Ear Training Exercises: 7 Ideas for Guitar Players

If you haven’t heard yet, The Black Keys are taking the music industry by storm – their newest album El Camino is out this week, and they put on an awesome performance on SNL over the weekend.  And the best part?  This is just pure, straight-up rock and roll.  With rock music suffering within the music industry, this may be just what the genre needs to rise to the top again.

As for you guitarists out there: Although it’s possible to learn a few John Mayer jams on the guitar and not even touch a music theory book, 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.  After all, music is all about what goes in your ear – and you’ll notice it comes much easier when you recognize things like intervals, pitches and chords.  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 skills – here, Tom Hess over at MusicianTutorials.com, lists a few things to practice that will you help you along your way:

1. Turn on the radio and transcribe (figure out by ear) songs, chords, melodies, solos, etc. using your guitar.

2. Similar to above, try transcribing without using your instrument.  Write the music down on paper and then when you think you have it as close to accurate as you can get it, check your work with your guitar. Notice what errors you made and look to see if a pattern forms in your errors. For example, if you realize that you always think that minor chords sound like major chords, then you can see that this is something you will need to focus your practice time on.

3. Sing (yes, out loud) scales. Start with singing the major scale, later add the natural minor scale, harmonic minor scale, pentatonic scale, blues scale, etc.

4. Sing intervals.

5. Sing arpeggios – start with major triads and then move on to minor triads.

6. Improvise melodies, solos, etc. over chords. This is great thing to do anyway.

7. 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.

Just as your fingers need to learn the chords, your ear needs practice too – so don’t give up!  Pretty soon you’ll be able to pick out chords and intervals as you’re listening to your favorite songs, which will make picking up the guitar and jamming that much easier.  While it may not be the most fun thing to work on, it will make you that well-rounded musician everyone hopes to be. 

Want personalized training?  A private guitar teacher can always help.  Search for teachers near you here.

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You might also like…
Ear Training Exercises: Recognizing Intervals
4 Necessary Skills for Guitar Improvisation

Image Courtesy of http://www.mcgill.ca/conservatory/courses/theory/

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