For guitarists, there is one thing that will bring your playing from just ok to legendary. And you already have all the tools you need for it: your ears! If you’d like to take your guitar playing to the next level, start working on ear training. Guitar ear training helps you identify intervals, pitches, and chords, so you can jam, sight read, and write music more easily.
Once you’ve learned how to put what you hear in your head onto paper, the possibilities are endless. There are several ways to help with your aural music skills – and we’ll walk through each of them in this article.
What Ear Training Exercises Will Help You Learn How to Play Guitar By Ear?
There are 7 ear training exercises that will help you learn how to play guitar by ear. They include studying music theory, practicing scales, training yourself to identify root tones, hearing intervals, improvising over chords, recording your work, and transcribing the music of others.
1. Study Music Theory
Music theory allows you to put a name to what you hear during your ear training practice. It helps you understand how notes form chords, how scales and modes work. Knowing your music theory gives you a foundation from which to build your listening skills.
2. Practice Scales:
Start by singing the major scale, later add the natural minor scale, harmonic minor scale, pentatonic scale, and blues scale. Then, keep building on your repertoire of guitar scales. Knowing your scales will help you play in just about any different key, and will allow you to know your way around a song when soloing, riffing, or even playing rhythm guitar in a band.
3. Find the Root, & Build the Chords:
Listen to music and focus on finding just the root tone of every chord you hear. Once you identify the root, start building the chords. This is one of the most important aural music skills you can learn as a guitar player.
4. Listen To & Identify Intervals:
Interval training means learning how to recognize the relationship between two notes of a scale when they’re played one after another. Interval training helps you understand the note sequences heard in guitar songs.
5. Improvise Over Chords:
Once you feel comfortable identifying root tones, chords, and intervals, you can improvise melodies, solos, or riffs over the top of chords. Practice with a friend and take turns being the person who plays the chords. See if you can identify what chord is being played without being told.
6. Record Yourself:
Record yourself playing several different chords (just major and minor triads for now). Try not to repeat the same chord very often. Then, play back your recording and try to identify whether the chords you hear are major or minor.
7. Transcribe Music You Love:
Turn on the radio and transcribe songs, chords, melodies, and solos using your guitar. What is transcribing? Transcribing is when you listen to a piece of music and then write the notes down on paper. Try just one small section of music at a time using your guitar to help you find the root tones, intervals, and scales. Then, try transcribing without using your instrument. When you think you have it as close to accurate as you can get it, check your work with your guitar.
Want to take it further? Try these helpful exercises:
Remember, Guitar Ear Training Takes Practice
Just as your fingers need to learn the chords, your ear needs practice too – so don’t give up! Pretty soon you’ll have improved your aural music skills, know how to play guitar by ear, and be able to pick out chords and intervals as you’re listening to your favorite songs.
Notice where your weaknesses are and what errors you tend to make, and look to see if a pattern emerges. Being able to know your weak points and constantly working to improve on them is one of the trademarks of great musicians, and a key aspect of guitar ear training.
Want personalized training? A music instructor can help you improve your guitar playing and your listening skills.
Image Courtesy of http://www.mcgill.ca/conservatory/courses/theory/