Learning to play guitar by ear

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Want to learn how to play guitar without the tabs? Playing by ear is considered to be an exceptional skill, yet it really is not. Given enough practice, most people can play a rather simple tune they’ve heard somewhere. Do not let this misconception trick you into thinking that you have to have some special talent in order to play by ear. Simply put, it only means listening to something and then recreating the notes using your guitar.

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Here are four steps to help you master this technique;

  • Step 1: listen

Pick a song you would like to learn how to play. Listen to it a number of times. Try to identify repeating and unique parts. This will be the song structure. A classic song goes like this: first there is an opening, then the verse, chorus, second verse and the chorus in the end. This means there are three parts of the song for you to learn. This is important because you won’t have to learn extra stuff this way. Of course, not every song follows this exact structure.

  • Step 2: the bass line

Figuring out the bass line helps you to identify the key that a song is played in. Then, utilizing some theory, you can guess the right chords. All songs use scale and each chord on a seven interval will use the notes of the scale (in a specific key). Naturally, you can use alternative chords (like suspended chords, for example). This is a very important step and you should study it as close as possible (there is a lot of material regarding this method online).

  • Step 3: learn the rhythm

During this step you may disregard both the chords and the notes (even if you have already mastered them). Only focus on the rhythm and try to get it right, as close to the original as possible. Tapping your foot or fingers to the beat can help you with that.

  • Step 4: it’s time for solos and breaks

Only start this step after you have finished the previous ones. After you’ve figured out the rhythm, the key and everything else you can start working on these cool, but often overvalued details. Getting these things right should be the easiest part (and the most fun too).

This is a pretty basic step by step guide to learning to play any song by ear. Of course, some songs may be more difficult than others but do not stop trying and you will ultimately succeed!