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Thread: How to play a song by ear?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
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    Default How to play a song by ear?

    Hi everybody,

    I am trying to learn how to play a song by ear without chord sheets or tabs. I think play by ear is an amazing skill to have, especially when the song you want to play is not that well known and the chord sheets/tabs are difficult to find.

    Are there any tips and resources (eg. books, videos) that will help learn how to play by ear?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
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    Default

    It's not a book but this article is helpful.
    https://liveukulele.com/tabs/figuring-out-songs/

    I would just say practice and jam with others as often as possible. Plus take opportunities to find the chords or tabs yourself for a song. If you get stuck you can 'cheat' with an app like chordify. Certain chords just 'go together' and learning music theory could help you.
    My current stable:

    (Son of Snaggletooth) Romero Creations Tiny Tenor Spruce & Rosewood
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  3. #3
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    I use Ultimate Guitar and Chordify a lot. Ultimate Guitar will give you the basic chords and allow you to transpose the key. Chordify helps if you aren't familiar with the song. I just started playing with my church band and Chordify is a huge help when it's a song I don't know.

    There are several songs that I have the chords for and I know pretty well that I've worked out the chord melody for by ear. A chord melody is a combination of chords and tabs. I can usually sit down and figure it out fairly quickly, then I print a blank ukulele tab sheet and write it down so I can remember it later on. I am not a good singer, so chord melodies allow me to play the melody for friends without torturing them with my voice.
    My ukulele family.....
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  4. #4
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    Perhaps learning the basics of the circle of fifths or chord wheel so you know if you are playing in a key, which chords will give the sound, rise and fall, you want. Also become familiar with your fretboard so you can easily peck out a melody.
    The hardest part for me is memorising lyrics.

  5. #5
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    Something that I've been working on for many years, and still working on. My thoughts on it, play lots of songs, listen to what you are playing, learn to recognize common chord progressions, learn to recognize common melody runs, and play more songs, and always look for anomalies. Song writers don't always stick to the formula. Chord progressions have names, so when you learn a Doo Wop, you learn hundreds of songs, when you learn a 12 bar blues progression, you learn a thousands more. The salty dog progression is one you find in a lot of songs. Then the trick is hearing them. Listen to music, like a record, or a youtube video, identify the progressions, the key, and then try to play along. A lot of trial and error. Keep in mind that there may be more than one common progression in a song.

    And memorize songs. I can't even express how much that has helped me. When you memorize songs you have to listen to them. You have to anticipate and hear the chord changes, you don't just change them when a sheet of paper tells you to. You have to engage your brain. I think that helps a lot. Anyway, for me this is something that I think I will always have to work on to get better at it. Just when I think that I have it down, I realize that I have a long way to go, so not getting discouraged helps a lot too. R
    Last edited by Rllink; 01-12-2018 at 04:08 AM.
    I don't want to live in a world that is linear.

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  6. #6
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  7. #7
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    One of the UU members mentioned in a different thread that there is software that slows music down. Also, YouTube can slow songs down to half speed. I learned guitar songs mostly from cds in the early 90s. It would have been a tremendous help to be able to slow songs down.

    Learning a bit of theory so that you understand what is conceptually going on will help you predict where the song will likely go. Certain genres often use similar progressions.

    If this is a bit too much to start with, you can learn songs from videos. You will see roughly where the hands are going and listen for the correct notes within that area. I love the ukulele site videos for this and especially the ones that Corey plays.

    Adam

  8. #8
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    If you know the melody well, sing the song through to the last note. Then identify that last note (by finding it's pitch on a keyboard, ukelele or other instrument). With many songs, the last note will indicate what key the song is in. For example, if the melody ends on the note C, then the song is probably in the Key of C [or the Key of C's relative minor (Am), if the last note is an A].
    Kala KA-SLNG (long neck soprano)
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  9. #9
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    Forgot to mention ...
    Once you identify the key the song is in, then you will have a better idea of what chords to expect popping up in the song.
    Kala KA-SLNG (long neck soprano)
    Snail MUC (solid top concert)
    Ohana TK-35 CG (solid mahogany tenor)
    Concert Fluke (green)
    Flight TUS35 (blue soprano)

  10. #10
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    I’m curious as to what you are trying to do....play chords, play the melody, or play chord melody or a tablature type chord and melody of a song?

    There is a natural challenge in that many songs are written by guitarists and are in less friendly keys for ukulele (like E, which is an awesome open string key for guitar). So if you are playing chords by ear, you may find yourself using a lot of barre chords and moveable chords.
    Playing ukulele since January 2016.

    Have you participated in the thread, "How the Ukulele Found You?" If not, please consider adding your story--they are just fun to read.

    http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/...lele-found-you

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