One of the cool things about the ability to download music from sources like iTunes is the instantaneous ability to learn songs you have always wanted to know. I listen to lots of radio while driving and invariably I’ll hear a song on my way home from a session. Something I haven’t heard in a long time like “Lies” by The Knickerbockers or “Love Lies Bleeding” by Elton John.
As an ear training exercise I find it invaluable to transcribe the chord changes and make myself a chart. I may play the tune for a couple of days and then file it along with hundreds of others I’ve collected over the years. My choices may come from simple curiosity over decades of hearing a tune on the radio. Or I might find find myself saying, “I’ve always wanted to know how the harmony works in that tune and what makes it so cool.” It’s all part of my: If you dig it you must learn it philosophy.
Going one step further, I sometimes transcribe solos using just my ear, no instrument. Many times on the road you’ll find yourself in a hotel room on a rainy afternoon with nothing but a laptop, pencil and paper. Start with something easy like “Green Onions” by Booker T. & the MG’s and pull it up on YouTube. Then, after you determine it’s in the key of F, try writing out the organ melody by ear. At first it’s a challenge as you attempt to visualize the notes on your guitar fretboard, but after a while the intervals become more obvious and your transcribing chops improve.
When somebody asks me if I transcribed a song the guitar or a keyboard, I tell them, “on the couch!”
©2012 Carl Verheyen. All Rights Reserved.