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Thread: Working out songs by ear.

  1. #11
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    This video offers an interesting approach:

    Rodney Paul Adams

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Rod Higuchi View Post
    Rllink, I believe you hit the nail on the head with the listening, paying attention, making connections, etc.
    that's what playing by ear is all about. - the high cost of paying attention

    it's nice to have things already worked out for us, but if that kind of material is not available, well, we have
    to buckle down to do it ourselves. and that means a lot of experimentation, trial and error. but the payoff
    can be great as we learn and trust ourselves to learn what we need to get where we want to go.

    don't be afraid to make mistakes. Self-correcting is part of learning. If we don't recognize our mistakes,
    how will we ever make the proper corrections and get better?

    Great advice everyone. learning to play by ear is a skill well worth the effort. Also, there's a certain
    amount of Music Theory that will be acquired along the way


    keep uke'in',
    At least for me and from my own experience, we often times just follow the chords on the page in front of us and listening is an afterthought. For too many music is a visual exercise that they need to break away from. But I just wanted to add that I think it helps if one plays a lot of songs. The more songs that one becomes familiar with, the more chord progressions they also become familiar with and are able to recognize in other songs.
    Last edited by Rllink; 05-24-2017 at 12:02 PM.
    I don't want to live in a world that is linear.
    There's more than one road into Richmond. Lil' Rev
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LEY9E_W5sw

  3. #13
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    So far I have managed to work out a couple of songs to a decent level of accuracy and got part way through a handful of others. I feel like its slow and painful but it is progress and I feel like I am learning.

    I stumbled across this video tonight. It starts at the very basics but does break things down well so if, like me, you struggle with this it's a good place to start.

    1960's Martin Style 0

  4. #14
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    Slow and painful is about right. I remember working on a single song for hours and being SO pissed that I couldn't figure it out. But the more you do it, the better you get. There are really no shortcuts for this one!

    I haven't seen it mentioned above so I'll throw it out there: another approach is to pick around for notes that sound right (not worrying about chords) until you have eliminated enough "bad" notes to tell what scale you're playing in. This is usually the key of the song and from there you'll know what your I IV V chords are. This was always kind of my approach. Don't know if it's faster or better, but it got me to where I am now.

    Another thing you can do to force your ear to work is put on the radio or your iPod on shuffle and play along - in any way, shape, or form. It will be like a chainsaw massacre at first, but your goal is to use your ear to find ANYTHING that sounds pleasing.
    Peace,

    Brad Bordessa

    My original folk rock album, If Only, is available now!
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  5. #15
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    Yah, It gets easier once you learn to recognize the I, IV, and V chords in songs. Then, any other chords must be either ii, iii, or vi.

    Sometimes there's a flat VII chord, which is a major chord a whole step down from the I chord (a C chord in the key of D, or an F chord in the key of G, etc).
    Last edited by Steedy; 07-04-2017 at 01:31 PM.
    If music be the food of love, play on! -Bill Shakespeare

  6. #16
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    Most pop songs and standards use certain sets of chord changes. I ended up having to play keyboard for my last 20 plus years as a music educator. I had no formal keyboard training except for 4-5 piano lessons as a teen. I was a trumpet major in college. The more I played keyboard over the years the more I began to recognize patterns in many songs. I still use keyboard to figure out chord changes for ukulele pieces from time to time. I think for me the keyboard works better as I can see the entire keyboard.
    The more you work on playing by ear the easier it gets.
    Many well known musicians don't read music at all. Glen Campbell and George Benson come to mind. Neither can read music. Glen was part of the Wrecking Crew and played on hundreds of record dates for a who's who of pop music before his solo career took off. He did everything by ear.

  7. #17
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    Two things have helped me:
    - Jim D'Ville's course at playukulelebyear.com - unconventional and entertaining ways of thinking about the circle to derive emotional connotations to chords to expect what's coming next.
    - Complete Ear Trainer app for Android (there are several similar ones for Android or iOS) - test your ear for note and interval recognition.
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  8. #18
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    Relying on I-IV-V doesn't work for me. Nor does the circle of fifth, which seems to me to be the same thing. I had the circle of fifths taped to the back of my uke at one time. I just run into way too many songs that don't follow that formula. You don’t have to go too far to escape from it.
    Last edited by Rllink; 07-07-2017 at 11:19 AM.
    I don't want to live in a world that is linear.
    There's more than one road into Richmond. Lil' Rev
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LEY9E_W5sw

  9. #19
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    for me it is a process.

    I usually start with the A string and figure out the melody I am hearing.

    Then I learn to play it correctly with all my strings.

    Then, once I have a melody, I start looking at the melody and seeing what key it is in.

    From there it is fairly elementary to noodle around with chords and figure out which variation (maj, Maj7, dom7, min) is being used.

    One tool that I've had since I was a kid in one form or another is the chord wheel. It is very helpful. It is basically a circle of fifths with a lot of other supplementary information such as good substitution voicings, all the intervals for all keys, how many flats or sharps are in every key, etc.

  10. #20
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    Learn how to figure out the key of a song. From there, you can figure out all the right notes to pick and the right chords to play. You can learn some music theory if you wanna be super formal. You can also just go by ear and play whatever sounds right to you or is easier for you to play; you'd either be playing the chromatic scale or some jazzy chord variation. For example, 0035 sounds like a legit replacement for C in many cases, and you don't need to know that it's a Cadd9 chord for it to sound legit.

    I started with some songs written for the uke because it's much easier to pick out the notes compared to guitar/piano/vocals lol

    Hope this helps!!
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