitar to go out of tune - humidity levels, capo usage, playing your guitar and old strings.
Beginners are the worst at tuning their guitars on a regular basis. And I don’t mean this in a harsh way. It’s just facts. Because beginners don’t always understand the importance behind tuning.
Tuning your guitar trains your ears to hear and become familiar with the correct pitches each string is tuned to. If you don’t regularly tune your guitar, your ear is not going to be as sharp and you will become used to hearing it out of tune that you don’t actually realize it’s out of tune.
Once you begin tuning regularly, you will probably become a tuning snob like me and can’t play unless your strings are perfectly tuned.
This is such a simple exercise to start with that anyone can do because you have a tuner to help guide you! If you need extra help tuning your guitar, you can check out my tuning video here!
The 2nd thing I did was start by picking out the root notes instead of whole chords.
This is basically like the bass note or lowest note of the chord. An easy way to start is to pick through the 5th and 6th strings up and down each fret until you land on a note that fits with what you’re hearing. And once you have that note matched up, you can then figure out what chord it matches up with!
It helps a lot if you’re already familiar with the notes up and down the fretboard. But, if you’re not, you can use your tuner to tell you what notes you are playing! (ex: for a G major, the root note is a G - so, if you’re picking through the 6th string and you land on 3rd fret, this is a G note and you’ll know that the chord is G something.) The name of the note is always the starting name of the chord.
My 3rd tip is: If you want to learn songs at the snap of a finger, you need to stop fully relying on guitar tutorials and chord sites and instead focus on figuring out songs by ear.
Now, this is something that you are going to fail so many times at before you get better. What I started doing was figuring out simple 4 chord songs - songs that you can just tell are the same guitar part throughout the entire song.
Once you choose a song, sit down and try picking out notes along the 6th and 5th strings until you hear them match up with what you’re hearing in the song. Once you've got the root notes figured out, you can begin figuring out what the exact chords are.
I highly recommend using a capo as you do this as well to help you access easier open chords.
The more you do this, you’re going to start listening to songs in a whole new way. I was able to start figuring out an entire progression simply by listening to a song without touching my guitar.
And the best part is - you can check your work online! You can go to the video tutorials and the chord sites and see how close you got!
It’s kind of like having one of those math textbooks with the answers in the back, so you can see if you got the right ones! This is exactly what I did and it helped so much.
If you have a guitar question that you would like to ask, click the link here to ask and it might make it into the next Don’t Fret. It’s Friday! 😊
You can watch the full episode of Don't Fret. It's Friday here!